OPINION: My traumatic experience as a breakthrough COVID-19 case

Photo by William Jennings

By Megan Gleason / Daily Lobo

I write as a student journalist that has covered the COVID-19 pandemic since it started. I write as an aspiring musician who has been playing the flute for half of my life. I write as a heartbroken person who feels isolated emotionally and physically as I get over my experience with COVID-19. And I write for all the people lost due to the recklessness of others.

I did everything right: I’m fully vaccinated, I’ve been adhering to mask mandates and social distancing, and I’ve been putting my life on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. But I still got the virus.

Up until about two weeks ago, I’d ironically felt separated from the virus that’s shaped our lives for the past year and a half. The thought that I could get COVID-19 myself seemed unrealistic, and even more so once I got vaccinated. But coming down with the virus reminded me of the reality of the situation that we’re all in and that we’re not, by any means, done with this pandemic.

By John Scott / Daily Lobo / @JScott050901
Daily Lobo Editor-in-Chief Megan Gleason, who experienced a breakthrough COVID-19 case, stands outside of the office.

I didn’t come down with the virus by myself; my partner and his parents also endured COVID-19. My ten-day isolation felt incredibly long, especially as I helped my partner — who had much worse symptoms than I did and still can’t taste or smell anything — cope with his own experience with this illness. The two of us struggled through the situation together, while his parents did the same in another isolated environment.

My recovery comes just days before school starts as I face another difficult roller coaster, which is the safety I feel (or don’t feel) going back to school in person. Even with both vaccine and mask mandates, I can’t help but compare the circumstances to those in which I got COVID-19. How many others will contract the virus because we’re learning in person again? The fear of an abrupt online transition is on everyone’s minds again and I’m not sure I can emotionally handle that experience a second time.

While some part of me tries to convince myself that these aren’t rational thoughts because contracting COVID-19 won’t happen to the majority of vaccinated people, I can’t help but think about those that will be stuck in my boat as one of those rare breakthrough cases. We’re allowing those cases to propagate because society can’t take a break.

As a musician, I was especially frightened while I had COVID-19. Contracting this lung virus was a traumatizing fear that I’d felt for a year and a half before it actually happened, and I’m still putting together my emotions after having endured that fear. Every time I picked up my flute during my isolation, I was hyper-aware of my breath capacity. Even now, I can’t tell if I lost anything I used to have; I constantly overthink and overanalyze every time I practice.

While I struggled to play the flute and get through my isolation, I also wrestled with other symptoms. Along with nausea that kept my head spinning for days, I dealt with an overwhelming amount of physical exhaustion. For a perfectionist and someone who overworks every day like myself, coming to terms with allowing my body to rest was a difficult feat. In a society where work doesn’t stop for you unless you’re on death’s door, I didn’t take one day off — even though I had the virus that’s turned the world upside down! This is due to both a poor structuring of the work system wherein virtually nobody can fill my position, as well as a constant pressure to seem okay for those looking in from the outside. Every time someone asked, “How are you doing?” I found myself saying “I’m fine” even if I was anything but.

In the end, getting COVID-19 made me all the more grateful for the ability to be vaccinated. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from this virus and I will not listen to the argument that the vaccine is doing more harm than good any longer. The undeniable fact that the vaccine saves lives, which I myself may have experienced, is something that I hold to be true beyond a doubt.

I have very little patience for the immaturity shown in a society full of spoiled individuals who have lost, or never had, a moral compass for anyone but themselves. This pandemic has clearly illustrated those that have respect for the lives of their fellow human beings, and those that are willing to risk anything to promote their own stupidity.

Wear a mask, get vaccinated and quit complaining. Take it from someone who had COVID — I’m tired of hearing it.

A bright aspect of this experience was the support and love from my own community. However, even through all of the well-wishes that surround me, I still struggle to voice how difficult this experience really was, and still is. Symptom-wise, I’m incredibly lucky. But I just can’t say the same for my mental health.

Physically, I have recovered. But emotionally? That’s a toll that will be incredibly difficult to ever overcome.

Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at editorinchief@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716