Sunday, March 29, 2020

Update: COVID-19 + My Expereince

Hi all. 

I've received many messages over the past year wishing me well and asking if and when I would return to blogging. I sincerely appreciate all of the messages, and I apologize for not being able to respond. 

The main reason for my absence is time, which I have had in limited supply since I first moved to California and entered my new career. I am incredibly proud of the work that I've done, but it has left me with very little free time to explore any of my additional interests and hobbies. 

But now, I have an abundance of time, and I wanted to check in on a few things. Mainly, I want to talk about COVID-19. 

Two months ago, I came down with a horrendous illness. I've had a history of chronic bronchitis, which has left me very susceptive to respiratory infections, and the first morning I woke up with the illness, I knew it was in my lungs. 

I immediately went to my doctor that morning, and with my fever, cough, and respiratory issues, she said it was very likely that I had the flu. She tested me "just to make sure," and was completely shocked when the test was negative. "I honestly can't believe it," she said. 

Cautiously, almost afraid to be seen as a hypochondriac, I asked, "Could this be coronavirus?"

She shook her head. "Definitely not," she said. "There have been so few cases in the US, that would be close to impossible."

The reason I even had the thought is because my father works at a hospital, and he had told me about the virus weeks before my illness. There was already a case in the state where he lives. 

I felt a little embarrassed for asking about coronavirus, so I asked what my doctor recommended. She assumed it was a bacterial infection since I was negative for flu and prescribed me an antibiotic. 

Things drastically worsened after this. I couldn't stop coughing, I couldn't get my fever to break, and I couldn't breathe. I turned the heat up to 80 degrees, covered myself with two blankets plus a heating blanket, and couldn't stop shivering, despite taking medication to break my fever. My ribs started hurting on the second day because of how violently I had to cough to clear my lungs enough to get a breath. 

On the third day, I realized I needed emergency care, which is something I've never felt I needed while sick. The emergency rooms had very long waits, so I opted for an urgent care close to my house. They had masks out for people in the waiting room, and I took one because I was scared of spreading whatever this was to anyone else. 

The doctors at urgent care said I likely had the flu with additional respiratory distress. I told them I had just tested negative for the flu, and they told me it was likely a false negative. They tested me again, and, again, I was negative. 

They decided to give me a chest X-ray, just to rule out pneumonia. My X-rays showed something in my lungs, but it wasn't pneumonia, so they diagnosed me with reactive airway disease. Due to what was shown on the X-ray, they gave me a breathing treatment and told me to breathe slowly because I might otherwise pass out. 

Prior to this, they asked me where I lived and where I work. I work in an office near one of the biggest tourist destinations in the city, and I go to that area a few times a week to eat lunch. At this point, the doctors said I would be more susceptible to catching coronavirus because of working in this area and advised everyone to wear masks around me. 

After the breathing treatment, they checked my lungs again, and they sounded slightly better. I was prescribed steroids, a rescue inhaler, and cough syrup. 

The next several days were better, but still terrible. I started experiencing stomach distress and couldn't smell or taste anything (all of which I chalked up to the medication). 

I was still sick on Valentine’s Day, and my boyfriend gifted me a niche perfume and body cream. Typically, when I'm sick, I can still smell hints of things, but my sense of smell was completely gone. I asked him if he could describe the scent for me, and a few days later, when I still had no sense of smell or taste, I sincerely asked him if he thought I would ever get those senses back. 

I followed up with my primary care doctor after visiting the urgent care, and she told me the only rational explanation was bronchitis. She said I should expect to feel this way for three to four weeks. The last time I had bronchitis it lasted for four months, so she said three to four weeks would be the minimum time. 

But, just around two weeks after my illness started, it stopped. I was so thankful to be feeling better, but I was also confused because I was expecting a minimum of another week or two with breathing issues. I had taken two weeks' worth of sick time, so I came back to work with my doctor's approval. I struggled with breathing and fatigue for the first couple of days, but eventually got back into the swing of things. 

In the six weeks since my illness, I have experienced intense lung pain when I breathe. I again went to my doctor, and I was diagnosed with pleurisy, which is inflammation of the lining of the lungs. I was told it was normal after having such a violent respiratory illness and that it should get better within a couple of weeks. 

