This week’s COVID Catch-up: COVID fatigue is no joke

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Carrie Steinweg is tired all over again after vaccine

COVID
Carrie Steinweg (photo provided)

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

LANSING, Ill. (May 6, 2021) – I am now in month seven since COVID first appeared in my life. And I haven’t been the same since. Even on good days, I’m just not the same as I was before. I don’t have the energy I did last year in January or May or August.

Pre-COVID life and energy

Life had shifted to where I wasn’t doing as much as I was pre-COVID as we all had to stay home, but I could still sleep for six or seven hours and get up and be ready to tackle the day. In the spring and summer of 2020, I was finding such pleasure in getting out for walks most days. I explored many parks and forest preserves I hadn’t before and walked for a couple miles or more. I would drive a half-hour so that I could walk around a lake or pond or along the shore of Lake Michigan. I felt invigorated after my walks. I felt good and I felt healthy.

Before COVID, I was always on the go and a master multi-tasker. No two days were ever the same and I might find myself in a couple different Northwest Indiana communities in the morning for work or a dentist appointment, then back home working at my computer, then shopping or running my kids somewhere, then in downtown Chicago or a northern suburb for a food event in the evening. I miss the old me quite a bit. Doing just one such activity in a day is now like moving uphill. Trying to do two in a day is like trying to climb a mountain.

Getting COVID

When my first symptoms appeared, I was completely out of commission for two weeks. I was then hospitalized and then out of commission for the rest of the month. And by “out of commission” I mean not working, not leaving the house, not doing more than sitting up on the sofa or at my desk and barely even walking around the house. I had very little energy to do anything and anything I did wiped me out. And I had so many other symptoms that were making life difficult and was getting short of breath when I tried to walk very far.

Post-COVID fatigue

December continued to be rough for me as I was recovering. I was moving a little more and started slowly getting back to work, but doing all my work at home. I was getting out of the house a little bit, but not driving.

January started tough but got better as the month went on. By February, I was feeling decent. I was definitely not where I was pre-COVID. I still got tired easily and got short of breath on occasion. My taste buds were working pretty well again and although things didn’t taste as good as I knew they should, I was tasting something. I could smell things, but was also getting phantom smells — weird random odors that no one else smelled and didn’t make sense for my surroundings. Even so, I could smell again.

Here we go again: the vaccine

By March, nearly everything was improving and I’d say I felt 80% of my normal self. Then I got vaccinated and my world was turned upside down again just when I thought I was so close to it being behind me. I went completely backwards feeling like I had COVID all over again. It’s close to two months since that shot and I’m back at feeling only about 50-60% of my pre-COVID self. The exhaustion and fatigue is my primary problem now.

I’m tired all the time. And the amount of time I sometimes sleep is ridiculous. I used to get by fine on six hours of sleep. The other day I slept for 11 hours and 38 minutes. I don’t sleep that much every day, but even when I do I don’t feel rested. I wake up here and there for short spurts usually and it often takes me a while to fall sleep — sometimes anywhere from one to three hours. Then when I wake up, I don’t have the energy to get up out of bed right away. Sometimes I lay there awake for an hour before I actually get up and start my day, so I have days where I am literally in bed for 14 or 15 hours. And I don’t like it at all. Not getting out of bed until 11 a.m. or noon doesn’t set you up to have a very good day. The rest of the world has been up for hours and I instantly feel way behind.

I’m getting out for work and errands and have started exercising every day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Sometimes I just have to lay down mid-day, though, after a day with much activity. I don’t nap. I just need to rest. I feel like I can’t hold my head up anymore. Some days it feels like I’m improving, but then then I’m knocked down again the next day.

I have hope that I’ll soon get to where I’m feeling as good as I did a couple months ago and am cautiously optimistic that eventually I’ll even feel like my old pre-COVID self. It was so hard to have had so much improvement and really think I’d be fully recovered soon and then to go completely backwards and get so much worse. And as always, I feel bad complaining about it. Others have been affected much worse by COVID and some have been suffering with long-term effects for twice as long as I have.

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