On 4th May, I woke up tired and sluggish, unable to focus. I thought nothing of it. Took the day off, went to bed to get over it. The next day I went back to work but by 11 am, I couldn’t focus and my eyes were closing. I’d done nothing but rest the day before and slept a solid 8 hours in the night. On the third day, I started to feel warm. Not uncomfortable but just felt groggy and warm. On the fourth day, I tried to use the askmyGP app to find out if there was anything they could recommend. I didn’t have a cough so assumed in no way it was COVID-19. The askmyGP app said if you feel hot to touch OR have a cough you need to call 111. I did that and they told me they thought I had COVID-19. (I live with a key worker in food chain supply.) I explained I didn’t have a cough just felt a bit groggy and thought I was overreacting to say I had COVID-19 and could I have a test to confirm.

I did a test on day 4. The results took 8 days to come back. They came back UNCLEAR. On day 5, I began having exhaustion to the point I couldn’t do more than an hour of anything without needing to lay down. This continued, with headaches and fever, clammy hands, burning eyes, and break out into sweats until I went to get a retest on Day 9. That test came back NEGATIVE. The symptoms did not go away. They didn’t lessen. On day 11 I developed a dry cough. Nothing major just a couple of times throughout the day. And a tight feeling in my chest. Like a small cat was sitting on it when I climbed the stairs. I phoned my GP and a COVID-19 Hub GP. They told me that despite the negative result I had COVID-19 based on my symptoms.

My breathing and cough got slightly worse, aggravated by any exercise. A slight walk could leave me exhausted. By Week 3 I could not manage a normal walk with coughing and shortness of breath, break out in sweat but not physical exhaustion whilst walking. I continued with R&R and saw little improvements which gave me hope. On Week 4 I had a good day, and almost normal day, I felt like my old self. No symptoms all day and I didn’t need a nap. It lasted a day and a half. Then I went right back to exhaustion, sweats, night fever, coughing, and tight chest, and a persistent headache. That lasted 3 days. And then back to milder versions of all symptoms.

I tried to phase back to work on Week 5. Half days, I’m an office worker, sat at my home desk. For the first two days, most symptoms were relatively mild until the afternoon when the exhaustion kicked in and I went back to having daytime naps. The cough was bad when talking but most stuff manageable. On day three, I woke up with sweats, headaches, and exhaustion. I battled through the morning at work. Fell asleep right after. That’s when insomnia started. Two nights of little to no sleep between 10 pm and 4 am. I woke up at the end of Week 5 and I had developed 2 ulcers on the inside of my lower eyelid. Like the ones you get in your mouth but on my eye. Cough and fever were there in spikes, I was still covered in sweat when I walked and exhaustion and brain fogginess prevented me from working.

I’ve lost the ability to do everything that makes me who I am, I can’t play with my son, homeschool him, do my job, clean my house, I can’t even walk my dogs without consequences. Lockdown was hard enough but mentally, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever combatted.

People don’t believe you, can’t understand how you can be so ill for so long. You can hear it in their voices, they think you are feeling sorry for yourself or making it up. I have a very supportive job but no one can understand the feeling of inadequacy calling in week after week to tell them you’re too exhausted to work, too ill to focus, but you’re not on a ventilator, you’re not in the hospital. You’re just home. Being the useless version of yourself that this disease has made you.