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I got better, but two weeks later the exhaustion returned, this time accompanied by a headache and sore throat. Besides, my sense of taste was gone. That’s why I suspected I had covid. Unfortunately, testing was not available yet.
After 10 days I was better, but three weeks later I got sick again. This time I was also short of breath, and my fingers tingled. Still there was no way to get tested unless you were hospitalized, but I couldn’t walk five meters without gasping for breath.
This went on for the rest of 2020. I kept getting sick for a few weeks – and then got better. In July I again suffered from many symptoms, and finally I was tested for covid. The result was negative, and so was the antibody test. I didn’t understand any of this, because I had all these common covid symptoms, didn’t I? The doctor said it was very well possible I could still have had covid, because in some people antibodies can disappear after mere months. But there was no way to know for sure, and I was left in uncertainty.
In December 2020, I got sick for the umpteenth time and I couldn’t take it anymore. I really needed help and called C-support, a support center for people suffering from long covid. There I finally found a listening ear and recognition. That was very important to me. Also, it was said that I needed help for sustainable recovery, that I could not do it alone.
I got sick for the umpteenth time and I couldn’t take it anymore
In January 2021, I began treatment for long covid with occupational therapy and physiotherapy. The occupational therapist told me to pay close attention to symptoms during and after activities. I did so meticulously. Taking the same therapist’s advice, I also completely stopped working; the symptoms had to stabilize first. However, my ailments got no better, and I was able to do less and less.
From the physiotherapist I learned I was not breathing correctly, I was constantly hyperventilating. I learned that my fight-or-flight system kept on going in overdrive, preventing me from relaxing. I was given breathing exercises for this.
That was nice and made me feel calmer, but every time I did “too much”, I got a major setback and ended up bedridden for a few weeks. I got really scared. My world became very small. I no longer did anything in the house or with the children. I left home only to go to the GP, the physio or the pulmonologist (who could not find any abnormalities, by the way) and even that cost me too much energy.
The physiotherapist stopped the treatment because my symptoms remained so severe there was nothing to build on. I found this very difficult. I tried Chinese herbs and massages, but they didn’t help, although at times they made me worse. I looked on ‘Marktplaats’ for a wheelchair because I could no longer go for walks… By now I assumed I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Because earlier in life, I had a 10-year period during which I was terribly fatigued and suffered from flu-like symptoms for about a week every two months after I had done too much. The doctor said this could be possible.
I got really scared. My world became very small
I got in contact with another long covid sufferer with whom I exchanged experiences. This gave me a lot of support. In early June 2021, she sent me a podcast that completely changed my life. It was a conversation between psychotherapist Nicole Sachs and someone named Lieke from Amsterdam, who had completely recovered from long covid after 11 months by paying attention to her emotions (anger, fear, shame, etc.) instead of her symptoms.
I realized there was nothing spectacularly wrong with my body (as with Lieke from the podcast), and for the first time I was confident that I might be able to recover. That same day, 80% of my symptoms disappeared. My fear of never getting better had kept me from getting better!
The next day I delved further into the method and started writing about my feelings. My neck locked up, and my back hurt a lot, but I persevered. The pain was gone after two days.
I concentrated on the fear that had caused the first covid-like symptoms. Namely the thought that I would not be able to combine my children’s home education with my own work, also at home. I would not be able to do that perfectly. And perfectionism was one of my survival strategies after traumatic childhood experiences, including a father who died young and sexual and mental abuse.
I read the books by Dr. Sarno and Nicole Sachs and totally recognized myself in them. Two weeks later, I had gotten rid of 95% of my symptoms, only the tinnitus is still there. I have every bit of confidence that this too will eventually disappear.
My fear of never getting better had kept me from getting better!
The difference between how I was a few months ago and now, is indescribable. I’m back at work and doing almost everything again. I found out that my previous unexplained physical complaints, such as: hay fever, back pain (scoliosis), pain in shoulders, knees and hips, flu-like symptoms, CFS and migraines, were related to stress and unprocessed emotions. I’m very happy that I now understand how body and mind interact. I now also know how to deal with stress, negative thoughts and emotions.
Hopefully my story can give others the confidence they need to overcome similar conditions!