In the past couple weeks, I’ve gotten lots of messages from people who also came down with Covid over the winter holidays. Many people were in the same boat as me—quarantining unexpectedly, instead of seeing family and friends as planned—and it was really nice to have some camaraderie and support.
I’ve also been struck by some of the feelings that dealing with Covid has evoked.
For example, I was surprised by the number of messages I got expressing shame or feelings of failure about a positive test. It never really occurred to me that shame might come up around this, but as I spoke with people and reflected on it, I understood.
Amidst a lot of important messaging about the importance of staying at home in 2020, there might also have been an implication that if one became ill with Covid, it was the result of carelessness. This wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now.
A number of people also revealed to me that they were disappointed in themselves for having become sick, or having been very symptomatic in spite of the vaccine and the booster. They said they were dismayed that recovery was slow, or that certain symptoms were prolonged.
I myself got walloped by Covid, though my symptoms became pronounced only three full days after I tested positive. By the time quarantine was over, I had residual fatigue and loss of taste and smell. Both are resolving, but they’re resolving gradually.
The whole experience was less acute than the flu or other serious viral illnesses that I’ve had. But it wasn’t as mild as a cold, which was the case for a lot of my other friends who caught Omicron in December.
None of this surprises me. In fact, I was really surprised to be asymptomatic for a few days.
I’m not a person who can claim that being vegan has resulted in my catching fewer colds, never getting sick, etc. I’m not. I catch things easily, and when I get sick, it’s rarely the mild version.
I have environmental allergies that are not helped at all by natural remedies (I’ve tried every one there is), and I’m prone to both sinus infections and headaches. The IBS that I grew up with has largely resolved with ED recovery and getting older, but it can still flare up when I’m stressed. When it does, the only thing that really helps is time.
This isn’t to say that I’m not basically strong and well—I am, and I know how fortunate I am to write those words. It’s only to illustrate that I’ve never overestimated my immune system.
There’s an upside to all of this. Catching colds and viruses easily, not to mention living with my allergies, has taught me how to be patient with my body.
When I was steeped in my orthorexia, I expected my body to function perfectly all the time. Every moment of bloating, every tiny skin eruption, every headache or hour of fatigue was analyzed extensively, in the hopes that I might identify where I’d gone wrong (usually, I was looking for some dietary culprit).
Looking back, I see that a lot of what I felt was just the normal flux of living in a human body, with all of its quirky ups and downs. It was my fixation on feeling tip-top all the time, without any natural variance, that was unusual.
Today I’m grateful for all the body that I have, susceptibility to colds and bugs included. I know when something is really wrong, of course—and I don’t hesitate to take action on such moments. But I don’t fixate on chronic or everyday stuff in the same way that I used to. When I do get sick, I try not to create a timeline in my head for when I ought to be well again.
I tell my clients with eating disorders all the time that healing will happen, but it won’t look the way they think it will. Healing has a schedule and a mind of its own.
So is it with other health struggles. I believe that our bodies are basically oriented toward healing. I take comfort in that belief and all the evidence I see of it. But healing is mysterious and often outside of our control.
All of this to say that I’ve been at peace with my body as it bounces back. I’m writing this post today because I know that a lot of other people had a positive test over Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Many others will deal with Covid this winter and spring.
It’s totally natural to be frustrated with the isolation that comes after a positive test; I myself was tearful and mad about my quarantine and its timing for days.
It’s also understandable to worry, to track symptoms carefully, to be mindful and vigilant—especially if you live with an underlying condition or have complicated health.
But no matter how dismayed you feel to have Covid, I hope that you can be patient with your body as it heals.
My yoga teacher often invites us to “partner with our bodies,” which was a phrase that took me a while to understand. I eventually figured out that she’s encouraging us to meet our bodies exactly where they are on any given day.
Instead of being resentful if we show up to practice and find that we’re fatigued, stiff, unfocused, anxious, heavy, sad, or listless, she asks us to accept, and even embrace, what’s happening. She wants us to work it into the practice somehow, rather than running away from it or trying to force another sensation.
I think that this is what healing looks like, too. It’s so hard and humbling to be sick or injured. But the more love and gentleness that we extend to our bodies as we move through those experiences, the better.
This week, and in the season ahead of us, I wish you patience with your body. I hope that you remain well, but if any health challenge comes up for you, I hope that you can trust in your body’s recovery process.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
I love a high-protein breakfast, and Steven’s sheet pan Potatoes O’Brian are it.
Amanda’s white bean chili looks so good, and it’s perfect for cold weather.
I can’t wait to try my hand at Eva’s homemade, restaurant-style vegan naaan.
How tasty (and beautiful) are Shanika’s spicy Jamaican vegan patties?
Sometimes you just need a simple green salad.
1. It somehow feels appropriate today to share Madeleine Watts’ lyrical essay about a mysterious period of weakness that befell her in March of 2020. It says something powerful about the way our bodies cope with uncertainty, crisis, and overwhelm.
2. In light of Omicron and a new wave of hospitalizations, The New Yorker has collected some pieces of writing on hospitals and health care workers and the roles that they play in our lives.
3. New Year’s Eve has come and gone, but I enjoyed Saveur‘s peek at some culinary traditions for celebrating a new year from around the world.
4. I believe very much that people can change, when they really want to. But it’s not easy, and all of the “new year, new you” pressure in January can imply otherwise.
I found it sort of comforting to read Amanda Mull’s piece on new habit formation and why it’s difficult. And I smiled at the title: “You Can’t Simply Decide to Be a Different Person.”
5. Speaking of that, here’s another approach, via The Guardian: 100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying.
It was a week full of savoring being in the world of other humans again, from yoga to hugs to coffee shops to friends’ sofas. And tonight I’ll see my mom for the first time in weeks.
Lots to be grateful for. Till soon!
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