My third time around with COVID

covid fight

Yeah, can you believe it? Round three.

When COVID first hit America, I was an early adopter. I tested positive in March 2020. For many of you, I was the first person you knew who contracted it. Now, I’m probably the first person you’ve known who has contracted it three times. I would happily move off this trend-setting path.

As I am locked-down in my bedroom, determined to keep the airborne demon away from wife, I’ve been reflective of humanity’s journey with this disease — a journey not nearing an end, judging from my cough right now.

And let’s get something out of the way. I’m fine. I’m sick, but it’s like a bad case of the flu, so as you read the following reflections on the personal impact of this disease, have no fear of any dramatic surprise ending.

The mental challenge

Dealing with COVID is primarily a mental challenge.

The first time I had it, it was very, very bad. For a time, I thought I would not come out of it.

Sure, I was physically ill, but the worst part was mental. Do you remember what it was like in those early days? We were terrified. Even if you are dismissing COVID now and blaming bureaucrats for lies and mistakes, when the world shut down in March of 2020, you were scared. For yourself, for your family, for your livelihood. At least for a few weeks, the world was united in terror.

We read how COVID was filling our lungs with glue. People were dying alone, whispering their final goodbyes to loved ones over the phone. No cure, no vaccine. Hospitals were so overwhelmed that patients were treated in hallways, if they could be treated at all. Brave nurses and doctors risked their lives working without proper protective gear.

For me, COVID was a heavyweight prize fight. For a month, the bug threw something new at me each day. Migraines. Dizziness. Stomach cramps. A scalding feeling in my nasal passages. An inability to think, or even read. Fevers. And through it all, a frightening pressure in my chest. What was this thing doing to my lungs? I arose each day determined to fight whatever was coming at me. Bring it on.

A few days ago before I was sick again, an Uber driver told me how he had beaten COVID earlier this year. He was hospitalized when he could no longer breathe on his own and was placed on a ventilator for six weeks. He dropped 50 pounds and thinks he has permanently lost his sense of smell and taste. Even with good insurance, he was driving as a second job to pay for the unexpected medical bills.

With this man’s story fresh in my mind, here I am again. The mental challenge remains. We can’t let our guard down. Anything can happen to any one of us.

What is normal?

From the early days of the pandemic, I hold one enduring image.

I looked out on the lake near my home on a sunny day, and far in the middle was a lone fisherman, sitting in his boat, wearing a protective mask.

There was something so poignant about that … an expression of deep fear and isolation, even so far from another human being. Would anything be the same again?

We moved to Zoom, avoided handshakes, canceled vacations, and learned how to navigate the world without touching anything. Could picking up a salt shaker in a restaurant or pushing a button in a hotel elevator be a death sentence? We didn’t know.

Of course, the world roared back. Last week, I was immersed in crowded buses, events, airplanes, and airports. It felt like 2019. But I was also hyper-aware that people were coughing and sneezing all around me. I played along with the “normal” game, but in my mind, I kept thinking of that man in the fishing boat.

Will it ever be truly living in a normal world? Or is normal now state of mind?

Taking another punch

Like a heavyweight fighter, every punch you take can be a threat to your long-term health. Most COVID survivors experience some after-effects, otherwise known as long COVID. Experts think it may take a decade before we can accurately assess the total damage done to our body systems.

For me, the surge in antibodies from COVID Round 1 triggered celiac disease in me. I can never consume wheat or barley again. No normal bread, pasta, or my beloved chocolate croissants. Worst of all, no beer.

COVID Round 2 (2022) was mild. By that time, I had been vaccinated, so perhaps that helped. Who knows if there have been additional long-term impacts or if I am just growing old?

And while the main effect of Round 3 so far is quarantine boredom, I wonder how all these punches will land. I’m not paranoid. I’m not a hypochondriac. But I’ve had enough statistics classes to know the odds that three rounds with COVID will probably have an impact, especially since I am in a vulnerable, high-risk category.

Mostly, I’m mad. I’m mad at COVID. It’s become a bully. Will there be a round four, five, and six? Just leave me alone, dude. I’ve served my time.


Need a keynote speaker? I’ll be better soon! Your conference guests will buzz about my insights long after your event! I’m the author of some of the world’s bestselling marketing books, a college educator, and an advisor to many of the world’s largest brands. Contact Mark to have him bring a fun, meaningful, and memorable presentation to your company event or conference.

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Image courtesy MidJourney

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