Covid in the house
January 25, 2021 9:12 AM   Subscribe

My partner has Covid, and I am freaking out. Please help me deal.

My partner and I live together. We regretfully made a masked trip to the grocery store, where a woman coughed on him. He started having symptoms a few days later (Cough, fever, body aches, sleeplessness). He's mostly well with a lingering cough, but I started having symptoms on Friday. (fever, heaviness in my lungs, sore throat) We both have asthma and allergies, and I got worried enough that we got tested over the weekend.

His test came back positive and mine came back negative, probably because I got tested too early.

We're fortunate enough to be able to quarantine, and both have full time jobs and health insurance.

All that said, I'm freaking the fuck out. I have depression and anxiety and worry typically manifests itself as anger. About his future health, about being in limbo whether I have covid or not, about having stayed inside for a year for NOTHING, about the stupidity of getting sick just before the vaccine became available, about how all of this was preventable, and how the wealthy have treatments available we'll never access. I can't dump all of this on him, but I don't know how to deal, mentally or practically.

What do I do to keep us as healthy as possible and recover well from this? How do I not make this about me emotionally, and support him in his recovery as much as possible? How do I not get consumed with guilt and anger and regret and focus on getting better?


Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about dealing with COVID, but I'd suggest that being careful for a year wasn't for nothing. You and your partner were safe and healthy when a lot of other people weren't, and apart from yourselves, you very likely prevented other people from getting sick from you.
posted by Gorgik at 9:28 AM on January 25, 2021 [75 favorites]

Here are tips on caring for someone with COVID.

When it comes to mental health, when I am in an especially stressful time I spend a lot of time pondering the Serenity prayer and asking the universe to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.

Like many humans, I tend toward black-and-white thinking. Since I know that about myself, if I’m in a super stressful place I also try to pay attention to when I’m being very black-and-white in my thinking and to remind myself of all the things that I have zero control over. The reality is that you and your partner have done your best. It sucks that their test came back positive and that you may also be infected. That doesn’t negate everything you both have done to stay healthy until now. You’ve had bad luck but that doesn’t make all of your behavior up to now meaningless.

You’re smart to realize that being angry at your ill partner is unfair and does not make anything better. If you have any outside support emotionally, use it. If you can find someone you can vent to about your anger in a harmless way, try that. For some people that makes the anger linger, but I have friends for whom that kind of venting helps the anger dissipate. I wish I had better advice. This is super sucky but remember that, as my last therapist used to say, worry is not a strategy.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:39 AM on January 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

about having stayed inside for a year for NOTHING
how the wealthy have treatments available we'll never access

Just wanted to second the part about it not being for nothing - partly because you did your part in not spreading it any further, partly because your behavior didn't make it even harder for other people to keep social distancing, partly because depending on where you are hopefully the medical system is better equipped to provide support if you need it than it would have been earlier, and partly because over the past year some apparently pretty effective treatments have been developed.

About that: those treatments aren't just for the wealthy, and a lot of them have been going unused because regular people don't know that they can access them. See this NYT article. Note that timing matters: antibody treatments "have to be infused into patients in a narrow window of time, within 10 days of when they start showing symptoms, but before they’re sick enough to be hospitalized." So maybe look into this now and see where and how treatment is available.

I completely sympathize with your feelings, though. Still, stress can have its own bad effects on health, so I hope you can distract yourself with enough other (more pleasant) things to make the next few weeks as easy for yourselves as possible. Maybe you can use a friend or other family member (or random strangers here!) to vent to about all this?

FWIW, from a stranger: you should feel really good about all the work you did this year. You absolutely did things right and you can legitimately feel proud of how you handled things. You'll never need to be embarrassed looking back on the choices you made during the pandemic. You didn't contribute to the atmosphere of contempt and carelessness that has helped the pandemic last this long. You didn't fail any test of ethics; you just had some very bad luck, which nobody can be totally safe from. That doesn't make the effort any less worthwhile. Speaking as someone who occasionally feels a bit like a sucker for staying in while so many people voluntarily go out and about: thank you.
posted by trig at 9:55 AM on January 25, 2021 [19 favorites]

I work in contact tracing and I want you to know that household transmission is not inevitable. If you haven’t already, please isolate your selves in different parts of your house/apartment. You can deliver meals to the door of wherever your partner is staying and leave them for your partner to grab. If you can, leave windows a bit open for a breeze.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:56 AM on January 25, 2021 [14 favorites]

This is just one experience, maybe representative and maybe not, but I got it a couple of weeks ago and... I'm fine. And I was fine, even when I was sick. My throat hurt, and I was coughing a lot, and I was tired as hell, but I didn't have to take time off work or anything. I could still take care of my kids. I still cooked dinner and took out the trash and stuff like that. I didn't do much else, but hey. As a second data point, my wife was the same way. She actually lost her sense of taste, so hers was a little worse than mine, but she's not much of a foodie anyway. She also didn't take any time off work, and was able to help with the kids. We had a week or two where we were all going to bed at like 7pm, but we made it through. The kids didn't show any symptoms at all, even though they were who infected us. (One of the other kids at daycare infected them.) Things are back to normal now.

