Home Life Style My COVID story: “Constant anxiety and worry kept me up all nights, spent a month in isolation”

My COVID story: “Constant anxiety and worry kept me up all nights, spent a month in isolation”

My COVID story: “Constant anxiety and worry kept me up all nights, spent a month in isolation”

COVID-19 took Bangalore resident, Padmaja Mushahary by shock. A clinical psychologist by profession, the month-long isolation made her realize the need for support and help people need during the difficult period. Here she pens down her own personal ordeal, and how she is helping out others who may need help…

I tested positive for covid-19 in the first week of July. It all started around midnight of 3rd July. It began with complete uneasiness and difficulty falling asleep. Slowly, I started experiencing chills and developed a headache and bodyache. I could also feel my body temperature rise up under my blanket. I decided to eat something so that I could pop a medicine. That is when I noticed my sense of smell and taste had become blunted. I suspected it to be COVID, though I struggled to believe it and wanted to give it some benefit of doubt. I couldn’t sleep the whole night as my symptoms did not subside even with the medications. I caught a few winks of sleep in the morning, and after lunch I took the medicine again; still no improvement. That is when I started panicking. I called my parents and a close friend. Needless to say, they panicked as well and suggested that I get a test done as soon as possible. I tried calling the various emergency helplines available, but it was either not working or busy indefinitely. By then, my father had sounded an alarm with the rest of my family. Phone calls came pouring in. My uncle arranged for me to get the required medical help and accommodation. Over the next few days, I found myself feeling slightly better. I continued taking the usual medications prescribed for fever and cough. The symptoms worsened in the evenings and night time; mornings were relatively better. I also experienced night sweats, a lesser known symptom of COVID-19. My cough deteriorated over the next few days. Subsequently, I developed chest pain. Eating and talking became difficult. By this time, I had completely lost my sense of smell and taste. My sleep was also very disturbed. The next two days after my Covid test, were all about waiting for the results and struggling through fatigue and decreasing appetite. I didn’t know if my lethargy was caused by the cough syrup or Covid or a combination of both, but I felt like sleeping all day, to the extent that I hated having to wake up for breakfast or lunch. The night before my test result was due, I was very anxious and couldn’t sleep the whole night. The next morning when my results were declared, my fears came true. It didn’t come as a shock to me because I had been expecting it. While I knew what it meant and the impending predicament that was to follow, I was also relieved to know that my symptoms had a known cause.

The next logical step was to get admitted in a hospital; the reason I chose to do so was because I was a single girl staying alone in Bangalore without any relatives or local guardians. With the status of COVID positive attached, I reckoned that things would be harder; having to cook for myself while struggling with fatigue and physical discomfort, procuring the essentials, getting emergency services if my condition were to worsen, and so forth. I got admitted, albeit with some difficulties. However, I was given proper care there. I felt immensely guilty wondering if I had unknowingly infected other people. I called up my primary contacts and apologized to them. However, I received a very assuring attitude from them. While in the isolation ward, I received many calls and texts from family, friends, colleagues, a few consultants from my previous workplace, NIMHANS, and many well wishers. Some of them continued to check up on me during the whole duration of my stay and post Covid quarantine as well. I was overwhelmed by the love and support showered by everyone. At the same time, I also faced indifference and lack of compassion from a few. I stayed in the hospital for 9 days. A day before my discharge, my building got sealed (a week after I had tested positive!). I didn’t understand this move by the BBMP. This meant it would be difficult to sustain myself as I was supposed to be under quarantine for 14 days post discharge (I stayed in the 3rd floor and the building being sealed meant I could not get groceries delivered to my doorstep). I thought things would get better after I got discharged, but that was not the case. With my uncle’s help, I was transferred to another facility where I was kept under quarantine. I was the only person on the whole floor. I received appropriate medical attention and food. However, it was the isolation that really bothered me. Negative self talk and negative thoughts engulfed me. I blamed myself for everything. I was anxious all the time and worries kept me up all night. Don’t get me wrong; I have stayed in self-imposed isolation in my house since March when the outbreak happened. This was completely different. You have a COVID Positive tag which determines a differential treatment and you are all alone in a room without any resources to entertain yourself. Thankfully, I had family members and a few friends who kept me company through video chats/calls during the whole duration of my stay there. I started taking walks in the deserted corridor and kept myself busy by reading and working on my initiative. My second test came out positive as well. That meant I had to stay under quarantine for a few more days. I was heartbroken. I was frustrated and had a few emotional breakdowns. In the coming days, I pulled myself together and continued working on my initiative. On 5th of August, a month after my ordeal began, I finally tested negative. Subsequently, I was shifted to a post-covid facility where I was under quarantine for 14 days again. Something that distressed me greatly was an absolute lack of clarity in the whole process-from the time I got detected with COVID to planning to fly back home. I was always at the edge, wondering what lay ahead. Nobody was able to provide clear guidance and would direct me to someone else who was even more clueless. I decided to shift to my home in Assam post COVID. My experiences with COVID reminded me of how family plays such an important role in one’s life. We tend to most often overlook this and prioritize other things in life.

Fast forward to today, I still continue to have some lingering anosmia and fatigue. I feel out of breath after barely 10 minutes of cycling. My heart goes out to people who lost their battle against Covid, and family members who have to deal with this loss and are grieving their loved ones. I was fortunate to have had help around but there are so many who never even made it to the hospital or got the necessary help or support. Nonetheless, this experience has solely been mine and may not reflect the various struggles experienced by other people.

Isolation was hard on me; this was when I felt the need to communicate with another person who had also battled Covid. I wondered if everyone else fighting Covid had similar physical/mental health experiences or faced practical/social barriers. I was the first one from my family/workplace/friend circle to get infected by COVID-19. I felt at a loss as I tried to narrate my experiences to others. When I interacted with other relatives and friends who also tested positive for COVID later, I realized they shared similar anxieties and experiences. I felt validated. All this time, I had been second guessing my feelings/thoughts and behaviors. “Am I complaining/cribbing too much?”, “Am I emotionally weak/overreacting/being too needy?”. The validation that I received made me realize how having a non judgemental stance and support from fellow sufferers as well as family/friends could make such a vast difference to how one can emotionally heal in their post Covid phase. As I continue on my path to recovery, both emotional and physical, I would like to offer the same space and non judgemental support to others going through the same. The aim is to create a community where people feel safe enough to express themselves as well as experience a sense of togetherness in their fight against Covid. Hereby, I am launching an Initiative called the HealTogether Initiative. It is a Mental Health Initiative, based on mental health experiences surrounding COVID. Through this initiative, I will be organizing support groups for people affected by COVID. We will also be providing individual therapy for people who are not comfortable with being part of groups/who may need help more than what support groups can provide.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who helped me through this journey; starting from dedicated doctors/nurses and other frontline workers who risked their own safety, to close family members and friends who went out of their way to help me and gave me company during my isolation period. A special note of thanks to all the officials and staff members (medical and working staff) in BSF and CRPF facilities for their indefinite help and support.

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