Overcomer| Rising Above the Blues
This article first appeared in http://community.pathwaysjeddah.com/overcomer-rising-above-the-blues/
It has been a year since my husband and I recovered from COVID-19. Recovery after being positive with the virus came in many stages and areas; from physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, intellectual, and so on. If you have emotional anxiety, I suggest you skip this article. If you need encouragement and inspiration, you may proceed.
When I found out last year that my husband tested positive, I had to pull myself together because no one knew the extent of what the virus could do and I had to take care of three kids at the same time. Unfortunately, I started experiencing the symptoms as well. I tried to taste lemon, my body reacted to the sour taste, but it felt like I was eating paper. I tried to eat hotdog, my body felt the salty sensation my tongue tasted, but my mouth felt like I was eating rubber. Taste was nowhere to be found. I knew that time I was positive even before I got tested. I started wearing the full PPE where I looked like an astronaut without the fluffiness of the suit. I wore gloves, N95 mask, and sanitized everything I touched just to make sure the kids wouldn’t get the virus. Third day came and my youngest son cried. He tried to remove my mask and said “Enough mask. I want to touch you and see you.” This broke me because I was protecting them, but how can a three-year-old boy understand the whole thing that was happening?
My strength drained instantly as I was losing sleep, energy, and the virus probably was reaching its peak of activeness inside me. In a snap, my body dropped, I went to the couch to lie down while my kids were in their room playing. I felt like losing every inch of strength inside. It was sudden. One moment I felt strong, the next second my body dropped. That event haunted me even after I tested negative. The thougt that it could possibly happen again even if I feel strong. The thought that my boddy could drop in an instant without prior signals. The moment I stayed in the couch, I couldn’t talk anymore, I was just too weak to even send a proper message. I gathered all the strength left to send a final possible message to ask people nearby for help. I sent a message to my brother asking for ready-to-eat food because we couldn’t cook anymore, laban drink with salt to help my strength go back. I told him I was just too weak to reply. I just copied the same message and sent it a group chat of my women friends. I sent a message to my brother-in-law who was also in Jeddah of a quick instruction on what to do with the kids in case the worst happens and I’m gone. After sending the messages, I waited for our friend who could give me first-aid by supporting me with an IV drip. My husband had to put salt in my tongue to help revive me because I just couldn’t move anymore. A deflated balloon. That’s what I felt. All strength gone in a second.
I couldn’t take care of my kids anymore and my husband could but it wouldn't be safe as well. Though he was already regaining strength, the kids still needed taking care of and we just couldn’t afford to lose a lot of energy because the virus was faster at weakening our body. When my nurse friend came to put an IV on me, my husband had to bring my kids to our friend’s house blocks away from us. Their place was the only one with an open space in the house where kids could stay outside from time to time to get some fresh air. It was possible that the kids were carriers of the virus so we instructed everyone to still use a mask and do the safety measures necessary. Unfortunately, the results of the swab tests of the tenants living in my friend's villa also came positive. My husband’s company protocols led us to move our kids to a covid-free place so we had to transfer them immediately, along with my friend’s daughter, to a hotel so they could be safe from all the adults with the virus. A friend volunteered to take care of the kids while in the hotel and we just asked our other friends who could help in supplying them with food. You see, my immediate support group were also hit by the virus. I had to ask help from more people, but not to too many because I was just too weak to answer messages and calls that time.
Some of our friends would also drop by to leave food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I would sanitize the front door, door bell, all the places these people could possibly touch to make sure they don’t get the virus before and after foods were delivered as a way of keeping them safe from us. It was a humbling experience. Nobody could come close to us, we could only talk from afar, and I just had to stay as far as I could from my friends in fear of transferring the virus to them. I love them and God knows, I don’t want them to experience a bit of what I have gone through anymore. I thank God that when the whole thing happened, it was a week-long holiday so many people were available. I’m forever thankful to these people. Though they had a few resources left because it was the height of the pandemic, they kept giving without asking for anything in return. It was hard for us to accept anything from people because we were usually on the giving side. We had to take in the pride and replace it with openness and humility to be helped by other people. For people who are strong, I know you can relate how hard it is to ask for help. To put your pride down and accept that others are stronger at this point. I was stripped off from everything, including pride.
Blues. Those times were ten times darker than blues. To be away from the kids, to have friends who were positive, and to be positive with the virus as well. To be on the receiving side this time, to feel helpless at some point because we were stuck at home even if we also want to help our other friends who were starting to suffer the same thing. Just the thought of it makes me shiver again and again.
