Every Monday, I write a Monday Motivation email for my athletes. Sometimes the email is as simple as a quote and why I feel like it resonates with me as a runner. Sometimes it’s a story from my own training or racing. Occasionally it’s an article that I found interesting. Rarely, it’s a cautionary story.
This past Saturday, I went to Urgent Care because I was on day 6 of COVID symptoms (I tested positive on Thursday), but my cough and fever were not getting any better. I called Urgent Care and asked when I should be concerned about a secondary infection, and they told me to just take more Tylenol and wear a mask if I left the house. Cool, I couldn't even leave my bed. When my temperature got up to 102.8, my husband decided that was enough and he was taking me to (a different) Urgent Care. They immediately ordered a chest x-ray and diagnosed me with COVID pneumonia.
(yes, I truly felt as bad as I looked)
I assumed that COVID pneumonia is when you have pneumonia and COVID at the same time, but it’s actually when your body spreads infection throughout your lungs via your immune system, so that’s not terrifying. I feel fortunate that I got the meds I needed because I think it was caught very early. Here’s what my progression looked like:
Monday: slightly sore throat, but more like, “hey, your bedroom is dry. Hydrate me.” sort of feeling. I ran 8 miles that morning with a friend. It’s probably a HUGE blessing in disguise that we skipped our planned track workout that morning because I tweaked something in my hip while drunkenly running after the bus (no, I am not in college anymore).
(missed the bus but got a photo of this gorgeous view)
Tuesday: worked in a coffee shop with a friend, felt fine. Went to Chewy distribution day for the rescue and unloaded 3 pallets of pet supplies. I started feeling light-headed but attributed it to constantly bending over and picking up heavy items. That night I started to feel pretty blah and had a low-grade fever.
Wednesday: developed a headache and a wet cough (I NEVER get a chest cough. This was completely new for me). I did not sleep at all Wednesday night because I was coughing all night.
Thursday: Dave was out of town for work and I woke up feeling ROUGH. I could tell I had a high fever. I looked in the mirror and was completely pale. I was shaky and dehydrated, and I felt like I might pass out. It was 6 AM and I had no idea what to do. I called my friend, who recently had the same symptoms as me, and asked her to come sit with me. She took care of my dogs and stayed with me until I was hydrated and feeling less at risk of passing out. My temperature was 102.2 after drinking a glass of water. Dave grabbed an earlier flight home, and I took a COVID test when got here. It popped up positive in the first 10 seconds.
Friday: I started to feel better and thought maybe Thursday was the day when illnesses tend to get worse before they get better. I didn’t sleep between 3 and 6 AM because of my cough, but I used that time to take stock of my life and what I’m doing – and not doing – to protect my time, energy, and health. I immediately went to work setting the boundaries that needed to be set. I felt productive. I did a little bit of work. I took naps. Dave recorded a Hallmark Movie (Mystic Christmas, I’ll give it an 8/10 as far as Hallmark movies go), and I felt like I was on the upswing.
Saturday: I woke up feeling like death. The first thing I did was take my temperature and it was 101.8. I felt feverish and dehydrated, I couldn’t stop coughing or shivering. I texted my mom, who told me to call my doctor. The doctor’s office was closed, so I called Urgent Care, and that’s who told me to just take more Tylenol. After a few hours, the Tylenol only brought my temp down 1 degree. I hadn’t slept all week. My resting heart rate was 90 – 100. I was coughing up all of the shades of phlegm that Google said was bad. Dave drove me to Urgent Care. When the doctor called and said it was pneumonia and she was prescribing me antibiotics and steroids, I was so relieved. I began to feel better within an hour.
That night my fever finally broke and I soaked through 4 pairs of pajamas. Not just like, oh, you’re a little sweaty. Like, OH, did you just spend time in an IR sauna? My fever hasn’t come back since.
Sunday – Tuesday: I’m feeling a little better each day. Still coughing, but now it seems much milder and post-nasal drip related, and less hacking-up-a-lung. I’m taking it VERY easy, and not sure when I will even be able to walk around the block, but hopefully soon.
