My Covid-19 Story — Visible and Invisible Despair

“I shouldn’t even be out and about. My demographic is the most at risk, but I couldn’t miss the chance to see everyone,” said a good friend and fellow climate activist at a happy hour in Annapolis. A good friend whose words echoed in my mind whenever I began lightly coughing on my drive home. 

“See you tomorrow,”  Mike Tidwell, CCAN’s Executive Director, said as we bumped fists goodbye. A gesture that I thought about as I lay in bed hoping to escape the chest pains by sleeping.

“We’re here for you,” rang a cacophony of voices from friends, family, and co-workers as I read the word across my screen: POSITIVE.

How it started

The first symptom manifested as a slightly annoying dry cough the evening of March 9th as I left a happy hour in Annapolis. This cough was quickly followed up by a fever and sore throat. “Is this it,” I thought to myself as I googled COVID 19 symptoms for the 5th time the next day. 

The next week was a whirlwind of google searches, news articles, and sweating through every article of clothing I had as the fever worsened and my breathing became harder. The symptoms kept building up to the point that simply walking to the bathroom in my small 1 bedroom D.C. apartment felt like an Olympic feat.

Eventually, after a virtual visit with my primary care doctor, I was able to secure an appointment to get tested. I was terrified of the very real possibility that I have the Novel Coronavirus. Terrified that I would join the rapidly increasing number of positive cases in D.C., the United States, and around the world. 

Being Negative About The Positive

POSITIVE

Reading the word made it real – and it freaking sucked.

I immediately notified my co-workers of the results. They had already begun taking precautions around the workplace. Limiting face-to-face meetings, disinfecting workplaces, allowing staff to work from home. But this news required additional precautions: Notification of building management that someone was exhibiting symptoms and an order for all staff to work from home for the duration of this crisis.

CCAN couldn’t risk the possible transmission of the virus within the office. But, with all those precautions, all they could do was hold their breath and wait to see if they too began exhibiting symptoms. This was the case for dozens of my friends and colleagues who I had met within the previous weeks. Who knows when and where I contracted the virus and who I may have exposed. 

This positive diagnosis did not weigh on me for my own sake, but because of the fear that I put dozens in danger. I was like a barrel of toxic radiation and for all I knew I had been harming people for days before I noticed the symptoms. 

Corrosive Thoughts

By now I am sure everyone knows about the physical symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus: 

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

However, dealing with being COVID positive while also living in this crazy new world of social distancing and cosplaying as your favorite Mad Max character just to go to the store, there was a lot of mental weight as well:

  • Guilt. The guilt of possibly infecting others was ever-present. There was the guilt of knowing that in spite of how bad I felt, there were thousands dealing with this crisis while not having access to health care, a stable income, or a means of feeding themselves and their families.
  • Despair. Then there were the thoughts of uselessness. The crippling feeling of being worthless in your everyday life, unable to leave to go to the store or check the mail. Feeling useless while your co-workers continue on to fight the good fight while I struggle to sit up without coughing out a lung. 

I know I am not alone in feeling this way. Many have even reported feeling “Survivor’s Guilt” after recovering. I can certainly understand that too.

But we are not forever bound by these corrosive thoughts. This crisis, this virus, cannot last forever.

Taking a Deep Breath

About a month after COVID-19 decided to pay me a visit, I finally started feeling better. I could YAWN without it being interrupted by a two-minute coughing fit. I wasn’t afraid of switching positions while I was asleep and waking up choking and gasping for air. I could go a day (don’t shame me) without showering because I was no longer sweating profusely throughout the day due to a high fever. I even moved into a new house in Takoma Park!

I was finally starting to feel like myself.

Though, I would be lying if I said I was excited to get back to work.

My Second First Day

So that last sentence was more so for dramatic effect, but for real, I was extremely nervous. Getting back to work felt like my first day all over again. The CCAN staff had been weathering this storm and steering the ship through this crisis for a month without me. Would I even remember how to work? How would the others react to me having been gone for so long and would they think of me as that guy that got away without working for a few weeks?  What even is a “climate”?

CCAN is a special place. I was lucky enough to have the full support of the CCAN staff, even getting a care package of toilet paper delivered to me from our General Counsel, Anne Havemann.

As cheesy as it sounds, we are a family. More importantly, we are passionate about protecting the climate. We have a job to do. And unfortunately, the climate crisis isn’t on pause.

Even through the worst of times.

That is not to say individuals cannot take their time. There is nothing more important than ensuring your own stability. It just means that, no matter what, when you’re ready to rock n’ roll again, a spot is always open. 

Continuing the Fight

The fight never stops.

We find ourselves in a moment in time where millions are income insecure, our food supply chains are failing, and Maryland is in desperate need of a plan to deal with both the fallout from the covid-19 pandemic and the ever-present climate crisis. One part of that plan needs to be providing well paying and stable jobs for Marylanders,now and into the future.

With over 300,000 thousand Marylanders now having filed for unemployment benefits, we will soon need to create many new jobs for a sustainable new economy. And we have the opportunity to rebuild a new, CLEAN AND HEALTHY economy with renewable energy. Yet our clean energy industry has taken a hit. There are more than 40 utility-scale solar projects and two major offshore wind projects in danger of being held up in Maryland in part by the slow pace and misguided regulatory focus of the state’s Public Service Commission.

One thing you can do right now is sign this petition calling on the PSC to not delay clean energy in Maryland any longer. But that’s not the end, far from it. We’re going to keep fighting for clean energy. Because our health depends on it.