I rolled over to get off the damp section of the sheets where I had been sweating from fever. The fresh cotton brought chills, not comfort. My nose dripped. I could see the box of tissues on the far nightstand but my mind couldn’t figure out how to reach them.
In my disorientation, I grabbed the glass of water instead and took a small sip. Any more would cause me to vomit. Soon I’d feel my way to the bathroom on weak legs for recurring diarrhea. The severe joint pain was the worst adversary. I was bedridden for weeks.
There was no cure and the treatment was rest, liquids and painkillers. I curled up imagining my former life as a dancer, gymnast, and runner. It would be months before I’d be able to exercise again and the joint pain would never diminish.
I had Chikungunya, a virus carried by a day-biting mosquito contracted on a trip to the British Virgin Islands in 2014. Mine was the first case in Nevada. I never returned to “normal life” and 10 months later I needed urgent gynecological surgery. There did not appear to be a relation between the two.
The dreadful aftermath of the surgery was unexpected. I sought help from many medical professionals trying to recuperate. I found a functional medicine doctor who helped stabilize me, but it took four years before I was a glimmer of myself again.
I was affected physically and mentally. Debilitating pain, stroke-like symptoms, depression, anxiety, fear, an inability to concentrate, be around crowds, sensitivity to noise and touch ruled how I lived. The majority of days were spent at home researching, exercising and doing household chores.
Sometimes I could handle errands, sometimes the partially filled cart would stay at the grocery store because I was overcome by the fluorescent lights, people and choices. It required extra concentration to drive. I was happy to accomplish one errand a day.
I longed to be a successful contributing member of society again but had a rough time figuring out how to do so. I did not have support groups, ZOOM meetings or family close by. My dearest companion was my dog. My husband worked and traveled and was supportive but certainly didn’t have answers. When I started to improve in early 2019 we decided it was time to relocate.
We had spent most of our lives in New York so after 10 years living in Las Vegas we missed seasons, a genuine city, culture, neighborhoods and longed for nature that was green and alive. Denver offered the most on our checklist. It was fulfilling having a job researching communities, houses and organizing the move.
Three house hunting trips later we settled in Castle Pines. It was a smooth, exciting change and the people of Colorado were very welcoming. My newly retired husband renewed his love of acting with a part in “Barefoot in the Park” at Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton.
I was nursing our 16-year-old Coton de Tulear dog at home, spending all the quality time with him I could before he was euthanized in February. After grieving I was ready to dive in the big Colorado pool when the water was drained.
Everyone’s new normal had been my normal for the last five years. I empathize with anyone suffering from COVID-19 and I’m very sorry for losses due to this pandemic. I’ve learned through being alone for so long that although it is unpleasant, you can do it.
Look for the lessons, opportunities, and blessings. When you can go about your daily life again it is going to be another transition. It will feel crowded and odd to be around so many people. Normal traffic will seem intensified.
All the decisions that you used to make easily in a routine working day will feel like many ping pong balls coming at you at once. It will seem noisy, rushed and stressful. You won’t be used to the new routine and what it requires. Forced time of reflection brings a new perspective and highlights what matters.
You question your priorities and values and what is important comes to the surface. It’s a bit like coming home after a vacation but much more amplified. When you can go out again, you will appreciate home more than ever.
Gretchen Roselli lives in Castle Pines.