What People Aren't Talking About- The COVID Guilt
What people aren't talking about, is the guilt that comes with a positive COVID-19 test. The guilt of possibility exposing others to the virus. The possibility of exposing the elderly, children, those who are immune compromised, family, friends, strangers in passing, and everyone in between.
Many became complacent when the first mandates were lifted, and I hate to admit, me too. Going into stores, restaurants, and out in public, knowing that we were still living amongst a pandemic. Trusting the government and researches to advise us accordingly. All the while our children are masked at school, and I wondered why they weren't making everyone still mask. I will admit, I was and still am using hand sanitizer everywhere I go. I wore a mask when I had to travel unexpectedly, and followed the travel guidelines. I have taken so many COVID tests, each time feeling anxious while awaiting the results. Never in a million years as a vaccinated person did I expect to test positive.
It took 6 days from the time I was exposed to the time I tested positive. I found out about my exposure 3 days after being exposed, and had no symptoms until 4 days later. I tested on day 4 and was negative, and later that day started to feel extra fatigued, even as someone who lives with several chronic illnesses. I thought it was the holidays, coming off what felt like a marathon of the kids opening gifts and spending a wonderful 48 hours with family. I was negative I thought, and so life went on. I had already decided to mask up 100% moving forward to do my best at protecting myself and my loved ones. So, off I went to work, still not feeling well, however in my mind, it was only a cold as I tested negative. Then I realized around 5pm that night I hadn't eaten and had no appitite, my chest pain and difficulty breathing was not being touched by my rescue inhaler. I felt feverish without the fever. I had another test at home, and decided I would take it upon waking up the next morning.
Never in my mind did I expect to test positive for COVID - it's a cold I kept telling myself. My immediate reaction was to tell my other half, and of course work. How grateful I am that I had a mask on all day, but how guilty I feel for possibly spreading to my clients. How guilty I feel for possibly spreading it to our family, to my bonus-kids, to their mom and her family, and to anyone else I have possibly come in contact with in the past 6 days.
Being sick is never fun for any of us, however typically we get sick, then we are fine and on our way back to normal. There isn't normally guilt associated with finding out you are sick. I feel guilty about the possibility of spreading COVID to even just one other person no matter who they are and if I know them or not. While others keep telling me it's not my fault, the guilt is heavy. I understand logically that it's not my fault, that I did not know I had it. I also didn't know for 3 days that I had been closely exposed.
I keep hearing "You didn't know," "It's not your fault." "It's inevitable we will all get it," "Well you do work in healthcare." Let me tell you, none of these things make the guilt better. As a clinician, a significant other, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mom, or as a human. The guilt that comes along with the COVID-19 diagnosis is heavy. I am here to tell you that it's okay, you didn't know, however now it's your job to do the right thing. Be honest if you have been exposed. Quarantine and get tested, and gosh forbid you test positive, follow the CDC guidelines and stay home. If you are vaccinated and able get the booster, while I was vaccinated a year ago, due to my reaction I can't get the booster. If you are not yet vaccinated, please consider getting it, if not for yourself, for your friends, family, loved ones, strangers, and everyone in between whom you may come in contact with.
The guilt is real. The fear is real. The pandemic is real. COVID-19 is real, and unless we unify and come together, it's here to stay. Mask up, stay home if you are sick, get tested, and let's work together to bring this pandemic to an end.