On the third day of the new year, the day I had planned to go out and try my luck at getting a booster shot at venues that allowed walk-ins, I found out that I needed to quarantine instead. I had a possible exposure during the holidays.
That night, the symptoms started and my quarantine turned into isolation—even from my dogs (sob). My body hurt like I had done a really, really intense workout. (I hadn’t.) My throat was sore. And my skin felt strangely sensitive, it was almost painful to touch.
The next day, more symptoms—dry cough, cold, chills. The day after, even more—sweats, headache, fatigue. While it seemed that everyone was hunting for paracetamol (there should be a special place in hell for heartless scalpers who hoard medicine), I was happy with my bottle of ibuprofen. It really helped with the body aches.
But soon, that one bottle of medicine turned into an entire cart of supplies—different people (doctors and nondoctors) had so many recommendations on what to take and what to use and my mother kept buying them all: tablets, capsules, sprays, powders, lozenges. (At least no one told her to boil Coke like my cousin’s kasambahay keeps insisting she needed to get better.)
Treat the symptoms
“Just treat the symptoms,” people keep telling me.
That was really all I could do. I couldn’t go out to get tested—that meant leaving my room and possibly exposing the rest of my household to the virus. I tried booking home service tests but there were no available slots that week, probably because of the surge in cases. But I was already presumed positive. More people in our group had tested positive, plus I had so many symptoms.
Days after I started feeling sick, my mother procured an antigen test from a kind friend. I unboxed it and followed the instructions carefully, more carefully than I ever did any of my high school experiments.
With the skill and determination of a toddler who had just learned how to walk, I swabbed myself. I processed the sample and squeezed drops of the specimen onto the testing strip. Both lines turned red. I was positive.
I wasn’t surprised, not with the way I had been feeling. In fact, I would have been shocked if the result was negative. “I’m having a boy,” I joked.
Lifestyle columnist Dr. Raffy Castillo prescribed me his COVID protocol, which he has given with success to over a thousand patients now. It’s a regimen so involved I need to set multiple alarms each day to make sure I’m remembering to do everything when I’m supposed to—drink, gargle, spray, repeat.
The most challenging part for me is having to take spoonfuls of virgin coconut oil. The first time I did it, I was left feeling nauseated and I ended up throwing up all over my bedroom floor. It was mostly water, though—water and coconut oil.
While I can still smell and taste just fine, I have no appetite. One day, I thought, “Ooh, xiao long bao sounds good.” But by the time my order was delivered, I couldn’t stomach it anymore.
The same thing happened with food from Chili’s. So when I got diarrhea a few days in, I wasn’t sure if it was a COVID symptom or if my stomach was just upset from the abundance of medicine and lack of sustenance. The only thing I could keep down was fruit and my mother’s sopas, and I couldn’t even manage to eat a lot of it.
But the worst symptom by far is the sore throat. Seriously, I have never experienced anything like it before and growing up, I’ve survived my fair share of tonsillitis. It started off as mild and has proceeded to be hellish. It makes you dread having to swallow anything, even your own saliva. It’s sore throat so bad it actually manages to wake me up. And who wouldn’t wake up when you swallow in your sleep and it feels like there are daggers in your throat?
In fact, the reason I’m up at 2 a.m. writing this is that my sore throat just woke me up again.
‘Swallowing glass shards’
On the r/Covid19positive Subreddit, other sleepless people describe it as “like swallowing glass shards,” “excruciating,” “your throat feels like blades,” “10x worse than strep” and “the worst sore throat of my life.”I agree. I take Strepsils and drink tea with honey and gargle to try and relieve the pain, and while they help, there’s a part of me that feels scared to sleep because for some reason, my throat is most painful just after waking up.
And these are supposed to be mild symptoms. (My heart goes out to those dealing with more severe symptoms.)
When you’re vaccinated (and have gotten a booster shot), you keep hearing the same thing: that if you do get the virus, the symptoms would be mild, that you wouldn’t get hospitalized. Omicron, in particular (which I think is the variant I have), is known to cause milder symptoms.
But believe me, this is no reason to be complacent or to let your guard down. Because mild is no walk in the park. Mild is relative, mild is still sick and mild definitely sucks.
You do things to make it suck less, of course. I take my meds. I message with friends and loved ones who have tested positive, too—it’s like an unofficial COVID club, a club no one wants to be part of. I work. I watch “Schitt’s Creek.” I junk journal. I commiserate with other positive people on Reddit. I let Tamara Levitt help me “drift off with gratitude” on the Calm app. And I wait for this blasted thing to be over.
My cousin who recovered from COVID months ago told me that she wouldn’t wish it on her worst enemy. Now I understand what she means. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy either—not even this supposedly “mild” version. INQ