After two and a half years out from Personal Training, I’m once again dipping my toe in the water… Got a moment? I’ll explain what happened.
In a word? Covid. I was working the ski season, looking at building clients in Courchevel as well as London, running up the mountains in the snow and sliding down them happily. Then, the season stopped. Then? I got sick. Really, really sick. At the point I should have gone to hospital I was too afraid – some ignorant idiots had put up signs saying ‘English go home’. On reflection I know this was not a consensus, but the minority. Still, it scared me enough to deter me from going to hospital, although my breaths were gasps and I could barely move. I informed my partner that I would “rather die here”, referring to the chalet we were in. That was a particular highlight…
I ate raw ginger root and made concoctions of other herbs and spices with reputed anti-viral properties. I turned into some form of middle-ages-harry-potter witchy-potion-master person, and was a step away from wing of bat, when, in desperation, I turned to google.
I researched how Covid was being treated, and found that a certain body of antibiotics were being used- clearly not to fight the virus, but because a side-effect of them was reduction of inflammation in the lungs. I recognised that the antibiotics my doctor had sent me out with in case of emergencies was from that body of antibiotics, and started taking a double dose. I finally went to the Doctor in resort a week later as I thought I was having a heart attack- after a cardiology exam I was officially diagnosed with the new kid on the block- Covid. The doctor asked what I’d done to manage it so far, I told her and she didn’t mince her words. “That decision likely saved your life”. Little did I know that the battle was just beginning.
I was super fit. I could run several classes a day, and still do my own workout. I was slender, toned, full of life and motivation. Suddenly, I felt more tired crawling upstairs on all fours than I’d ever felt after a 7km run up a mountain in the snow. Six months after Covid I finally got back to work, returning to my previous, office-based occupation. It was devastating to go back a step, but I was thankful to have a job I could do, albeit with plentiful afternoon naps- hands up if you love a nap?!- and fighting with brain fogs, wrong er… Thingies… What are they called? Those things in sentences which desecribe stuff? You know! Those. Ah –words, and pieces of time that would go missing- anything from 10minutes to two hours- gone, with no recollection. I was fastidious about hygiene, everything was wiped, I wore masks religiously, and would not be close to people- a far cry from the woman who would offer a hug to a stranger if they looked like they needed it. Now I’d offer glares and withering looks instead. I withdrew into a shell I hadn’t been in since childhood, phobic of people and places.
I started ‘running’ again, slowly and surely building up distance with the guidance of a Long Covid Team. By December 2020, 9 months after getting Covid, I could run 20km again, albeit sleeping immediately after. By January, I could barely walk again. No one could explain why. I started from scratch, trying to run and barely managing 3km at a fast walk, sometimes I’d run 8km like there’d never been an issue. Some days I’d try to walk and end up sitting on the curb, unable. I was depressed. Really, crushingly depressed. I’d known I was prone to it, but had always used exercise to manage it- pushing myself to go outside and run til I felt better. I was offered antidepressants, which I turned down. I missed who I was so much it hurt, and I didn’t know if she would ever return. Further to this, my other symptoms weren’t improving. My shaking and convulsions at night continued, the overwhelming tiredness continued. The shaking in the day continued, noticeable to my colleagues. My loss of balance continued- I fell up and downstairs several times a day. My dry mouth, constant thirst, headaches, vision issues and random pains and twitches continued, got worse if anything. The long Covid team continued the mantra- “If you can, do. If you can’t, don’t.”
Six months later we moved to South Wales. A new Long Covid team- much more involved. They had new advice: stop everything right now, and rest. I did. I was asked in the screening interview if I ever felt depressed? I couldn’t answer and instead burst into tears. I think they got the message. I was offered antidepressants again, I declined again. The depression got worse. Thankfully, the long Covid team listened, and understood that I needed exercise in my life. They re-wrote my management plan to include small bursts of exercise, and this helped immensely. Perhaps I should have gone on the antidepressants? Who knows. I would certainly recommend anyone depressed to seek help, but I stubbornly refused my own advice.
