We have all heard the news about SARS-CoV-2; perhaps you’re already confused, saying to yourself, “Wait, what is she talking about?” While SARS-CoV-2 is the technical name of the virus, it is more commonly called COVID-19 or Coronavirus, and it has dominated my life for the past seven months. I know what you’ve heard on the news, because I have heard it too, but I assure you, unless you have experienced this devastating disease firsthand, you truly can’t understand. Coronavirus is far more than just a two-week flu: it is a struggle, a thief, and it is fear.

I came down with Coronavirus on March 16th, 2020, and since then I have been stuck in a months-long, constant struggle. After the initial couple of weeks being sicker than I have ever been, I got past the viral stage, but the fatigue never seems to leave. I struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I struggle to go to work. I struggle with doing the most basic tasks such as getting dressed, showering, cooking and caring for myself and my loved ones. Coronavirus has left me constantly tired, but no amount of sleep seems to be enough. Some days are better than others, but I still cannot force myself to be productive because it seems like the more I do, the worse I feel in the proceeding days and weeks. Doing menial chores like going to the grocery store often leads to days of fatigue and exhaustion.

Coronavirus is a thief. It stole my breath and left me needing supplemental oxygen, like an 80-year-old. It confuses my mind, and steals my words causing me to sink into a brain-fog that cannot be dispelled, but must simply pass on its own. It stole my sense of smell, taking the joy out of little things like cooking or putting on the perfect perfume. It stole the life I used to have. In its place, it left questions and uncertainty. Coronavirus stole so many simple pleasures from my life: I can no longer sing and dance along to the radio because breathing is so difficult. Focusing is nearly impossible because my brain doesn’t work the same. I can’t even walk the dogs because I’m out of breath after only fifteen or twenty steps, and that’s not all: There is so much this little burglar took from me that it would be impossible to put it all into words.

Coronavirus is fear. I’m stuck in a world of constant worry, all the while wondering, “What if my tests come back normal; will my doctor tell me this is all in my head?” “What if my tests show something terrible, like permanent heart or lung damage?” “Will I ever get better; or worse, what happens if I get sick again?” “Will my life ever return to normal?”  All this fear and doubt inevitably leads to relying on hope. Hope is probably the most dangerous emotion, because once hope is lost, what is left? Truly, nothing will shatter a person quicker than the loss of those last tattered remnants of hope.

“But wait” you say, “This can’t be true. Isn’t Coronavirus only supposed to be dangerous for the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions? Afterall, it only has a minimal death rate.” Coronavirus has been unfairly studied as merely survival versus death, but this leaves me, and others like myself, in a sort of limbo where we did not die, but neither have we recovered. Many viruses are known to lead to post-viral issues: Chickenpox leads to shingles decades after infection, mononucleosis is known to create lasting illness in previously healthy individuals, and even, the original SARS led to post-viral issues such as chronic fatigue syndrome. Is it really a stretch to believe that COVID-19 can create post-viral issues as well? There is an innumerable amount of people like me out there who have been ill for months upon months, and we are fighting like hell to be recognized and helped by the medical community. Can you imagine going from being a perfectly healthy person in the prime of your life, to suffering and struggling for months and then, being dismissed by your doctor and told that your symptoms are anxiety? Can you imagine living for months on end as a hollowed-out shell of your former self? Can you, for just a moment, imagine what it would be like to have an invisible monster invade your body, scoop out important parts of yourself, and still hear every single day how that monster is not dangerous to healthy people?

Please listen! Please hear my words and learn from my experience. Yes, masks are uncomfortable. Yes, washing your hands or using sanitizer consistently can lead to dry, cracked, irritated skin. And yes, halting gatherings like eating out, going to the movies, or going to concerts seems like the worst thing in a world where we all just need a little fun and distraction. But, please remember that it is only temporary. Even if it takes a year or two, there will be a vaccine or an effective treatment someday. Scientists and the medical community are working tirelessly to ensure this disease is eradicated as soon, and as safely as possible. As we are going through it, it really seems to take forever, but looking back, time really does fly: It will be the same with Coronavirus. If everyone stays safe now, one day everyone will look back and this year (or two) will be a blip on the radar of a lifetime’s worth of memories. In the meantime, wash your hands, wear your mask in public, and avoid unnecessary gatherings. Don’t be afraid, but don’t do anything to needlessly risk contracting this monster. Your life is worth far more than a moment of fun. Stay safe.