Last Friday I received my second Pfizer vaccine. As I walked through the car park to take my place in the neatly spaced line, I experienced all kind of emotions. Relief, excitement, anxiety to name but a few. I could tell I wasn’t alone in this, as nervous tension seemed to pulsate through the assembled crowd. This was the moment we’d all been waiting for, after all!
The vaccination itself, much like the first one, couldn’t have gone better. The staff and volunteers were all competent and caring, and I was struck by the overall slickness of the operation. I have also been lucky to experience only mild and very manageable side effects. Nothing more than a few body aches to report.
Phil is having his second dose this week, and I will definitely feel relieved when that is done. He has been working from work the entire time and the risk that he could be exposed has been at the back of my mind. I can’t adequately express how grateful I am that we have both managed to get through the last 18 months without contracting Covid.
One of the strangest parts of the whole pandemic experience for me, has been the hypochondria. Since March 2020, every time I have woken up with a sore throat, coughed or had some unexplained ache, I have felt a tiny trill of panic. Thinking to myself, is this it? Have I got Covid? It doesn’t help that one of the virus’s main symptoms is fatigue. I think the stress and anxiety of living in a pandemic also has this affect!
I had been expecting that being fully vaccinated would make me feel bullet proof, but it hasn’t. I had expected that I would feel less apprehensive about the return to “normal.” Over the last few weeks, my job has been planning for our return to the office. This is going to be done in a phased way and with a hybrid approach, with most of us still working from home at least a couple of days a week. My company has really looked after us as best they can through all this and rationally I understand that we will be made as safe as possible. However, this doesn’t stop me from wanting to scream “I don’t want to go back” every time the topic comes up.
It’s not just the thought of sitting in an office that is making me uneasy, it’s all the accompanying activities too. I don’t relish the idea of sitting in traffic each day, and the thoughts of shopping for a new (roomier) work wardrobe makes me feel ill. I also don’t want to leave Annie home alone, when she has gotten so used to company.
I have always been someone who suffers from a degree of social anxiety. Over the years, I have managed to build up resilience to it, forcing myself to get on with it, until eventually it’s not a struggle. Like any other muscle which has been out of action for a year and a half, this resilience has atrophied. This coupled with all the new regulations and overall layout, has me feeling like I am not returning to the familiar. Rather, journeying into the unknown. It’s enough to make me break out into cold sweat.
Again, rationally, I know it will be just fine. A few days in, and once I have figured out which machine makes the best coffee, I will be as comfortable as ever. I dearly wish, like with everything Covid related, that we could just fast forward this part. I would love to just wake up and find myself on the other side of this. The first time I have a cold, and don’t associate it with Coronavirus, will be a happy, if miserable occassion.
I have been lucky in life so far, in that I have not had to endure much by way of grief or trauma. Any time that I have experienced grief, it has followed a similar pattern. All consuming, until it isn’t. The first and only thing on your mind, for what seems like forever. Until eventually, you find yourself realising that you haven’t thought about it for a minute, an hour, even a day. The grief doesn’t shrink, but your life expands around it.
Maybe our collective Covid trauma will be like grief. As we emerge from it, and hopefully that will be sooner rather that later, maybe it’s natural for the affects to linger. Only fading over time, as it takes up less of the discussion. It certainly seems like we will need distance and perspective to be able to move past what truly has been a traumatic time. We need to process.
Perhaps some time in the future, the memory will fade and we will look back on it as something which changed us. Something which made us value our relationships more, and the grind less. A time in our lives when we were forced to slow down and take stock. My sincere hope for us is that in our rush to get back to normal, we don’t miss the opportunity to evaluate how much of life before Covid we actually want back.
In the meantime, we still need to look after ourselves. Getting vaccinated is a great thing to do both for ourselves and for our communities, but it is not a suit of armour. We still need to wash our hands and keep our distance. If we have learned anything about Covid, it’s that it will exploit any vulnerability.
It is said that most car accidents happen with a mile of home. It’s easy to see how. The end of the journey is in sight and we are on familiar ground, so we let our guard down. We are now a mile from home with this pandemic. Let’s make sure we arrive alive!
Be well xxx