The whole of last week I croaked with laryngitis. In Covid-19 times, it’s a most inconvenient malaise to have. The initial sore throat set the alarm bells ringing madly. Very soon I developed the most intense, dry pain in my throat. Think swallowing shards of glass a few pieces at a time.
I googled furiously – ‘Is a very painful and sore throat a symptom of Covid-19?’ Sore throat is indeed a harbinger of Covid-19. But was tightness in my upper chest and ears, symptoms, too? All this unfolded over a sleepless weekend, and I decided that this was it, Monday was going to be my D-day for yet another coronavirus test. Come Monday, and the throat pain miraculously abated leaving an intense soreness, but now I had developed a runny and stuffy nose. Through all this, my temperature remained firmly under 99 degrees F, which surprised me. I finally consulted my incredibly talented brother-in-law, one of the frontline doctors in the Covid-19 fight in Mumbai. He listened patiently to my symptoms and uttered the most beautiful words I have heard this year: ‘I think you have laryngitis’ and put me on a course of antibiotics. I happily googled laryngitis till the cows came home. The thing with laryngitis is it keeps you awake at night with a dry cough and it’s either the net or Netflix to keep your sanity.
The point I am making here is, in the past year, the number of Covid-19 false alarms I have faced are too many to enumerate. The initial months of the lockdown were euphoric with the ‘new normal’ of the family at home 24/7 and discovering hobbies like baking. Soon, the stress of looking over my shoulders at all times, going crazy sanitising everything in sight, keeping the senior citizens at home safe, started catching up with me. I realised that every time one of us came down with the slightest sniffle, and we came down with it plenty, tension gripped me. I remember a particular week when both my husband and I came down with flu-like symptoms including body ache and low-grade fever. We got tested and the wait for the results was interminable. The negative results brought immense relief, but also an intense tension headache.
‘Laryngitis is caused when your vocal cords become inflamed from overuse, irritation, or infection,’ my husband recited off the net. His heavy emphasis on ‘overuse’ belied his seemingly innocent, ‘How on earth did you manage to get laryngitis sitting at home?’ He was slyly alluding to the regular loud exchanges I have with our irrepressible 14-year-old son over his reluctance to embrace his academics. Was that enough to cause my vocal cords to get so irritated and vulnerable to any passing virus or bacteria?
Upon reflection, I realised that my immunity has never been as low as it has been in the last year that I have stayed home. Not going out, not socialising, not travelling, being in a too sanitised environment, have taken a huge toll. While the online interactions with my colleagues and students have kept me sane, it was nowhere near enough to counter the stress of outsmarting Covid-19 at every turn – the dentist, the bank, the ATM, the supermarket, the chemist, the aircon servicing, emergency plumbing visits – essentials I couldn’t avoid.
Not having Covid-19 has obsessed me day and night. Even when my friends started socializing, I held back, feeling foolish and paranoid, but determined not to succumb. In short, this virus has dominated my mental bandwidth and I am now just so tired.
While recuperating from laryngitis I realized that the only way rev up my immune system once again is to take each day as it comes. Diet and exercise play a role, of course. But it is vital to not stress over the ‘could-be’ scenarios. Life will unfold at its own pace. Who can foretell what the future holds? And if you can’t, is it worth losing your sleep? This could well be my biggest takeaway from the last one year.
For 2021 here’s what I hope for all of us – to get vaccinated at the earliest and to not allow the bogey of Covid-19 from disrupting our peace of mind. Anyone else agrees?