The black swan adventure

By Becky Larson, St. John’s Support Staff

What is an adventure? I’ve usually placed the thought of some type of excitement when thinking about adventure.

According to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary there are 3 definitions. I’m choosing to recognize the following definitions, only for the purpose of my story:
Adventure: a. an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.
                     b. the encounter of risks.

Has my experience with the possible infection of the COVID-19 virus been an adventure?

At the onset of the realization of the virus, I’ll admit, I felt sympathy for the rest of the world, yet didn’t believe that it could possibly bother me. I kept hearing about the danger of the virus and spent a decent amount of time washing my hands and sanitizing as suggested.

I listened as the world began to dissect the unknown of COVID-19. It became clear that the world need to take precaution to decrease risks and dangers of this expanding reach of this virus. So many unknowns! About the time I started presenting symptoms and feeling sick, yet not overly concerned, I still felt a sensation of such a constant blanket of camouflaged looming that I couldn’t explain.

Looming is defined in one way as: to be close to happening: to be about to happen—used especially in regards to unpleasant or frightening things. Perhaps I had more fear than I understood due to all that was so unknown to me.

Symptoms started with flu-like feelings of body aches and pains. Touching my skin hurt. Nausea which remained throughout the weeks. My body was so drained, all I wanted to do was sleep. And the dry, unproductive cough started.

Recognizing that some of the symptoms were similar to the virus, I called my Doctor. There was a nurse doing triaging which meant doing an assessment of symptoms. At the time I was not experiencing a fever or having difficulty breathing. I also had no underlying health conditions. This meant that I would not be tested and was to quarantine at home for 14 days, calling if additional symptoms appeared such as fever or difficulty breathing, or if current symptoms got worse. At that time we would do further assessment.

After about 1 week I actually I began to feel better and was given the ok to return to work. That night I became quite ill. Chills and sweating. The aches and pains intensified. And the cough began to attack hard!

As a person who deals with depression, I was sinking deep. The looming sensation was heavy!

My place of employment received notice that one of our employees and a guest had tested positive for the virus. The Green Bay Health Department contacted me and they did a contact/risk assessment. The assessment placed me at medium risk of having coming into contact with the employee who had contracted the virus. I was told once again, to quarantine at home for 14 days and monitor symptoms. Unless someone was having difficulty breathing, had a fever or underlying health concerns, they were not testing at that time.

I continued my quarantine, feeling lost and unseen. A fever presented and drained any strength that I had, right out of me. It lasted for about 4 or 5 days thankfully not exceeding 102.4. I decided not to take Tylenol on a regular basis believing that the fever was busy fighting the virus.

Why, you might ask, didn’t I check-in with my Doctor? Probably fear. I didn’t want to go into the hospital. I didn’t want Tim and Rebeca worrying. And I just wasn’t up to it even when I had thought about calling the ambulance.

Basically, all I could do was watch the COVID-19 updates by the President and his teams as well as the Mayor and his teams. Watching anything about the virus became somewhat obsessive until I figured out that listening was creating anxiety within me. I still felt concerned, yet not scared because I wasn’t having trouble breathing. Yet, the coughing was intense and made it hard to catch a breath.

THEN—-my sense of smell was gone! Disappeared! My most heightened sense, was gone! Concern turned quickly into fear. I have a sense of smell like none other—“will I ever be able to smell again??” became a part of the looming sensation because loss of smell was a potential symptom of the virus.

Depression was rearing rampantly. I tried meeting with my therapist via a telephone appointment. I had to cancel, more than once, because I felt so icky, that I couldn’t talk. Any movement or attempt to talk sent me into a coughing jag. I was on my own.

I felt as though life was moving on without me. Of course it was! Even though I was in no position to work I found myself thinking, “poor me.” I also felt jealous that everyone else in the world (slight exaggeration), was living and I wasn’t.

Within it all I was also quite thankful. My hubby, Tim, was still working and when he was home he took care of everything. He made sure that Rebeca and I were stocked up on food, etc. until he returned from work. Frankly, I wasn’t eating much but did do my best to stay hydrated. I actually lost 10 pounds.

