I had a fever, malaise, generally felt unwell for a few days but it wasn’t worse than flu’s I have had previously. After a few days I believed I had shaken it off and re-entered life albeit a bit limited on the physical side. 3 weeks after the initial infection I spent a long weekend on a planned event with a friend which included a lot of exertion. During it I could tell I was struggling and that was really the beginning of my period of Long Covid.
Over the following few months, I recorded what was happening with me and tried many things in an attempt to “beat” it. My primary symptoms were debilitating fatigue, brain fog & difficulty concentrating, breathlessness and POTS (abnormally elevated heart rate). I found working (office work) difficult and became mentally exhausted after short periods of cognitive effort. Telephone calls left me breathless after 10 minutes and if I continued longer, I would have to lie down afterwards to recover from that exertion. Physically I was reduced to walking small distances around the block and if I tried to lift anything or do any real kind of physical activity – however light – I would become immediately fatigued and have to lie down, possibly for hours. I also experienced PEM (Post Exertional Malaise) which triggered a “crash” the following day and at times affected me for days to weeks afterwards.
Talking to anyone exhausted me. Just the thought of doing small things or having conversations left me exhausted. I learned that fatigue is non sleep restorative meaning I would wake up feeling just as exhausted even though I had a long sleep at night. I would wake up sometimes feeling optimistic, have a shower and some breakfast and then felt compelled to lie down again as I was physically drained.
I was fearful of becoming bedbound and that was looking like becoming a reality.
As I am a reasonably active person, I tended to measure myself in that realm and there was a noticeable deterioration in what I was capable of doing. I got a heartrate monitor to prove to myself I was getting well but the evidence was showing I was getting steadily worse over time. I found it harder to measure my cognitive abilities but I noticed I was becoming mentally exhausted after very small periods of concentration and had become unable to read or spend time on the internet. After 3 months, I had to stop working as I was unable to concentrate at all and was noticing I was making mistakes in those things I was doing. I was unable to find the right words when talking and became really breathless after just a few sentences. A really low point was when my son came back from university for a few days and I was unable to have a conversation with him in spite of really wanting to.
My world was becoming smaller and I had entered the push and crash cycle of doing something very insignificant but paying for it for days or weeks afterwards. Medical tests all showed nothing wrong with me. My doctor suggested my autonomic nervous system was stuck in the “fight or flight” setting which satisfactorily explained the symptoms I was experiencing. I also noticed that when I was describing my symptoms to someone, or got in a negative thought pattern, I would feel worse. I was fearful of becoming bedbound and that was looking like becoming a reality. I tried a few supplements, anti-inflammatory diet and other suggested lifestyle changes which all availed nothing.
The medical community had nothing to offer and my own doctor admitted that they could only recommend rest and pacing.
During all this time I was looking for possible solutions. The medical community had nothing to offer and my own doctor admitted that they could only recommend rest and pacing. Due to my limited cognitive ability, I was unable to read much online so resorted to YouTube videos as that needed less cognitive effort to listen. My wife Charlotte stepped up and began researching on my behalf and threw herself into looking for stories of long covid sufferers who had recovered. She found 2 sites with stories of individuals who had recovered from Long Covid or similar afflictions like CFS. (recoverynorway.org & longcovidcured.com) I tried to read them and they gave me hope but also it was challenging to take it in.
The road to recovery
I realised that I needed to improve my cognitive ability to be able to help myself so reduced my life to a bare minimum. I moved to a camping ground to stay in our caravan for a while and dedicated my effort to try and regain my mind. Reducing my physical exertion (which was already very low), lots of resting and managing my energy levels allowed me to improve cognitively. I then applied myself to reading these stories in an effort to find out how they recovered.
The one thing that kept coming up was the phrase “mind body”. I had no real understanding of what that meant but was determined to find out. I was lucky enough to read one recovery story of a woman named Esther that referenced a particular podcast. This podcast was an interview by Nicole Sachs with a woman named Lieke. Lieke had recovered from Long Covid using the methods suggested by Nicole. During the podcast there was reference to a YouTube video on Nicole Sachs YouTube channel called “healing yourself parts 1-4”.
I listened to those 4 short videos and at the end of it knew exactly what I needed to do and I felt confident I was on the right road to recovery. It all made perfect sense to me and I had no problem believing the process she suggested would be effective. I dedicated the coming weeks into healing myself following the instructions given in those videos. After 10 days I felt improvement and was getting a lot of value out of what was so freely offered. On the back of that I decided to buy a course – Freedom from Chronic Pain – from the Nicole Sachs website. Note that I substituted the word “pain” with “symptoms” for this entire process. I am confident I would have recovered using the free information alone, however, I got a lot of value out of the course and it complemented what I was doing from the freely given information. I feel the combined process accelerated my recovery.
The mind is incredibly powerful and I now understand what I experience unconsciously has the ability to influence how I feel physically.
I also spent a lot of time on a similar website by Dr. Howard Schubiner (Unlearn your pain) which explains very well the mind-body connection and helped me in the later days “talk down” my symptoms. I found the entire topic fascinating and soon had evidence of symptoms responding to me comforting my unconscious thought patterns. There was also important information around dealing with fear and doubt which was extremely helpful.
I began practicing what I had learned in late October 2022. While I faced resistance internally, (symptoms changing, intensifying or being replaced by something new), I just kept working on the process and believing. Within 4 weeks my symptoms had almost completely disappeared. I was amazed. I did 3 hours of bike riding and hill climbing with no consequence. This was incredible given I had been rendered breathless by doing a few minutes activity just weeks earlier. I had a flare-up of symptoms for a couple of days the following week as my own body made a last-ditch attempt to “protect” me using anxiety and fear but by then I had hard evidence of this process curing me and those subsided quickly. While it took a little bit longer, my cognitive side has fully returned and I am so grateful to have my mind back. It is now 7 weeks since I began the process and I have completely returned to normal activities. We travel this week overseas and I feel confident my symptoms are a thing of the past.
The mind is incredibly powerful and I now understand what I experience unconsciously has the ability to influence how I feel physically. In a misguided attempt to protect and keep me safe, it can and did make me ill. Conversely, it also allowed me to heal myself completely from those same debilitating symptoms.
My understanding is this process stabilised my autonomic nervous system, which in turn resolved all my symptoms.
Key things for me were:
- Resting when needed (initially)
- Reading stories of recovered people
- Following the process suggested for mind body recovery mentioned above
- Learning how to deal with a spark up of symptoms (mostly fear and anxiety generated) and how to eliminate them.
It was a great revelation and relief to discover that I had the power to heal myself. I understood that it was an inside job and I wasn’t dependent on some medication, treatment or external influence to cure me. Once I had the belief I would recover fully, the more I engaged in my normal life activities, the more my brain accepted that I wasn’t sick and the symptoms dissipated.
I am forever grateful about what I have discovered on this journey and am amazed at just how powerful we can be when the mind body connection is fully understood.