Opinion | Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson: What I learned from COVID
I sat with COVID-19 last weekend and learned a few important lessons. Or perhaps I should say I spent the weekend in bed or on the couch with COVID, because for four days I wasn’t able to do anything else. And yet those few days felt like a week because as the illness grew worse, I slept less.
It wasn’t until my friend Larry dropped off a COVID test in the pouring rain on Saturday afternoon that I was able to confirm it was COVID-19. And when the illness finally turned a corner on Monday and I began the incremental progress of recovery, I was thankful that I had had my vaccinations. I didn’t have a fever or even much of a cough — my physical symptoms were a bone tiredness exhaustion, loss of smell and loss of appetite.
But the most pronounced symptom of the virus was a terrible despair I felt would crush me over the course of the weekend but which thankfully lifted day by day as I grew stronger.
The sudden and pronounced desolation so scared me that I mentioned it to my friend Sharon who volunteers for a mental health organization. Then I sent a message to my doctor, who responded quickly and pointed out my despair was a normal aspect of being ill and would resolve itself as I felt better physically. But I also wrote about my experience in my journal to remind myself in the future when I feel this despair to not act on it but to know that it will get better as I physically grow stronger.
When I was unable to anything other than lay in bed and scroll through my phone, I devoured sensational news and social media. After a day or two I realized that this incessant intake of garbage only added to my despair and anxiety.
Because I did not feel well enough to read, I finally opened Hallow, a faith-based app that offers audio prayers and scripture readings, none more than 10 minutes in length. As an antidote to the dark thoughts that filled my mind, I played these prayers and readings of the Psalms. And they helped me immeasurably. I felt held in God’s arms, secure that even in my despair God was present and would hold me up even as Christ held Peter above the stormy waves.
I realized that what we fill our minds with daily matters to our mental health, our spiritual health, and yes even our physical health. Now that I am on the mend, I choose to limit my intake of garbage social media and provocative news and counter it with at least an equal amount of spiritual food.
I also learned that I am still grieving my mother’s death. It’s been 3 1/2 months and next month, I’ll fly to Fort Lauderdale and join my siblings for a memorial service. In the despair I felt last weekend, I understood that my grief is still close to the surface and I must accept that it will take more time to journey through.
Finally, I was reminded that I have a lovely community of friends and neighbors in Breckenridge. Throughout the weekend I received text messages asking if there was anything I needed. My neighbor dropped off a quart of chicken soup and Gatorade and left it on the picnic table on my back deck. They say illness, even a brief bout of COVID, can teach us important lessons if we are willing to listen.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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