I did not question the deity of God. “If he was God, why did this happen to me.” “If I were so committed to you, why would you send me such a thing.” No. I thought it was stupid to even ask that. I don't want to be angry at the one, who alone can help me, especially at a time like this. If I do that, it would be like a picture of a kid getting angry at his mom and cursing her while the fact remains that this same mom is the one who will feed him and clothe him later on. I asked for forgiveness for not wearing a mask, and for not being careful which probably caused us to be infected. That’s what got into my mind. I asked for grace from God so we could finish what we were going through.
It came to a point where I couldn’t even pray properly because my fever was so high, my body was weak, all I could utter was “Help me, help me, help me.” I believe God heard the prayers of our families around the world who kept praying for us. Since the virus was new, everyone felt that it was a miracle to even survive from it that time. So everyone who knew our situation cried in prayer for our survival. We have only heard of a few people who have recovered during that season, it was a small light of hope, but it was still a hope that we could also survive.
At the height of my fever, I probably had hallucinations from the medications, I felt my entire being was being shaken. From bones to brains, there was something unpleasant to feel. I would have negative thoughts, I clearly heard a voice telling me “Give up your life. You see, you say you are going to a good place eternally. If you give up your life now, there won’t be any pain. If you keep living, you will still see the problems of the world. You will see your kids grow up and see them experience heartbreaks, you will feel the pain when they are sick, you will experience all these troubles in life. It is better to give up your life now and end the pain.” I was crying because the temptation made sense. In an instant, all the pain would be gone. I responded not to the tempter, but I talked to God. I talked to God and said “It is so tempting. It is so tempting to leave earth and not experience pain anymore, but if living once again means seeing the pain of the world, then God grant me the grace to overcome. If living once again, means witnessing the heartbreaks, the sicknesses, the struggles of my loved ones in the future, then grant me the wisdom and comfort to get through it in the future. I’m satisfied with my life, I am ready to go. If however, staying here on earth could cause one life to know more about you, oh God, then allow me to live if you will. If one life can turn away from sin and experience God’s love while here on earth, then help me live. I want to guide my kids, I want to see them grow in the knowledge of you. If you will, let me live.” Tears just flow every time I remember how my entire being fought that thought. It was as if I was going through a tough test. That is exactly what we will keep experiencing in our lives. The testing of faith. The testing of faith produces perseverance. In the end, what will be left is genuine faith in the middle of every trial.
Above. You just have to look up and surrender everything to the most high God when you are at your lowest point.
I thought the three weeks of COVID-19 experience was the hardest, but I was wrong. The aftermath was the hardest. To live again at the reality that life can end anytime haunted me. When my kids finally came home after almost a month in the hotel because we had to wait for my negative test and house sanitation, I was like a broken puzzle being slowly put back into pieces. I secretly envied my friends who were able to get back to their normal routine after being negative from the virus. I, on the other hand had to recover in a very turtle-paced manner. So slow, I wanted to pull the process as fast as I could, but I guess healing in all areas takes time.
Physical healing. I couldn’t walk for a long time after the COVID-19 experience. I tried to go to the supermarket to buy our foods, but after reaching one fourth of the supermarket, I was catching my breath already and it felt like I would pass out anytime. Whenever this would happen, I would hurriedly go back to the car to drink water or eat something. From that time on, I had to always carry nuts, fruits, crackers, anything to nibble. When I was positive, I realized that I had to eat something every three hours or else the virus would drain my energy to the point that I'd be very weak. I thought when I tested negative that one would change, but it didn’t. What happened was it became gradual. I had to keep eating every three hours, then five hours, then so on until my body came back to the usual pattern of getting hungry. Never get hungry, that was my motto when I was positive, it went on until a month or two while recovering. There would still be times back then that I would feel headache and chills from time to time and it went on I think for two to three months. I'm not saying that this would happen to you as well if every you get positive. Every person's experience is different, but if you feel weak after being tested negative, maybe you should take time to regain strength and let your body recover. Don't do so much hard work after and take time to listen to your body.
Emotional and mental healing. Of all the areas, these two took a lot of months of healing for me. If you are a COVID survivor and you are experiencing this, just hang in there and I hope this part below will help you.
When I was still positive and I was sharing what I was experiencing to one of my group chats, someone in the group shut the conversation down. She said to the group ,“Okay, enough about COVID, let’s talk about something else.” It was not her fault, it was the peak of the pandemic and the conversations probably was also weighing her down so she sent that message to the group. It shut me down for awhile because in order to recover fast, one way would be to keep talking about it until you reach that point where you feel much better talking about it. What happened was I had to keep it in for other people’s sake. I had to understand that other people were also experiencing some unpleasant things in their lives and adding conversations about the virus that time affected their mental health as well. So, I became cautious in sharing my experience to people who might not want to hear about someone else’s struggles, especially about COVID. I just open up to people who ask and who are interested aout it. Good thing that I still had friends whom I considered my “support group” that time. I could freely talk to them about what I went through and the more that I talked about it, the more I was being released from it. If there are people around you suffering and you think you can spare some time listening to them, do so. You don’t know how much weight can be lifted off their shoulders if you do that. If you are an extrovert, the best thing to do during this season is to just keep talking to people and ask them how they feel or how they are doing. Your lively personality can actually help lighten up a person’s day and even break the monotony in the daily routines of people during pandemic.