So it began. I engaged with a Psychologist, a therapist, a neurologist and a fatigue management team (and a support group, which I’m due to start soon). My night time ‘fizzing’ slowly decreased and stopped, I started running a bit again, and I continued to manage my fatigue by trying to nap regularly, even though my sleep wasn’t great. The twitches continued, as did the random pains and shaking. I tried cutting out coffee, and alcohol, and dairy. I then reintroduced them all as it did sod all! By December 2021 I was once again doing better- I’d managed to get a promotion at work despite the brain fog, fatigue and shakes, and was running again. I’d had two Astrazeneca vaccinations, and was getting used to the doing well/ not doing well, good day/bad week ebb and flow of Covid recovery. Then I had the funky cold Moderna jab, two days before Christmas, and was thankfully released from hospital the evening of Christmas Eve, having had an almighty reaction to it that no one could explain. I can’t begin to describe the pain- like an elephant was sat on my entire body. Everything hurt, I just sat and cried/ screamed on occasions. A paramedic came out, my ECG was a bit off so an ambulance came. I had blue lights to hospital where I was tested for pulmonary embolism as my clotting markers were high. No one could understand what was happening, and eventually the pain subsided and they agreed to let me out for Christmas, on the proviso I return immediately if I got worse. I slept through Christmas. I was so exhausted I fell asleep in the dog’s bed after sitting down because I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t eat much, was utterly out of it and couldn’t face more than a small glass of buck’s fizz. That was the beginning of the next massive step back.
January 2022 saw me back to where I’d pretty much started again. This time I had hope that I would slowly improve again though, and sure enough I have. I had a brain scan, and they found damage to the cerebellum, scarring caused by the Covid infection. They “don’t think” it’s progressive, but can’t rule it out just yet. It ‘might’ also be the cause of the shakes that I have, which they couldn’t treat with Beta Blockers because it could cause issues with my asthma. The hope is that it isn’t progressive.
I still struggle to walk in a straight line, still have days where I’m too tired to do anything, and still have to be careful about over-exerting myself. I tried to do 4 days straight in the office, and was so tired I fell downstairs and broke my arm.
I still shake like mad some days, and still can’t work out what triggers it, but CBD gummies from Holland and Barrett help to take it down to a dull wobble from an overly-dramatic shake and bake! I’ve learned to laugh at myself. I listened to a young man on the radio who had become paralysed -full locked-in syndrome- and his advice was to ‘accept and adapt’, which was the best advice I’d heard. I can just about run 5km at the mo on a good day. I’m no longer fearful of setting foot in a gym. I’ve been on holiday abroad (other than a drive to France) as I finally felt able to get on a plane again. I wobble and walk into things, and still fall up and downstairs (not quite so spectacularly usually- thank goodness!). I still have pains and pins and needles and random twitches, I still get vision blurs. I still get very low, and I still miss my old abilities, and my old self . But I’m learning. I’m lucky to still be here, and I know first hand how hard recovery from Covid can be. I thank my partner for making me shuffle around a 10min walking route every day I was sick (it took over an hour with tears and tantrums and many stops), and I credit that with not having had to learn to walk again.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I can meet those challenges. I worked out that although my balance is affected, there are other elements in remaining stable- good core stability, and good reactions to improve my response to wobbles and falls. I can train both of those to help with the reduction in balance, and that’s helped massively. I paddleboard- not only is it social and amazing, but it helps me practice balance whilst working on core and reactions- it hits all bases! And the best thing is if I fall, I make a splash and get back on. No one gets hurt! Perfect.
I’m going to start doing more regular updates on overcoming challenges- mine are Covid specific, but the topic applies to anyone. I’m still a trained Personal Trainer, for specialist population, medical referral etc. I can advise gentle and effective exercises for shaky, balance-challenged individuals, and I can understand what it’s like to put on two stone and feel like you’ll never lose it again! Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but I’ll have a go any way.
Tomorrow starts at the end of today, so right now seems like a great place to begin.
Please let me know if you identify with anything in this blog, I’ve found it’s super helpful to hear from other people who are battling against the odds. We’re all superheroes, and we’ll all succeed, we just maybe need to redefine ‘success’ first! 😉
As they say in Jamaica: one love.