It was depressing to me to realize that I was diagnosed with not only COVID, but COVID pneumonia, exactly 5 years after qualifying for my second Olympic Trials in the marathon at Philly. I want to say that social media can’t hurt me, but those memories hurt. I am so far from where I want to be, and so much has been outside of my control.
BUT, there are a lot of things that have been in my control, and maybe I just haven’t realized it. And that’s why I’m grateful this happened. It was an enormous wake-up call of what needs to change in my life for me to have the mental and physical well-being that I deserve.
Here is what I sent my athletes in my Monday Motivation email. As it turns out, it resonated with a lot of them. I hope it resonates with you, too.
Yesterday, I mentioned that I have COVID pneumonia and would share the story of how this has been a massive wake-up call for me. I truly hope this resonates, because I know many of you are like me and often pouring from an empty cup.
I don't get sick very often, and when I do get sick, it's generally very mild and only lasts a day or two. I attribute my relatively good immunity mainly to sleep (I average over 8 hours per night), diet (we loosely follow the Mediterranean diet, but more than anything, getting ENOUGH carbs/fat/protein is important), and exercise.
Most of you know that the last 2 years have been pretty stressful for me with my dad's ongoing illness, taking over the animal rescue, being displaced during our house construction, and the weeks leading up to my dad's death and then his funeral.
I have always been the person who says yes when someone needs help, to the point that I know I am sometimes taken advantage of. In the past three months, when I should have been protecting my energy and saying no, I instead have continued to say yes (and honestly, in some ways, enable) certain people in my life and have allowed them to monopolize me. I felt bad setting boundaries because some of these people have far, far worse lives than mine, but I see now that I have allowed them to affect my health and well-being, especially as I was being manipulated into dropping everything to assist with emergencies caused by their poor planning.
What I believe tipped everything over the edge was when the rescue went viral last week (https://people.com/animal-rescue-seeking-pet-owner-abandoned-puppy-indianapolis-airport-8399609). Unfortunately, the media attention led to A LOT of negative attention, and my phone blew up constantly with people who were very angry over different things (how dare we follow the law and look for the owner; how dare we say that vaccinations are necessary for dogs; how dare we say we already found an adopter; how dare we weren't doing xyz). It was a lot, it pushed my body over the edge, and now I have COVID pneumonia. I 100% believe I have it this badly because I allowed myself to get so run down from other stress in my life that I COULD control by preventing in the first place.
The other day while I was unable to sleep at 3 AM because I was coughing, I took stock of where all my energy was going and what needed to change. I immediately set boundaries with these people and let them know what I could - and couldn't - do for them in the future. I know that boundary-setting is hard, but I hope this encourages you to take stock of areas where you are giving too much of your time/energy, especially to detrimental effect.
At the end of the day, our bodies keep the score. I am not surprised that I eventually cracked, but I think if I had protected myself a little bit better, it probably wouldn't have been this bad.
I WANT to be the person who drops everything to help. As a childless, self-employed adult, it’s practically my debt to society. But, something has to give. I cannot be the runner I want to be, the entrepreneur I want to be, the animal rescuer I want to be, or the person I want to be if I am giving every spare ounce of myself (and then some) to those I have enabled to monopolize me. Here are some changes I’m making:
-no checking email/Facebook messages until my morning routine and workout are over
-stop multitasking on my phone. ONE THING AT A TIME
-delegate delegate delegate delegate. This one is hard for me because I have been grossly taken advantage of in animal rescue before, and I NEVER want anyone to feel I am taking advantage of them. To avoid this, I often try to do as many of the transports and adoptions (on top of everything else that an executive director does) myself and use everyone else as a last resort. I cannot do this anymore. It is killing me, and I must accept that people understand I am not trying to exploit anyone.
-saying no and setting boundaries, especially when my time is being taken up due to someone else’s poor planning. It is not my job to bail someone out.
-Dave and I are going on vacation soon, and I am planning to severely limit the time I spend on my phone and reset. I feel in a way that this illness has allowed me to shed the last couple of years and start fresh. I’m hoping to use our vacation as a way to hit a FULL reset and return home with a new routine. I’ve always found it is easiest to form new routines after getting fully out of your normal routine.
Finally, a BIG sign on my desk:
I can say NO
That’s how you got COVID pneumonia
My needs come first