Also, I was thankful for my daughter, Rebeca. She was always here with me, even though she was mostly quarantining in her room. Quarantining was and is difficult for my social butterfly.

My heart overflows with gratitude for my sister, Kathy. Kathy checked on me daily. She brought over homemade chicken soup—twice! She also brought us Easter dinner that she had prepared, along with decorations. One very special gift she gave me was a purple-ish colored beanie baby bunny that was my Mom’s. This was so I could have Mom with me. I sure snuggled that bunny!

As the days went on, my chest became so very sore. Come to think of it, my chest was sore before I got sick, for about a week. It felt like I had pulled muscles and it became somewhat difficult to take deep breaths.

My therapist asked how possibly having the virus compared to dealing with depression. (Side note: my doctor helped me with the depression by adding another anti-depressant medication. Thank you!!)

I took my therapists idea and did some contrasting between the two. Both involve isolation. One by choice and one to protect others. Both involve being in bed and sleeping for many hours at a time. Both involve leaving me feeling left out and asking myself, “When will I ever get out of bed? Both involve body aches and pains. Both left me comparing and feeling jealous. Both involve deep breathing. Both leave me feeling unworthy.

As I began to feel better and the intensity of the symptoms lessened, I was so grateful! Especially when my sense of smell returned! I knew it had returned when I faintly smelled the fish that was being busily fried by Rebeca. (Wish it would have been the scent of lilacs.) This was the sweet scent of hope!

Having a bit more strength, my recovery included sitting in the sun, short walks, and Epsom salt baths. I continued to run the vaporizer 24 hours a day. Breathed in hot steam.  My chest was so sore that I used a heating pad to assist with the pain and drank warm liquids.

I also worked on deep breathing which has taken on a whole new meaning to me. When I try to calm myself or rejuvenate, I breathe deeply and just fill my lungs to capacity. Recovering my lung capacity was painful.

If you’ve ever had major surgery, you many have been instructed to help keep your lungs clear, especially so as not to get pneumonia. The devise used to accomplish that is called and incentive spirometer. It teaches you how to breathe by blowing into it at a steady pace at the desired measurement. With that thought of the incentive spirometer in my mind, I pictured myself blowing into it steadily after taking in as much air into my lungs as I could. It worked! With all of the recovery assists, my lungs have gotten to a stronger place.

A little more each day I was out of bed and slowly being more active. I met via a phone call with my therapist and stated attending online groups through The Gathering Place. As I write this, I am 8 days without symptoms after 3 weeks of illness.

I am filled with gratitude! Gratitude simply for life. Gratitude for the ability to deeply breathe. Gratitude that my hubby and daughter have not contracted the virus. Gratitude for all the wonderful smells of this world! Gratitude that I did not have to go to the hospital. Gratitude for those around the world coming together during this time with kindness and sharing of ideas and celebrations as we move through this unknown. Gratitude for hope.

Glancing at the title of this story you may have been wondering and waiting for where the Black Swan comes in. The term, Black Swan comes from a Dutch explorer, William de Vlamingh, who went to western Australia—there he saw a black swan. Up until now, most people had only known about white swans. Suddenly the unthinkable became real. Folks had always predicted and expected that the next swan they would see would be white. So it is with what we know, our known knowns that may direct us with a confident amount of certainty. In actuality, we are all to some degree blind. We do not know what is around the corner until we turn it. By definition, we don’t know what we don’t know. Unknown Unknows. This is the Black Swan.

COVID-19 is a Black Swan. Something we could never have expected to encounter and live within.

Yet it hasn’t stopped time nor has it stopped all life from being lived. In life we have our moments that we can control. I am capable of recognizing the looming virus yet I am willing to choose how I—Me, will accept it, think about it, live within it, adapt, change and grow within it, live within it.

With that being said, I choose to live in gratitude as I continue this Black Swan Adventure and take notice and take part of happiness that is still an unkown unkown to me. Hope, an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes, is my motivation!

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