Long COVID: a question and answer

From Hilton Hiley:

Hi Bob,

I am glad you survived your opportunity to die, and amazed you could make me laugh about your experience. [Hilton is referring to my post, My bunyips are safe: 12th life] I wish I had the ability!

You see, I caught COVID in July. It wasn’t even bad, I shrugged it off in less than a week. Not much later, I kept getting muscle aches, and couldn’t raise the energy to do anything. I used to sleep maybe 6 hours a day and felt fine. Now, if you combine all the involuntary naps and things, it’s more like 12 or more.

My doctor has told me I have “long COVID” and at this stage they have no idea what to do about it.

I’m only 42, and have kids to raise, but feel like an old man. It’s lockdown where I live, and I get a token of government assistance, not really enough to live on so we are mining our savings, but when I can reopen my shop, what then? The scary thought is, for all I know, I could be like this for the rest of my life.

Look after yourself, mate. You give so much to so many people, the world needs you.

Hilton.

Dear Hilton,

Terribly sorry to hear of your misfortune. The best up-to-date information I’ve found on “long COVID” is on a BBC webpage.

Before I retired, I worked with several people who had chronic fatigue syndrome. That is typically a leftover of a viral infection, so your situation is probably very similar. They all managed to improve, so there is hope for you too.

Belief shapes reality, particularly as regards our bodies. If you firmly and honestly believe you will improve, then you will. If you doubt, if you’re dragged down by the thought, I’ll probably be like this for the rest of my life, then you sabotage your recovery.

Have you ever done meditation? I am taking the liberty of emailing you a free copy of my book, From Depression to Contentment. First up, read the chapter on mindfulness meditation, and do it as often as you can. When you’re completely relaxed, at peace, then start up a mantra in time with your breathing. This can vary, but should be things like “Heal!” “Getting… stronger” or “Peace.” Whatever makes you feel good. You can combine this with visual imagery like healing light shining into you from space.

Second, worry is holding you back. The Dalai Lama has said, “If you have a problem with a solution, work on the solution instead of worrying. If you have a problem without a solution, what’s the point of worrying?” So, the second part of my book you should read is the section on equanimity (p 120 in the copy I sent you). It is the most powerful tool there is, for every situation: simply accepting what is. It works with your physical pains, and with your emotional situation.

All things are change. This, too, shall pass. When you have recovered, you will benefit by looking back to see how it has made you into a better, spiritually more mature person.

With my chronic fatigue clients, a major aspect of improvement was very graded, baby-steps increase in activity, regardless of things like aches and pains and “I can’t do it!” You need to pace yourself, and willingly enjoy all the rests and little naps. However, consult a physiotherapist or exercise coach, and develop an activity routine. Record every bit of activity. An example is, walk 50 steps today, and increase by 2 steps (one away from your chair, one back) each day. When you can’t, then do what you can, and record it. After a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at the overall increase.

And yes, a laugh at yourself is a great curative force. When something goes wrong, I say, “It probably won’t kill me, and if it does, that’s all right too.” Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” He was wrong: even what kills me makes me stronger.

Hilton my friend, there are other people in your situation. Is it OK if I include our correspondence in Bobbing Around?

Do keep in touch. I want to know how you are going.

Bob

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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