Opinion

When Covid strikes, the only thing to do is turn off the phone and pull up the covers – and it's strangely liberating

When Sam Delaney had Covid – he found there's an upside

illustration of the covid virus

Image: Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Well, I finally got Covid, three years after it was trendy. This reminds me of when I bought a Nutri Bullet in 2017 and all the millennials I was working with at the time teased me for being late to the party. I couldn’t stop going on about juicing but nobody wanted to listen because, as a conversation topic, it felt old, stale and tedious. People just don’t take The ’Vid seriously any more. There are vaccines now and there is know-how too. The sense of panic the word Covid once generated is just a distant memory for most people. I’ve had three jabs so I figured I was either never going to get it or, even if I did, the symptoms would be imperceptible. But I was wrong. 

On the afternoon of my 48th birthday, as I sat watching football on the telly with a nice big slice of the cake that my mum had just dropped round, I was suddenly struck by a sense of dizziness. Next, my limbs started to ache and my body started to shiver with cold. I staggered upstairs to my bed and covered myself in three blankets. Still, the shivering didn’t stop. I had to stick on the electric blanket for the first time since February. Eventually, I drifted off into a troubled sleep. 

When I woke up two hours later I was drenched in sweat, kicking the blankets off and scrambling for water. It was immediately clear: after three years of acting smug because I had managed to swerve the Covid virus, it had now come to get me when I was least expecting it. And it had got me bad.

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I have spent the past 10 days in bed, quarantined from my family, too feeble to get off my arse, barely able to read a book or even think straight. My head feels like it’s full of Ready Brek. In the daytime, even a short walk to the bathroom necessitates a three-hour recovery kip. But at night I am unable to sleep at all. My mind comes alive with anxiety at about two in the morning and I just have to lie staring into the darkness, turning over a series of worst-case scenarios.

After day three or four I started to lean in to the thing a bit more. I realised that, ordinarily, I feel physically healthy but mentally on edge due, in no small part, to the constant sensory stimulation of modern life. In 2023, everything is so non-stop. The only sustained respite I can remember came during the initial few months of lockdown back in 2020. While that time was bleak for so many, and tragic for some, I am lucky to have pretty fond memories of it as a period in which the world seemed to stop turning and all feelings of guilt, suffocation, fear and self-loathing were replaced by a certain peace. 

Three years later, in my isolation, I have been feeling something similar. Lying in my pit, physically derelict, I at least feel mentally and emotionally calm. I am unable to work. I am barely able to communicate. So who cares? It’s really nice to just stop giving a shit about things for a while. No deadlines, no pitches, no catch-ups, no meetings. I wrestle myself up every few days to send out emails cancelling things with messages that barely bother with courtesy. ‘Sorry, have to reschedule, I have Covid.’ Jesus, it feels good. 

Admittedly, announcing you have Covid doesn’t elicit the same sort of sympathy it once did. People just don’t buy the fact that this virus can still kick your head in, even if you’re vaccinated and relatively healthy. They respond with a bit of scepticism, like you’re claiming to have an illness that no longer exists or, if it does, is not nearly bad enough to justify skipping stuff or cancelling work. But I don’t care. I feel so ill that other people’s perceptions no longer matter. I have been set free by sickness. 

I manage to glance at social media and notice people are still taking the time to shout bullshit at each other about matters they cannot control. I smile to myself as I watch them debase themselves for attention. And I feel as if I am floating above all the madness. Happy to be irrelevant and content with my incapacity. Covid is hell, yes. But it ain’t half emancipating.

Sort Your Head Out

Read more from Sam Delaney here

Sort Your Head Out: Mental Health Without All the Bollocks by Sam Delaney is out now (Constable £18.99)You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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