While ultimately the physical component of COVID-19 has rightfully been the primary focus as millions around the world have suffered from the disease, the mental aspect of either having it or coming into contact with it hasn’t been talked about nearly as much.
As someone who came into direct contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus, I can tell you just the thought of exposing others to the disease can torment you. When I found out, I felt dirty and contaminated, and I didn’t even have it. Without knowing it I had potentially exposed everyone I worked with and who knows how many others over the course of four days as I went about my business. I had been being as precautious as possible and even had a pocket Germ-X that I was taking with me everywhere at that time to prevent myself from getting it, but I had no idea I had already been exposed.
As soon as I found out, I quarantined myself and began working from home. While I will say that I actually liked working from home — it was refreshing not having to get up, iron clothes, get dressed and go into work — being confined takes a toll on you. For a long time, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the people I had potentially exposed to the virus. I was pretty certain I was in the clear because I didn’t have any symptoms, but for all I knew I was asymptomatic and could’ve still transmitted it to others. That thought alone kept me up for many nights. Even now every day I think about how glad I am I took it seriously because if I hadn’t and had instead been careless there’s no telling how much harm to others I could’ve done.
Then there was the constant worry about the family member who had coronavirus. They could hardly speak, and when they did it was very painful so I was limited to just text messages and talking to other family members in quarantine with them. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it was clear that there were two types of people most at risk at dying from the disease: the elderly and those with comorbidities or pre-existing medical conditions. My family member that got it has both an immune disorder and a chronic lung disease. I tried to think positively that they would get through it, but with constant news coverage everywhere you looked about how bad it was in the beginning it was beyond difficult to be wholly positive.
Thankfully, I’ve been on the lucky end of the spectrum. I either naturally developed the antibodies, which is my guess considering nobody else I came into contact with after being exposed got it, or I didn’t contract it in the first place. My family member that had it, while still not 100% more than two months later, was retested nearly a month ago and tested negative.
And the four people who were quarantined in the same home as my family member for several weeks didn’t get it, including a 76-year-old who has had more than 50 surgeries and lives on oxygen. We’re the lucky ones, but yet it was still very much a traumatic experience for all of us.
But there are a lot of people and loved ones who weren’t nearly as lucky. Beyond the deaths there are millions throughout the world who lost people they love and care about. And they couldn’t be by their loved one’s side when they took their last breath.
No matter how much the curve has flattened or how close our lives get to being normal again, the pain, suffering and grief are all still in the infant stages. The trauma worldwide is very real, and mental health can’t be quantified with numbers. I know nobody would intentionally try to belittle the pandemic, but please be considerate when discussing returning to normal and reopening the economy. There are a lot of lives that will never be the same because of this pandemic, and we’re not out of the woods yet. Not even close.
Joshua Campbell is sports editor of The Columbian-Progress. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (601) 736-2611.