My covid diary
Diary by 50something
An illustrated diary for the weeks immediately preceding, during and just after my experience of covid in November 2021. Capturing events and emotions.
A desire to capture the intensity and surreal nature of my own covid experience. At the same time, the act of writing this experience in diary form helped me to come to terms with the strength of my feelings and emotions and to accept my situation.
My covid diary, November 2021
Work is calmer than it has been for weeks, and I enjoy a ‘proper’ takeaway coffee with my colleagues. Our first in over a year. It’s so good to talk! And then my life starts to unravel. The hand wash sink in the lab is broken. I report it. Twice. And still nothing happens. One of the students brings a streaming cold to share with us. “It’s not covid, so it’s OK.” At home in the evening, our boiler breaks down as I fill the washing up bowl. The fear of being cold is so intense that I arrange to escape to my mum’s for some warmth at the end of the week. I turn the bathroom into a sauna by running the shower before bed and try to get to sleep on my own as my partner gives a webinar in the early hours to Australia.
My weekly yoga class is restorative, but I am nervous. The other students have closed the windows and I am trapped in a corner a long way from the open door. I think about leaving. I am so close to my neighbours I touch one of them. I tell myself not to be silly, we’re all double vaccinated.
A strange sadness fills me as I look out from our little breakout room over the campus trees in their autumn colours. I feel as though I will not see them again but don’t understand why.
We enjoy Autumnwatch over dinner, and then I broach the subject of the broken boiler. Could we perhaps stay somewhere else whilst we wait for it to be fixed? My partner has work and musical commitments and is loath to consider moving out even temporarily. And the problem is intermittent after a fashion anyway. My patience with the situation snaps and I walk out in desperation and anger, feeling rejected by his lack of empathy. The night is unseasonably warm and the ducks at the pond help me to calm down. I ask myself what on earth I am doing, and where I intend to spend the night. So, I return and pack my bags for the trip to my mum’s. I cry. A lot.
I apologise to my partner for breaking our relationship and he says we can glue it back together. I am grateful, but need to get away. I plan to return next Tuesday, and yet I wave goodbye as if I will be gone for longer, wistfully admiring the late-flowering dahlias in the front flowerbed.
I wear my face covering, from the moment I board the bus and hope. The station is busy and so is the train. Someone leans over me to grab their bags from the overhead rack without waiting for me to move out of the way. I watch the rainbows and red kites through the carriage window. My tear-puffy eyes are too tired to read the papers that I brought for the journey. I send text messages to mum and my partner about the red kites.
Walk and talk with mum helps me understand my frustrations. Much of it relates back to childhood experiences, but also my partner’s terse Yorkshire character.
Mum and I attend the All Soul’s service in the village church. We test beforehand and are negative. My hay fever returns in the evening. Unbidden.
I wake with a mild sore throat and blame the nasal spray. We visit my best friend from school, recently returned from hospital and needy for human contact, at her flat and hug, unmasked. My partner sends a text to say the boiler is fixed and he is hugging a radiator. Later, as mum and I walk around the country park, my joints start to ache and a tickly cough starts. I wonder whether I am coming down with laryngitis. It has been a few years since the last episode.
I am all packed for the journey home, but the sore throat is worse, so I test again. A faint line appears next to the T. I am positive. We panic!
And then we focus on what needs to be done. Off for drive-through PCR tests, telling my school friend, my partner, my boss, work. Calming mum’s shattered nerves; her anxiety is intense. We sit outside, distanced, I wear my face covering. Feels so strange after having got used to behaving ‘normally’.
My friend is taken back into hospital, sectioned and forced into isolation.
PCR test confirms it’s covid for me, but mum is negative, so she goes out and about despite my reservations. That’s what the guidelines say… At least I persuade her to do a lateral flow test every day. No time to rest yet – so much paperwork to do for Track and Trace.
The curious scientist in me makes me do another lateral flow and the ‘T’ line is so strong that it overpowers the ‘C’. No wonder I am slowly ticking off the list of symptoms. Stomach takes a hit today. Mum’s cough is more obvious, but she is in denial and continues to test negative.
Mum now positive as well (just). The test reads out just in time to stop her from going to get the paper from the village shop. Same rigmarole as Tuesday, except now she is confined to the garden. She takes it well, as the virus has started to bite and she is tired.
I do mum’s Track and Trace whilst she has her weekly ‘press conference’ with her brother. Surreal. Entering all the same people again. Still takes 2 hours.
Now I have shingles as well as covid… Same nerve as last summer, although the rash is less extensive and there is no pain, yet. I request a routine appointment with my GP. Is this normal?
Dad (mum’s ex-husband) sends a bunch of flowers. We suspect he had a discount voucher – he was never one to pay full price! I experience one last bout of ‘infectious symptoms’ and my self-isolation extends by 24 hours. We chat over zoom with my friend and another ‘village’ lass. Four women with assorted mental health issues supporting one another virtually. My friend finds it so real that she wants to offer us all a cup of tea!
Freedom day? Except that I feel too ill to enjoy it. We walk to the churchyard (the hard way, up the steep hill) and plant bulbs round nain’s new gravestone. After a sit down so I can catch my breath. The autumn colours are magnificent and I marvel at the forgotten beauty of the place where I grew up.
I dare to test and it’s negative – hooray!
I catch a train back to York. It’s crowded and scary and exhausting. It is hard to leave my mum on her own, but she is better already and the longer we wait the harder it gets. Being ‘at home’ was comforting, but we must learn to live independently again. And I need to take responsibility for my actions and face my own demons. The train takes me past my sister’s house and they come out to the skate park to wave at ‘carriage 7 of 12’. I smile and cry and wave back.
My partner picks me up at York station. We hug and that feels good. It feels strange to be home. Where do I find what I need in the kitchen? Is this really my house? Two weeks feels like forever.
Temperature back up again, and I feel shattered. I call in sick, and wait for the doctor to phone.
The GP calls on Friday, an hour later than expected. It will be a long while before I am back to full strength again and he writes me a Fit Note. A strange misnomer. My partner and I walk slowly around the village and talk a little bit. And I slowly begin to feel that this is my home again.
My partner joins our mutual friends for a Sunday morning walk in the Howardian Hills. Knowing I won’t be able to keep up, I stay home. My best friend and I continue to support one another, exchanging texts and e-mails and crafting together over zoom. I feel OK sitting still and using head and hands. It will be another week before I am strong enough to return to work.