The media hype about the virus is that it's like Ebola and everyone who is infected will die imminently, and that's just not the case. The reason you hear a lot of people on social media compare it to the flu is because, for a lot of people, especially youngish and healthyish people, it's not that different than the flu. (Honestly, for me, the flu is worse, but again, this is just one person's experience.) The purpose of quarantining is twofold: 1) to prevent more vulnerable people from being infected, and 2) to keep infection rates low enough that the fraction of people who actually do get it bad don't overwhelm hospitals. It's not to avoid all human contact because everyone who gets the virus is doomed.

Obviously, you can't generalize from my two data points, but when you're dealing with anxiety, it's helpful to point out things that contradict your catastrophizing, and that's what the story I'm telling you is intended to do.

And if you want to look on the bright side of things, once you've recovered, you'll probably be significantly less anxious about the virus. We still take the same precautions when we go out - no unnecessary socializing, masks at all times, etc., but now we don't have to jump in terror every time we hear someone clear their throat.

Good luck to you, and get well soon.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:45 AM on January 25, 2021 [11 favorites]

Can your partner call his doctor and inquire about receiving monoclonal antibodies by infusion? This is done as an out-patient procedure for those recently diagnosed and with moderate symptoms. This is not only for rich people and recent press has emphasized that it has been a severely underutilized and valuable therapy. Good luck to both of you.
posted by citygirl at 10:47 AM on January 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I notice that you frame the question as your partner has it and how do you support him - but you likely have it too, you don't have to discount what's happening to you because you didn't get the positive result. You deserve care too.

I really sympathize with your anger and that feeling of having failed to dodge the virus. In my house, we just got my kid the antibody test after slowly (so slowly - why aren't we smarter??) putting together the story of her nearly asymptomatic first illness - official quarantine due to documented cases at her preschool, two days of snotty nose and 10 days of fever that never broke 99.8 - and subsequent (like, 3 weeks after quarantine) serious, progressive rash, which eventually covered almost her whole body but never came with fever, into a narrative that adds up to covid. She had a negative test too. Guess what?! She's teeming with antibodies! Cue feelings of failure as a parent.

It makes me upset that we don't have a more coordinated response yet. The nurse basically shrugged when I asked whether there were any next steps we should take. I left a message with the county health board, just in case they are keeping track of people who came out of quarantine and subsequently showed signs of having had it - like, is anyone keeping track of how many people have actually had this disease? Signs point to no.

Please take care of each other, and while I think it's a good move to aim your anger at people and entities other than your partner, you don't have to hide your feelings. Trying not to feel how you feel rarely works in my experience.

Take some time off work, if you have sick time. Working from home should not be your highest priority right now.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:07 AM on January 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

As raccoon409 said above, household transmission isn’t inevitable. Two close friends of ours have had it, quite badly, but their spouses did not test positive. It is best, though, if you are really concerned, for your partner to isolate from you as much as is possible to keep that risk low.

Having said that, I did catch COVID from my partner. I felt pretty grotty (like the first day of a heavy cold); blocked nose, sinus headache, high temperature which broke within hours. I didn’t, and still don’t, have any breathing problems. I felt very tired, and needed a nap every afternoon, but still got up, did my usual chores, cooked Christmas dinner etc. I lost my sense of taste and smell after a few days and it’s only now coming back, 4 weeks later. I feel pretty good now though. My partner still had the COVID cough but other than that is fine. We are both late forties.

Symptoms do affect people differently and most people experience mild to moderate or no symptoms. All you can do is to look after yourself, get some fresh air and rest. Use it as an excuse to read, watch TV and spend more time on the sofa, guilt-free. Best wishes to you both.
posted by veebs at 11:14 AM on January 25, 2021

Your anger and frustration and exasperation and concerns and anxiety and all the other feelings are totally totally valid. You're going to be tempted to think "I can't say/think/feel that, it's wrong!" and while I agree with you that you shouldn't direct some of it at your partner right now, they're still totally logically realistic feelings to have and you are not a bad person for having them. This sucks, nothing wrong with recognizing that.

But you're right, you need to get through this immediate thing right now.

Do you have the ability to get drugstore supplies? The general conventional wisdom right now for at-home covid care appears to be:
- No reclining. This sucks, but you either sit up straight at worst or leaning forward, or lay facedown or on your side a little but really mostly facedown. That means no bed-lounging unless propped enough to sit forward, and it may mean trying to get a chair into the sickroom even if it's awkward or means removing some other furniture. I'd seen this going around the internet and I'm hearing it from acquaintances here in LA (where so many people are sick now) that they are being told this by whoever is providing care instructions.
- Mucinex
- If you have any means of air filtration, even if it's just a box fan and 20x20" hvac filters, even if you are also sick, appears to be a good idea (along with window ventilation if that's at all realistic in your location) while anyone contagious is in the home.
- Both of you mask at home, if at all possible.
- Put cleaning supplies outside the door of the bedroom and bathroom (this general CDC list includes how to clean shared spaces), and both of you should clean your spaces frequently and the bathroom after every use.

