Ah, the dissonance of simultaneously feeling how is it only Monday of this week, and also how is it almost 2022 when I haven’t quite processed 2020 yet (yes I’m all about that meme).
It has not been an easy year for many of us, and I am aware and grateful for how much better off I am than most others. Yes, I have long Covid. Yes, new restrictions have just been passed because of Omnicron. Yes, I still don’t feel safe traveling. Yes, I live under an inept conservative provincial government that has leaped at every chance to botch the vaccine rollout, and the boosters are no exception – why, were you thinking they might have learned? Ha. Ha. Ha.
But there is an end in sight. Covid will likely lose its pandemic status over the next year and become endemic – like influenza – now that a significant portion of the global population is vaccinated and antiviral Covid pills are being developed. I have hopes for 2022. I’d like to host my parents, meet my friends, have a book launch.
But I’d also like to take a moment to reflect on the past year, and acknowledge how hard it has been for me. I first fell ill in March, before I was eligible for the vaccine. It was not severe. It did not impact my lungs. I was not hospitalized, though I did briefly end up in the ER for tests. But it is the worst illness I have ever had for the sheer horrible variety of symptoms and length of time I have suffered said symptoms. And I say this as someone who has had jaundice, malaria (thrice!), heatstroke, pneumonia, and multiple interesting tropical viral diseases. The difference between those illnesses and Covid is that no matter how intense the illness was, I made a full recovery in a matter of weeks.
But Covid? Nine months and two vaccine doses later, I still relapse every few weeks (luckily my symptoms are much milder now). I’m still on beta blockers to manage heart rate and blood pressure. It took me eight months to go from being able to walk (at snail’s pace) 300 meters to being able to walk 2 km. Good job, body, I tell myself after each successful walk. You did it!
March/April was also when I worked on the edits for my YA Fantasy book Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove. I was grateful to have something to do. I worked on my laptop, propped up in bed. I could not watch any shows or movies; the least bit of on-screen excitement set my heart palpitating. It is a very uncomfortable sensation and ought to be reserved for romantic scenes in books.
Once I’d finished my edits, I worked on and completed my next book set in the Gujarat Sultanate in the early sixteenth century. It’s the hardest writing I’ve ever done. I don’t know if it was because of the amount of research required, or the fact that I am easily tired and grappling with a chronic illness. But it exhausted me. It has been three months now since I delivered it, and I haven’t written anything since. Oh, I do have a fairly well developed idea for a paranormal fantasy set in my hometown. But the actual writing evades me. I can watch shows again, as long as I avoid the type with jump scares, so I binge k-dramas in my spare time, especially the food-oriented ones.
But there is guilt associated with a lack of productivity that afflicts many of us writers. I could have written the first draft of a new book in this time, I can’t help thinking. Or at least a couple of short stories.
No. No, I actually could not. There is a time to write, and there is a time to recuperate, and you just don’t force your brain and body into it without repercussions. I edited one book and wrote another in the last year. It is enough. The words will return when they want to.
Meanwhile, I take care of myself. Here are a few of the things that have helped me manage my illness:
Healthy, predictable meals: I am very careful about what and when I eat. One of my symptoms was loss of appetite. I lost 15 pounds which I am slowly gaining back.
Preemptive rest periods: A couple of planned 15-minute rest periods even if I’m not feeling tired.
Daily walks: Unless I have fever, I walk every day, no matter what the weather.
Multivitamins: Who knows if they actually help? But they certainly haven’t harmed me.
Healthy sleep routine: A warm shower, a book, and a drink of chamomile tea!
A long Covid clinic doctor recommended both the vitamins and the daily walks. Preemptive rest periods are a strategy for coping with Chronic Fatigue. The rest is just being sensible. I’ve stopped thinking in terms of cure and normal. Instead I hope, with these sensible strategies, to make my periods of remission longer, my relapses milder. That’s my new normal.
And you know, I’m okay with it.