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Kathleen Bernier (she/her)

I’m Kathleen Bernier, my pronouns are she/her/hers and I’m a special education teacher.

Someone I lived with contracted [COVID] at first, and then I contracted it from her. I felt like I sprung into immediate action. I found out on my way home and was like “nope,” and went and got a test rather than driving home. So I think it was just an immediate, “Okay, I need to take care of this and try to make sure I don’t get it if I haven’t already.” But I wasn’t mad or anything. I was just kind of like, “what an inconvenience this is going to be.”

I was already taking some precautions like working from home the week that we found out because I was supposed to be traveling. Once I found out that [my roommate] had contracted it, we were wearing masks around the house, trying to stick to our bedrooms rather than being in common areas, wiping down surfaces, particularly in the kitchen and the bathroom.

I would say I noticeably had the [COVID] symptoms for probably a week. In the heat of it, when it was the worst, I got fever, chills, complete loss of appetite, headaches, really bad nausea. In general, I would stand up and feel like I needed to sit back down immediately. I did [lose my sense of smell], and it was very, very weird as it came back. When I lost it, it didn’t really affect me too much. I could still taste things, they just weren’t as good, like sugar, which was a bummer. When it came back, though, that was the weirder part, because it would just randomly come back and disappear again.

The more I sat in quarantine and dealt with the symptoms, the more it felt draining emotionally, especially given that we don’t know a lot of things about what this looks like long term. I think it was the stress and anxiety of not knowing further down the line, what could this look like in 20 years? It really kept me up at night.

I luckily didn’t feel isolated because it was my roommate and their friend’s apartment that we’re all in together, so I had other people who were going through the same. I didn’t have the energy to call friends or even text that much, I just wanted to sleep and watch TV and chill, so it was nice to have others there with me.

I think the biggest thing is our mindsets haven’t changed so much as our general attitude. We’ve both had some really long term symptoms of fatigue and loss of appetite and trouble sleeping in general. We’re both still very, very tired all the time. I think that’s changed the way I’ve thought about it in the sense that I kind of want to be more vocal about trying to combat against that stigma around [getting COVID]. Just because someone caught it, does not mean they did anything wrong.

I want to emphasize the parts about the long haul symptoms. Essentially people are being called the long haul COVID people. I don’t feel like there’s enough understanding or discussion around [long haulers] and it can feel more isolating than actually having COVID. Sometimes it feels like I’m making excuses for why I’m not being as productive as I’d like or why I’m exhausted all the time. That would just be my one thing, that for some folks, not everyone, they’ll get over it and they’re fine within a couple of weeks. However, for some folks, we’re having very long term symptoms and it’s hard to keep going about daily life the same way.

Being actually at the vaccination center, that all went fine, and it happened very quickly, which was great for me, because I’m terrified of needles. That just in itself says a lot about how important it was, because normally I would do anything I could to avoid any sort of shot. So I was glad that we were just talking and then all of a sudden it was in my arm. Then, they made me stay for 15 minutes to just make sure that I had no issues. That evening though, I developed a headache and my arm was very, very sore. Then the next day, I was hoping to go to work, but I couldn’t. I had a lot of the body aches and chills I had when I had COVID.

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