Living with long COVID, 1 year on

Living with long COVID, 1 year on

Written by Amy Murnan on March 31, 2021

My experience with COVID-19 began on March 9, 2020. I’d generally been feeling under the weather, but I had a work event to go to. So, that morning, I got up, got dressed, and walked out of the door.


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I caught the bus into the center of town. On all sides, I was surrounded by people using their phones, talking, and listening to music via headphones. Nobody was wearing a mask, and nobody was physically distancing.

The first lockdown hadn’t yet happened, and the only advice that people had received to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus was to wash their hands for 20 seconds each time. Otherwise, life continued as normal.

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Feeling exhausted already, I got off the bus and headed toward a busy shopping mall, where I met up with my co-workers. We made small talk. Someone asked how I was, and when I said I wasn’t feeling too good, they said, “It had better not be coronavirus!” We all laughed.

The first activity of the day was an escape room. In the reception area, my team chattered around me about the day ahead. I tried to focus, but my head felt swimmy. I remember wondering if the room was too hot or whether I was just nervous.

As a staff member explained how the escape room worked, I felt a wave of heat, nausea, and dizziness hit me. Before I knew what I was doing, I stood up and said I had to go. I didn’t know if I was going to faint or throw up, but I knew I had to get out of there.

I said goodbye and left. Outside, the air was cold, which was a relief. But despite standing out there and waiting for a taxi with no coat on, I didn’t cool down.

At home, I collapsed in bed and watched a movie to take my mind off things. I started feeling a little better, and I thought maybe I’d just had a “funny five minutes.” But then, a couple of days later, I was still exhausted, still feeling sick, and still experiencing headaches, feverish spells, and an upset stomach. It wasn’t long before my partner got the same illness.

Early guidelines didn’t recommend a test

I checked my symptoms against the National Health Service (NHS) list of COVID-19 symptoms — which, at the time, were a cough, shortness of breath, and a continuous fever — and felt relieved that I didn’t have any of them.

Back then, the guidelines were to get tested only if you had these symptoms. So, I thought I must have something else.

Still, though — this virus wasn’t like anything either of us had experienced before. The symptoms came and went in waves, improving and then coming back all over again. It was nothing like a cold, and its inconsistency was nothing like my previous experience of influenza, either.

After a week, my partner and I both started feeling better. But then, very quickly, my symptoms started to come back again.

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