June 22, 2024

The Terrible and Tangled Journey

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Recounting Long COVID and Anxiety/Depression


At the doctor for my yearly physical, I sit in the square, sterile room talking with the nurse about traveling to the south as he squeezes to inflate the blood pressure cuff. In between tales of Waffle House visits and watching out for alligators, he hands me a laminated sheet and an orange highlighter.

“Fill this out,” he says between breaths. As I try to listen to his continued stories, I uncap the highlighter and read the questions and rating scale.

From one to five, how true are these statements?

I feel unhappy and down.

I feel hopeless.

I have little to no appetite.

I am tired and have little energy.

Nothing brings me joy.

I swing a circle at the furthest left range of each question—Never. And I am struck by another situation just a few years ago when I sat in a similar square, sterile room and had the same list in front of me. I did not circle the furthest left range that time. I was up and over on the right, answering an admitted yes to the feelings that I couldn’t outrun. That was part of the reason I was in the room in the first place, the weight ironed on my chest, the scrambled static wreaking havoc in my mind, the blanket of fog over my brain that held my body down.

Yes, I feel unhappy and down.

Yes, I feel a little hopeless.

Yes, my appetite has disappeared.

Yes, all I want to do when I wake up is count the hours until it’s time for bed.

Yes, I have forgotten the feeling of joy.

I remember that season, remember all the doctor and counselor visits, searching for answers that time could only tell. I remember how long it lasted. I remember fighting for each day, each hour, counting the tiny victories along the way. I remember the slow, agonizingly slow, process of healing, paying attention to every little change that took me a little more out of the shadows and into sunlight.

I slide the sheet back on the table, place my highlighter on top of it, look at the circles that now say something different. What a miracle. What a gift. That I can accurately and honestly say that I do feel happy, and light, and present, and hopeful. Look at where the Lord has brought me. Look at the terrible and tangled journey it took to get here.

The nurse finishes his pre-exam and walks to the door. “You have a great weekend, young lady,” he says, and fist bumps me on his way out.

“You too,” I tell him, returning the exchange. I am fist bumping back not just for the day, but for this life.

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