When COVID struck, marking the calendar and tracking symptoms, fever, and oxygen levels were critical. On day 1, COVID presented me with only a hoarse voice and scratchy throat. On days 2 and 3, COVID struck back by battering my body with severe muscle aches, joint pains, and abdominal pain, which no medication could counter. No position was comfortable. Sitting, standing, or lying brought no relief to the constant pain. It was debilitating as extreme fatigue gifted more fatigue.

Most patients recover in about a week. However, around day 5, a significant minority of patients enter “a very nasty second wave” of illness. Upon waking on day 5, my lungs felt extremely heavy, and my voice was hoarse. Being overweight and having left ventricular hypertrophy (thickened heart), Parkinson’s, and tumor surgery (pre-COVID), I intuitively knew underlying conditions, including high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes, could significantly impact the body’s inability to overcome COVID. Still, by the end of day 5, I felt better. Internally though, I keep debating whether COVID is over.

Day 10 produced a negative COVID test, but the following days, 11 through 18, hit me with recurring bouts of extreme fatigue and difficulty with clear thinking. Usually a very strategic and analytical thinker, I became frustrated with an inability to manage complex information. I forgot words, had problems completing simple tasks, and logic problems took longer. Primarily working from home, I struggled. Some days are great, and some days are poor.

The aftermath has been challenging. Muscle atrophy went unnoticed until I dropped something on the floor and found an inability to push myself off the floor. Muscle pain percolates throughout the day, with some days worse and some better. Vocal cords only work so long. After a long meeting, the voice does not work as well. A medical physician told me to anticipate that these voice problems may take 6 – 8 weeks to resolve gradually. However, complete voice rest is not the answer, as using the vocal cords for a few short words often during the day keeps them mobilized.

Post-COVID fatigue is different and cannot be defined as normal tiredness. My post-COVID fatigue has been interesting. Some days, despite a good night’s sleep, fatigue occurs after minimal effort. When exhaustion hits, it becomes entrenched and limits usual activity. When impactful, I am left feeling dull and finding concentration a challenge. I have read of others with post-COVID fatigue and how they generally feel unwell. It is usually associated with unexplained muscle and joint pain, poor concentration, sore throat, and headaches, and it can be highly debilitating. Unfortunately, any patient can be affected by this entity irrespective of the severity of the initial infection. As a result, I am forced to relive the same day.

In thinking about it, the pandemic makes it seem like we’re living out the same day every day. Despite prayers, this pandemic appears unrelenting and neverending as people continuously suffer. Early in the pandemic, some Buddhist circles informed us that the virus was a disaster most likely triggered by life’s greed. But unfortunately, it’s hard to find the sole person or moment that caused COVID. Blaming any person or event is pointless to the 1,038,290+ (U.S. COVID deaths, per Worldometer) who’ve died. However, on a personal level, I do have the capacity to conquer anger, panic, and greed.

My friend knows just enough to understand that my health is declining. 

Aren’t you afraid you’re getting worse?” 

I confirmed the body was worsening but explained I wasn’t overly fearful. Everyone will experience some form of degradation. That’s the nature of this world. We come, and we go. The end process may not be ideal, but we all leave. I reiterated a story once heard from Tony Robbins (or I believe it was Robbins).  

‘A Buddhist Monk was experiencing end-stage cancer. Yet, even as his body was being ravaged, the monk continued to participate in his ‘Sangha’ (Buddhist community).

A young woman asked, “How can you participate and be joyous while cancer eats your body?”

“Young woman,” the monk replied. “My body may be having a bad day, but I am not.”

As a Buddhist, I believe in the principle of impermanence. I believe that eventually this virus will pass, just as I have seen wars and other terrible threats pass in my lifetime. Maybe the world will have the opportunity to rebuild our global community. I sincerely hope everyone can stay safe and stay calm. At this time of uncertainty, we mustn’t lose hope and confidence in the constructive efforts so many are making.