Getting Sick During a Pandemic

I have said in many posts that I have been blessed and thankful for my health. I was never joking about that but at a few points in the year, I was a little concerned that in fact, I was sick. 

I’m an asthmatic, a lifelong asthmatic. While many will grow out of their childhood symptoms, I’ll be stuck with mine until I go off into that good sweet night. Now, asthma is no excuse to not workout or not move around and I honestly am very lucky. My asthma is pretty mild and there are only a few moments in my life I can think of where my asthma has never held me back. I was not able to climb an active volcano, I could not make short walk up mountain and every once in a while an exercise was too difficult to do without a rest. 

Being asthmatic does mean I am prone to respiratory infections: one of the reasons I have taken the COVID-19 pandemic so seriously. I am already incredibly prone to bronchitis, pneumonia and upper respiratory infections and I do get sick a decent amount of times per year depending on the year. Con plague is a condition I’m very prone to because you will get sick after being in a room full of sweaty nerds all weekend. I get a chest cold usually in the winter as the weather turns cold. Walking pneumonia isn’t super uncommon for me in the summer but I always manage. I’m lucky. My asthma is usually fairly under control and I can be active if I so choose to be. 

During the start of the pandemic, I maintained physical activity the best I could. I’d go for walks, play Pokemon Go outside, play Just Dance; I moved and had no problem doing so. I think it was during the summer when I lost my job that I also came down with a pretty common summer cold that I just couldn’t shake. I got winded much easier than I normally did and thanks to my depression it got easier and easier to ignore my need to exercise. I got weaker and weaker over the months as my new job allowed me to continue to work from home. That’s when I noticed the shortness of breath. It was harder and harder to talk to my car, go to the grocery store; just to live. But I brushed it off and assumed it was part and parcel of the chest cold. The symptoms ebbed and flowed for honestly, months, but the weakness and lack of stamina was the issue I was most troubled by. I couldn’t work out or move around more if I wanted to. It was like my body just quit on me. If my body was willing to quit, I was happy to let it and I slid further and further into a somehow even more sedentary lifestyle. 

It was in November that I had noticed the swelling in my feet and ankles; I assumed it was an injury but quickly I learned that it was from poor circulation due to a lack of movement. I ordered compression socks online and some desk pedals hoping that I could will myself to move at all. Both worked with some success but not in enough time for my symptoms to be gone by the time I visited home for Christmas. My aunts of course noticed my fat ankles and lack of ability to maintain breath while going through the entire grocery store aisle by aisle. My aunts doted on me and that only added to my distress and discomfort about not being as well as I used to be and that feeling of self-hatred made it much easier to continue to push down the fact that really, I should see a doctor. I did my best to ignore that I wasn’t feeling well and hide that from those closest to me. 

It wasn’t until I got home for Christmas that I realized I was backpedaling further than I already had. By New Year’s Eve I was exhausted and couldn’t breathe. After New Year’s I was having a hard time going room to room without having to take a break or having to stop and catch my breath. Friday night I did a telemedicine appointment which reminded me of all the reasons I hate going to the doctor and was given a pretty inconclusive diagnosis. It was either COVID-19 or Pulmonary Edema; neither answer was great. Saturday I drug myself to a local urgent care to get tested for COVID-19 and figure out what was wrong with me. 

Arriving at the med clinic was less than fun but with my symptoms I was indeed tested for COVID-19 because cough, shortness of breath and being tired all ring the COVID-19 bell. I waited for my test results while another storm brewed (one that may be discussed later). I tested negative; a weight that honestly I could feel leaving me and I was left with a much more reasonable solution: it was either pneumonia or a severe upper respiratory infection; conditions I’ve lived with my whole life as an asthmatic. 

I’m finally on the right combination of medicines that make me feel less like I’m dying and more like I can actually breathe. It took longer than usual to get the right medical help thanks to the pandemic but I’m glad to be on the mend. I’ve been sleeping a lot, watching a ton of reality television and trying to make sure I eat because of the literal brown paper bag full of medication I was sent home with. But that’s the story of how I got sick during the pandemic and I must admit, I do not recommend it. There’s a strange kind of hell that people with pre-existing respiratory illnesses have been in thanks to a pandemic that has made coughing, being short of breath and being tired all the time as small pieces of social shorthand for disaster. Spoiler alert, asthmatics will cough. Asthmatics will be short of breath. Asthmatics will be tired; our lungs don’t work, give us a break. I understand the pandemic is scary and bad but jeez, it is exhausting having to feel like every time I cough due to something completely innocuous and feel an entire store’s set of eyes on me. 

Well, that’s the story of how I got sick during the pandemic and somehow, it wasn’t COVID-19. I hope this little bit of vulnerability is helpful for y’all. 

Stay safe and healthy out there.