Shortly after this, the severity of COVID-19 became apparent. Businesses closed. Grocery stores were picked clean. My company told us to work from home. And, eventually, a shelter-in-place order came through.   

I've been working at home now for over two weeks. And in that time, the pain in my lung has only worsened. I realized a while ago that I had every single symptom of COVID-19, including the symptoms that are a bit rarer (like the stomach distress). I recently learned that a unique symptom of coronavirus is an inability to smell or taste. 

With my lung pain worsening, I called my doctor's office again. I asked: "Knowing everything that we know now, is it possible that I had coronavirus?" 

The answer is yes, but there is no way to be positive because I was never tested for it. 

Last week, my doctor's office told me that I needed to come back yet again to be evaluated. I said that I didn't want to go due to being in quarantine, but they said it was necessary. When I arrived, I was the only patient there. 

My lungs sound normal (which is great!) but the doctor gave me a breathing test with the hope of better understanding the lung pain. The results were poor: I am currently breathing at 78%, which is not ideal and is consistent with COVID-19 patients who recover and were in the severe category. 

I was prescribed an inhaler and have to go back to the doctor this week. 

And that's where I'm at now. I don't know if I had coronavirus. Unfortunately, since no one thought it was in the US, I wasn't tested, despite showing all symptoms and with severe breathing difficulties. 

Now, no one really knows what to do. They don't know the longterm effects of the virus, and I'm not being monitored because I wasn't a "confirmed" case. Additionally, if my illness was not COVID-19, since I am still recovering from it and have weakened lungs, I am particularly susceptible to coronavirus. 

It's a scary time right now, full of unknowns. I'm scared of my unknown illness and the unknown ramifications it will have. I'm scared of the unknown of if I am temporarily immune or highly susceptible to coronavirus. I'm scared of the unknown amount of time quarantine and panic-shopping will continue. And I'm scared of the unknown effects this will have on people's livelihoods and the world at large. 

But I'm coping. I bought a coloring book and color pencils and spend a few hours a day relaxing and coloring. I've purchased shelves and am going to reorganize my bedroom. I'm decorating my weekly planner spreads with Lisa Frank stickers. I've started a new hobby that has nothing to do with makeup, and I'm thinking of taking up sewing again. 

And, to be completely honest, I'm shopping — which is not my healthiest coping mechanism. 

But, I'm not buying makeup. And I have not purchased new makeup in months. I still put on makeup every day (and I take pictures of my eye looks and send them to my friend), so I am still very much enjoying makeup, but I'm not buying any of it. 

I recently did a sizable purge of my makeup collection. I got rid of things that I really liked but didn't use. And I purged more than 90 single/depotted eyeshadows. 

What I am left with is still a ton of makeup, and primarily in two categories: luxury and indie. These are the products I like the most, and because I like them so much, I'm not drawn in by the brands pumping out constant releases. I just don't want anything else. I don't want more. 

Right now, especially, makeup isn't where I want to spend my money. 

I don't have any advice right now as I feel like we are all coping as best as we can, and that looks different for everyone. But I urge you to follow quarantine protocols. The mystery illness I had — that looks identical to coronavirus — was horrendous. It was terrifying. And it is something I am still dealing with two months later. If it wasn't coronavirus, I cannot imagine how bad that is, and it's not something I want to discover. 

Please stay safe. Please follow quarantine protocol. And please practice self-care. 


  1. Take care and not look back. I can feel and understand your fear and anxiety, all this period of your illness. I think, after 14 days the test will be negative and you may have developed immunity to the coronavirus. Big - long distance- hugs from Greece!

  2. So glad you're ok! That's all that matters. What you had sure as hell sounded like covid. Since your dad is in healthcare, what does he think about your case?? That mustve been terrifying for all of you. My dad who's a doctor just sent me this to sign and pass on. The article is involved and needs some review but it's the best I've seen yet. Please consider signing the petition to the White House as well, it's worth a shot:

    "The petition link is at the bottom of this very detailed and beautifully argued article:

    This web page is an epidemic calculator. Plug in some figues and it provides projections.

  3. Thank you for writing this. I'm so sorry for what you've had to endure and for the uncertainty you're now enduring. Describing your experience and offering this advice is a service, and I appreciate it.