This week’s COVID Catch-up: The road back to normal

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Just because COVID is gone doesn’t mean all the effects are.

COVID Catch-up is a weekly column featuring Lansing Journal journalist Carrie Steinweg’s personal experience with COVID-19 and things she learned from others who shared their experiences. Subscribe today to make sure you don’t miss any COVID Catch-ups. Last week’s column is available here.

By Carrie Steinweg
COVID
Carrie Steinweg (photo provided)

LANSING, Ill. (February 3, 2021) – I often get asked how I’m doing since having COVID-19. Or people comment that they’re glad I’m all better or back to normal. I appreciate all the well wishes and good thoughts. And most of the time I feel pretty good. But back to normal is not how I would describe where I am at.

Feeling good, doing little

I feel good most of the time. But most of the time I am at home. I’m usually sitting at my computer or walking from room to room doing simple chores. I don’t go to the basement unless I really have to because too much up and down the stairs will still wipe me out and get me winded. When I leave the house, it’s usually to do curbside pick-up, but if I’m getting out of the car, it’s just to run in and out to do a quick errand. I’m not doing much besides that. I’ve been into restaurants a handful of times, but all that takes is walking in and sitting down. Too much walking or standing in one place still can cause me to have trouble breathing, especially with a mask on.

On one hand, I think I should be pushing myself and trying to exert myself more. On the other hand, I know that it may put my body into distress—I’ll have shortness of breath, and that will cause my blood pressure to go up and my oxygen level to go down and my heart rate to increase. And all of that will be exhausting and will leave me with less energy to do the things I am doing. And sometimes I think about others who have had it much rougher and think I just need to shut up and suck it up.

Lifestyle changes

I keep wondering when I will feel more normal. It’s frustrating to still be where I am. It’s now been almost three months since I was hospitalized for pneumonia that occurred as a result of having COVID-19.

I was an active person before COVID-19 forced us all to stay at home. I was always on the go, chauffeuring kids around, going to different work-related events, shopping, dining, attending different community events. It was a rare day when I didn’t leave the house for some reason. I loved crowds and enjoyed concerts, sporting events, festivals, and food-related activities. I’m not athletic by any stretch, but enjoyed walking, especially this past spring and summer as the pandemic was limiting other activities. I loved heading out to local lakes and forest preserves to walk a couple miles while listening to audiobooks or snapping photos.

The pandemic made me shift to doing my work almost entirely remotely. I can count on one hand the times I have left the house for my freelance writing assignments since March of 2020. And on the other hand I can count how many times I have left the house for something related to the food blog I do with my sister. I am really itching to get out more. I really miss it. And as far as travel writing, I used to take at least one Midwest trip every month or so. I’ve done just three overnighters in the past 11 months, one of them post-COVID.

Timeline for a full COVID recovery: Unknown

As I started to recover from COVID-19, I kind of had a feeling of relief. Doctors at the hospital advised me that I would have antibodies for at least three to six months, and in that window I should be in the clear and not be re-infected or be able to pass it on to anyone. I felt like I’d have at least a three-month window where I could feel more comfortable leaving the house and interacting with people. Before I got COVID-19, I stayed home to avoid getting it. Then when I felt like I could let up a little and make my way out more, I’ve ended up not going out because of the physical toll it takes.

There doesn’t seem to be a timeline for complete COVID-19 recovery. You’re not given a specific recovery period—like when a doctor tells you it will be six weeks to recover from childbirth or eight weeks of physical therapy after an injury. Some people are fine within a few days and others in a few weeks. And for others it’s ongoing for a long period. And not knowing when it will end and when normal will return is one of the toughest parts of it.

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