What I Have Been Eating During the Pandemic

I haven’t been shy about talking about my diet (or lack thereof) and my struggles with cooking as a single Southerner. But there has been something particular about this moment in history, you know, with the pandemic and all; that has made me very aware of food as comfort, routine and escape. So let’s talk about some of the ways I’ve used food to cope: for better or worse. 


Domino’s Pan Pizza with Pepperoni and Ham

I moved last year and this complex has a gate that works and is entirely too big. I was fine with ordering carry out and picking food up (obviously, based on my weight) but I hadn’t had something delivered in a while. I don’t know what turned me back onto Domino’s but something did and I discovered that their pan pizza is perfect. Fatty, rich, greasy, cheesy and exactly what I needed on days where I was either too busy or too apathetic to do anything but have food delivered to my home. Go figure, luckily, my complex is a pretty regular stop so no driver has gotten lost yet. They leave my pizza on my doorstep, wait patiently for me to pick up my food and sign my receipt and the whole thing is over: sorta like paid sex in an alley. But the weekly routine of ordering pizza, watching it go through the Pizza Tracker until it arrives at my door; hot, inviting, comforting and ready to distract me from the pains of the day. 

Breakfast

Breakfast is possibly one of my favorite meals of the day. Working an office job and having a mental illness means I don’t get to eat breakfast very often or eat one that’s of any nutritional value (I do love breakfast tacos even though I know they’ll be the death of me) but now with a medication that I have to take in the morning that absolutely wrecks my stomach if I don’t eat; breakfast have become a beautiful ritual in the morning. I’ve reminded myself that I love cereal and love waffles and pancakes and lots of maple syrup and bacon and toast with butter and jam. Coffee is a stunning alchemical reaction made possible by my Keurig and the smell of maple syrup warmed by pancakes. Also, an aside to cereal, I love cereal. I rarely keep it in the house but good lord I can go through a box of Honeycomb or Captain Crunch. Breakfast has become a sacred kind of prayer and a vital part of the routine that helps me settle into working from home. 

Chocolate Silk Pie from Whole Foods Market

I have a huge sweet tooth. This is not new information. What may be a shock is that I can be very picky about my sweets. Chocolate silk pie is something that is rarely done well but when done can be as close to God’s light as possible. Chocolate cookie crust, chocolate custard filling, sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls; just sublime. But if you cut corners during any part of these ingredients you get what is essentially a dirt cup in a cheap pie shell. Luckily, my podcast means I am often at Whole Foods Market hunting for fine cheeses and that means I get access to slices of their very delicious and very sweet and very well made chocolate silk pie. Each piece is a little taste of decadence that reminds me of a time far more simple and far more kind than the current pandemic world we live in. 


What I’ve Been Cooking

Long time readers of the blog will know that I have struggled to cook for one person since my girlfriend left me and now that I am in a new apartment with a nicer and larger kitchen, that struggle has continued. Thanks to the clarity of antidepressants and the need to cook due to restaurants being open and cravings not understanding how pandemics work: I have been cooking more than ever. So here are a few of the things I’ve made that I am particularly proud of. 

Chicken Katsu 

I love chicken katsu. Absolutely love it. It may be one of my favorite Japanese dishes. It may be a simple chicken cutlet with sauce that is too sweet but dammit it’s the exact kind of comfort food that speaks to my soul as a dual-culturalist. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about frying food at home, even though it is a little messy and I did question many times if it was worth the effort until I took that first crunchy bite and was told that yes, it was indeed worth it. 

Pickled Daikon Radish and Carrot

Like most millennials, I have started pickling as a means to run away from the existential pain of realizing that we are helpless in the face of a capricious world in the midst of a pandemic. Pickled carrot and daikon is a staple of Korean BBQ and something I will easily get from my friends or fight for: the tang of vinegar and sweetness of fruit always makes me happy and I’m more than fine with stealing my friends’ portions if they don’t go for it quickly enough much like I am with gari (pickled ginger) while at sushi restaurants. It wasn’t a difficult recipe to make: just mirin and sugar and time. I did have a small struggle finding a daikon radish during a pandemic until I remembered I have a ton of Asian grocery stores around me and of course, Tim’s Oriental Market had the radish I needed. The crunch and tang of vinegar was fantastic and eating what counts as a veggie made my friends quite happy as well. 

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Apparently I can pickle now.

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Cakes. Too Many Cakes

So. I stress bake. What is a pandemic but stress? I’ve been baking for myself, for friends, to keep busy, to try new things, to find meaning since the pandemic began. It mostly started as a kind gesture for some friends who had their store opened back up way too soon despite being far from essential as a little token of goodwill and support. From there, I just kept going. I’ve made cinnamon maple apple muffins, gooey butter cake, caramel apple monkey bread, strawberry cake with vanilla frosting: anything to keep my hands busy and more importantly; anything I can do to help ease some of the stress my friends are going through. 