The first week when the kids came back to the house, there was this emotional weight on me that I couldn’t explain. Imagine a person in the sea, trying to catch his breath or else he would drown. That was what I felt. I felt like drowning in different emotions. I was happy I survived and I had my kids back. I was fearful it could happen again, I was hopeful that everything would go better, I was drowning in emotions I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t sleep properly the first two weeks when the kids came back. Looking at them would always make me cry. The whole family would sleep in the kids’ room, I laid down cushions on the floor then I would sleep there and I would hold my husband’s hand and I would ask him to keep talking until I could sleep. There were days when I could only sleep in a moving car so my husband would drive all of us just for me to catch some sleep. I would wake up in the middle of the night crying, not knowing why and sometimes the thought of death happening and leaving the kids behind would crawl on me. One day at a time, I would seek God’s help to remind me of his promises. It was an unseen battle that took a toll on me. Mentally, I knew I was thinking straight, but the emotions were taking time to catch up with the recovery process. The overwhelming emotions would keep coming like uncontrollable waves. I realized, when waves come, the best thing to do is to go above it as a surfer would. “This is it. This is what’s happening, let’s rise above it.” I would tell myself. I would send a message to my leaders asking for prayers. They comforted me and affirmed me that my entire being, in all areas, underwent stress and that I was still recovering. They were patient enough to reply to me and guide me through that experience even though they themselves were recovering. I am thankful for being surrounded with these people.
Rollercoaster of emotions
This rollercoaster wave of emotions went on for almost a month, but from time to time, these emotions would still come, but in lesser intensities until it feels so bleak already, like now. Though the same emotions are still trying to haunt me, the emotions now follow what the mind knows. They are more synchronized now. Unlike before where the emotions couldn't keep up fast with what the mind thinks and I had to be still and pray until the emotion gets to what the mind tells which is the promises of God. When the trauma or fear tries to go back, I would rest in the endless promises and characteristics of God; He is good. He wants the best for me. He gives grace when I cannot do it. He is God. He is my help in times of need. My recovery, unlike some people I know, took a long time. It sucks, but I had to get through it at all cost. Not only for me, but for the people around me.
The darkest one was when I felt like I was crossing a dark valley. The whole recovery process, especially the first two months were the hardest. It was as if I was passing a dark tunnel, I knew that if I just kept walking, I’d reach the end of the tunnel and reach through that light at the end. I kept being reminded of this line “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow and death, I will fear no evil for God is with me…” It was the darkest valley I had to go through in my life. People who were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms would send me messages because they couldn’t sleep and where filled with emotions…exactly what I was going through weeks ago, but I was ahead of them. I was almost done. As if I could already see the light at the end, but I realized there were a lot of people in the dark valley or tunnel who were knocked out and did not know what to do. No one was helping them get out of it. I had to pull them out of there as well. I was assisting the people who were sending me messages as I also tried my best to get out of that seemingly dark place I was in. “God, help me get through this so I could help these people out and show them the way out.” That was my simple prayer. We all got through it. I reached the end of the valley, while assisting these people out of it. I consider that as one of the blessings of what happened to me. Rising above the blues in our lives is possible if we hold on to the one who has risen from the death itself.
You see, while I was in quarantine last year, I tried to write this article, but I couldn’t. Months after, I tried, but I still couldn’t type a paragraph without crying. I just couldn’t write. That was bad. For a person who loves writing, and not be able to write? It was a problem. The weight was still heavy. So, I waited. Weeks, months, and finally, a year. Yes. It doesn’t just take fourteen days. I mean this for all the other bumps along the road that might have caused us to pause for a moment and feel blue. For some, recovering from a traumatic experience, not just only from COVID-19, can take a month, but for some it can take a year. The key is to keep going, keep the faith, surround yourself with people who will help you in your steps in being an overcomer in life.
Rising above the blues, the troubles, the pains in life is a natural part of our lives and we have been doing it ever since we were babies. As babies, we rise after every failed attempt to walk, as toddlers we keep runing after being wounded from a slip or a fall. We have been rising above every situation in our lives. We may be adults now, but God designed us to keep standing up to whatever situations we have in our lives. Rise up! Keep rising above the blues.