My tango with Covid-19: a personal account

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We promised you a range of voices and personal experiences. Here, Lindsay McLeod writes about her probable Covid-19 experience.

Like many people who’ve had a nasty dose of something mean this last flu season, I’m left wondering if the ‘flu’ that I had was ‘it’. As time passes and ever more information is shared, I become all the more certain that I did.

Here’s my experience, in case it’s useful to anyone or contributes to shared understanding.

For context, I’m a pragmatist. A somatic educator, anthropologist, Body Harmony practitioner and teacher of close on thirty years experience. I live in a deeply embodied way with an animist awareness which calls for reciprocal love and respect for all life forms. It’s a fundamental part of how I go about life in my lane.

Obviously, I also live in the 21st century, with the compromise and privilege this brings, while still being engaged in the work of decolonizing my own experience.

By decolonizing I mean discovering where and how to unpick the effects of living in a culture which is both violent and abusive at a systemic level; a culture which seeks to remove any power from the individual, right down to their trust in and sovereignty over the health and wellbeing of their own bodies. This is both my personal inner work, and my work out in the world. The boundaries between these worlds are porous and mutable.

In all of this, my body is my most trusted teacher and resource.

It’s taken a few years of practice (55 to date), but I do trust deeply in the information I glean from it – information which is delivered in a broad variety of ways, and to which I know how to listen. It got me jumping on a plane to Spain in time to be with my father as he died, despite no word from the doctors as to the imminent nature of his demise. It got my brother over there as lockdown was announced, so that our 86 year old mother didn’t have to live these strange days alone. It got me scooting up the M5 to collect a son, only to arrive at his lodgings and hear the news that UK lockdown was to be implemented in four hours time. You get the drift.

Of late, it’s been very family-oriented. It’s not always that way.

With my own wellbeing too, I listen. If I’m unwell, out of balance, I stop everything that is unnecessary.

So a couple of months ago, in late February, I had an encounter with a virus which hit me like a train. Knowing how to look after myself, I did. It took around ten days before I walked back out of my front gate, and four to five weeks before my energy levels began to feel back to some kind of normal again, just as we were going into lockdown here in the UK.

Of course it’s likely I won’t have scientific proof any time soon, if ever, but many of the symptoms of Covid-19 did make an appearance.

As is now known to be a pattern, congruent with the RNA stranding of the virus, the symptoms morphed, often rapidly. In my experience, the period of their intense presence went on for around five or six days. First up was high fever, though only for around 24 hours. As I drifted into shivering delirium under blankets and woolly hats, it crossed my mind that there was a very nasty virus around, and this might be it. At this stage I didn’t know that Wuhan’s football team had been in the same part of Andalucia as I had this winter.

I was also graced with living this experience before the fear in our collective relationship to the micro being we’re calling Covid-19 was massively dialled up a few short weeks later.

In terms of presenting symptoms, it’s common that if I happen to catch something that’s doing the rounds, I’ll do a brief dance with each of the symptoms involved, but not necessarily all at the same time or for as long as others seem to. Of course, I put it down to the work that I’ve done all these years, and look forward to the day when some blue sky research can shed scientific light in this direction. I’m also not holding my breath, nor basing my choices and decisions purely on information from its many fields. I do include them though. Epigenetics, neuroplasticity and polyvagal theory are some aspects that infuse my threads of inquiry at time of writing.

Getting back to the tango and the details of the dance, I also had intense sensations in my head, right in the centre, corpus callosum and ear-nose-throat regions were involved. Most would call it a pretty bad headache, a scratchy discomfort or pain which hung around for several days and was still not entirely gone even after a few weeks. I ached, all over, but only for another day.

Four days after it all started, I began to cough and coughed so relentlessly for half a morning I thought I’d be hunting for my eyeballs under the table.

I’d still find this hard to believe if it wasn’t part of an entry in my journal, but just as suddenly as the coughing had begun, it stopped.

I had pneumonia as a child and subsequently have learned many ways to support my respiratory system. I learned to play the didgeridoo and can circularly breathe, I often sing or tone, and I use specific breath techniques as a fundamental part of my personal and professional work.

I’ve also done deep grief tending in recent years having experienced the death of my partner and father a year apart, my sons reached the stage of leaving home and there were two cross-country house moves, leaving friends and familiarity behind. All this in less than three years. It’s been busy. In traditional Chinese medicine it’s recognized that we hold grief in our lungs. Mine now have most updates installed.

I don’t believe that in tango there’s a progression in the music called ‘the drop’. We may have to shift metaphors here.

Enter, stage left, the drop.

These days I’m occasionally wakeful during the night and on one night not long ago, I was feeling particularly gritty and not quite at ease. I began my usual practices to release anything in or around me that wasn’t mine or was out of present time. This usually works, but didn’t bring much ease on that particular occasion. I carried on breathing, using gravity, awareness and the tools I know well which work to release dis-ease, tension, discomfort from my body.

I was floating in that liminal space between waking and sleep when three things happened simultaneously.

My body took one of those full and easy breaths of its own accord, those breaths that indicate that it’s reached a place of ease, possibly transformation, and is beginning to integrate its new experience. At the same time I felt something, a presence of some sort, lift out of the back side of me where I lay, half turned onto my belly. In something like a Keith Haring version of my form, it lifted out of the whole length of me. And the third thing that happened, as I drifted in that space of waking and sleep, without thoughts, was that I heard/knew that Covid-19 had left my body. 
 Which is all I can really say about that.

Whether I had had the virus, or whether the collective awareness of and extreme attention to the virus is what has left, I clearly can’t be objectively sure. But subjectively, I know what happened. As I also know of the illusion of objectivity.

There are interesting ideas being developed, amongst forward thinkers in the science, health and consciousness fields, which wonder if our healthy immunity as a species might be predicated more on our collective than on our individual selves.

If this turns out to be the case, my sense is that I’ve contributed in some way to the unfolding of our collective relationship with the being that we humans name Covid 19. Time will tell.

Hopefully, at some point we’ll have that famous 20/20 vision offered by hindsight. I look forward to it at the same time as we continue to tread daily in so much unknown.

The mystics and philosophers have always said that the fundamental truths are unknowable. Now that same unknown is part of all of our lived experience.

May this experience offer something to accompany your steps.