These are a few of the things I’ve been eating during the pandemic. It hasn’t been healthy, I’m not ashamed of that; but in places it certainly has been comforting. The return to the routine of making food sacred is nice and comforting especially during these uneasy times and anything I can do to help make those I care about smile is something I’m more than happy to do. 

Stay safe, stay well, stay kind. 

How One Introvert is Trying to Survive a Pandemic- Part 2: How to Save a Life

So. How are we doing?  Doing okay? I figured I’d update you all on how I’m managing and use this time to get through some of my feelings because, let’s be real; this is an ordeal. 

I’ve been feeling mostly tired. My appetite waxes and wanes. I’ve been on a mental health journey that I assumed was failing but then I ate my way through half of a Domino’s pan pizza before realizing that I was stress eating. I was anxious and I was taking my anxiety out on a pan pizza and then I set up an appointment to speak with a therapist online. The therapist said everything I knew already but apparently needed to hear from another more authoritative voice. I was told to keep writing, work out, get some sun, try to keep my appetite in check and to not stop taking my meds. 

Since that appointment, I’ve been doing that. I’ve been trying to write, trying to work out, trying to get sun whenever I can. But this whole thing hasn’t gotten much easier. I guess this gives me an opportunity to check in with all of you and also give myself the ability to update you all on my headspace and how I’ve been doing. 

Well, I’ve been okay. I’ve been talking to friends: my podcasts have been keeping me going. My column keeps me going and this blog keeps me going. I’ve been more active on social media as that is a decent way to feel connection to others. I’m trying to take small bites out of my To Watch anime pile. I’m just trying to stay busy. I’ve been relishing in small comforts like the fact that Domino’s has a delicious pan pizza that makes me feel simultaneously satisfied and emotionally disappointed in myself. Writing hasn’t been easy but I have been trying to schedule out time to do so whenever I get a chance. I guess it’s my concentration that makes writing difficult; I’m still not sure. I also noticed my depression getting worse; mostly what triggered my realization was the vast overeating. My appetite has been up and down for years but after downing nearly an entire pizza and then going back for more I came to realize that I was coping, or not coping at all, by consuming too much food. 

At least talking to friends and family has been a balm from the onslaught of negative thoughts and disappointment that has come from watching large event after large event get canceled. 

Speaking of, I want to talk about a phenomena that I wasn’t expecting: time itself to stop mattering. 

I feel like we’ve been at this for eternity. I was shocked to find that we were only a couple of months into what could be a very lengthy process of returning to normal. To be honest, I’m still not used to the days all running together. I go out of my way to greet my coworkers on Zoom with the day of the week because it helps keep me on track of what day it is. Weekends are particularly difficult for me as those are days I tend to be out of the house the most but now I tend to use them to run errands and get groceries from stores that are just a little further than my local Target. The time in my car is strangely liberating: being able to listen to the music and just not be in the house. I guess the days running together is good in that I got used to this new normal relatively quickly or as quickly as possible considering. I did my best to adjust to working from home and not doing much with my time since I’m encouraged to stay at home. But the slowness of each day is a little worrisome. Day in and day out it seems like the same things happen and even though I have plenty of things to keep me busy; I struggle to start any one project. I’ve been meaning to paint or to work on a collage or to do literally anything that isn’t just laying on the sofa but days like that are incredibly difficult. 

When I do have the energy to do things outside of my sofa I’ve kept busy by making masks and talking to my friends and family. I’ve kept busy by podcasting and still writing and making content. I’ve kept busy with social media and video games. I’m still watching an alarming amount of television: just something to fill the silence, something that is a voice outside of my own, something to give me the illusion of life in my quiet one-bedroom apartment with no other people in it. I’m still playing a lot of Pokemon Sword and still playing Just Dance after work to get my heart rate up. I’m still watching medical dramas and still watching shows about the paranormal because that’s a good idea for an anxious mind. I’m still on calls with friends and still on Discord keeping in touch with those that matter to me. I’ve been doing my best to stay sane. 

It’s been a strange time of going through therapy to help find better coping mechanisms but also trying to figure out which ones just don’t apply to me easily but the ones that I have been able to keep so far have been helpful. It was my therapist who encouraged me to write this Part 2 and to be honest and say that “Hey, I’m doing mostly okay but could be doing better.” sort of post. But I’m doing about as well as to be expected. As well as others are doing. I’m lucky, I can be aware of that. I know I am lucky to be working and to have my friends and to have the luxury of mental health care and therapy. 

It’s actually taken me a while to do this; so it if seems a little disjointed, that’s probably why. But I’m glad that I got it out on paper. The next post, I hope, will be an interesting one.