This was not for nothing. You may have the same thinking style as I do, in which I am a front-of-class student for whom anything less than an A is failure and I love following rules and I have done everything as right as I could have and what? I still failed?? This is not that. Things are now so bad that it's more like trying to run past an unpredictable sprinkler without getting wet - maybe you can pull it off, maybe you can't. Sprinkler got you, despite your best efforts.

You can journal your feelings in a password-protected doc or unaddressed email draft for now - this might not be a bad practice to also journal your symptoms, phone calls made and information received, etc etc etc since you may be navigating all this while not feeling very well. It's okay to vent on paper. It's okay to find a friend who is up to being your secret-keeper for venting. Do exercise your anxiety when you're able, so you're not just internally spinning out all the time.

(If you happen to be in Los Angeles and need anything, memail me. I have various supplies I can porch-drop if you don't have anyone nearby who can help.)
posted by Lyn Never at 11:15 AM on January 25, 2021 [8 favorites]

Things you accomplished by taking your precautions:

* Weren't sick during the earliest period, when treatment was least effective/available
* Took on a lower viral load, which is believed to have a significant influence on the severity of illness (i.e., your partner [and you?] are likely to be less sick because your exposure was limited)
* Didn't spread the virus to others while pre-symptomatic
* Visibly cooperated with your community in slowing the spread

I would suggest focusing on these things. Each of them is valuable and worthwhile; altogether, they demonstrate that staying home was absolutely the right thing to do, even if you didn't achieve the best possible outcome.

My sister got COVID (via BIL who had to go into work) a little over two weeks before she was able to be vaccinated. Scary for all of us. But she got through it.

N.B.: Mefi may or may not be a good place for you to hang out during this period. I decided to step back for several months for a number of reasons, but one of them is that this place does have a significant number of people with very poorly managed anxiety around the virus which has brought out some nasty black-and-white and even authoritarian thinking and I don't think it's helpful (for me, a person with anxiety, and maybe for you) to be around that. I think this community is going to have to be coaxing people who've encouraged each other into an intense spiral of anxiety, paranoia, and conspiracy theory out of their homes five years from now.
posted by praemunire at 12:08 PM on January 25, 2021 [38 favorites]

What Kevinbelt said- we both got it, both recovered after 2.5-ish weeks of sickness, and now are feeling a lot less anxious out in the world. YMMV of curse but in hindsight I am relieved my experience played out the way it did.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:09 PM on January 25, 2021

Read praemunire’s list of reasons it has been worth it to take precautions over the past year, over and over. I know I will be.
posted by Ryon at 12:56 PM on January 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

What do I do to keep us as healthy as possible and recover well from this?

In your situation I would be ordering a pulse oximeter so that I wouldn't have to guess about how out of breath I felt while sick, and so I could actually call my doctor or a nurse line and report out a number so they could assess me better. I hope you're on the mend soon.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:40 PM on January 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Ugh, I'm so sorry you're sick. I can relate to your anger; I haven't gotten sick yet but I'm angry nearly daily at the government, my neighbors who aren't following local rules during our current surge, all the people I walk by who aren't wearing masks or social distancing, etc. I recommend Headspace's simple meditations to try to help you deal with all the emotions you're feeling (they do talk about breathing, so if that makes you more anxious, of course, avoid it!). Re the vaccine, I don't know where you're located or how you're prioritized, but I'm not expecting to get mine until late in the year, so I would try to reframe that part of this in your mind. There are some studies suggesting that melatonin may be helpful, so I'd ask your doctor about taking that.
posted by pinochiette at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2021

Things you accomplished by taking your precautions:

* Weren't sick during the earliest period, when treatment was least effective/available
* Took on a lower viral load, which is believed to have a significant influence on the severity of illness (i.e., your partner [and you?] are likely to be less sick because your exposure was limited)
* Didn't spread the virus to others while pre-symptomatic
* Visibly cooperated with your community in slowing the spread

Sometimes I believe you have to take solace in the fact that you have done what you feel is right in a situation even though maybe it didn't work out like you hoped or others might not be doing the same so it feels futile.

This is one of those times. You did all you could do!

I'll leave the medical advice to your healthcare providers or someone who has had covid. Both of you be well.
posted by domino at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

The best suggestion I can offer is to stop consuming Covid-related media as much as possible. Of course you should follow medical recommendations and monitor your symptoms, but don’t spend all day reading about Covid on the internet. Watch some stupid TV or read some trashy novels and give yourself permission to zone out as much as possible.

A close friend of mine got it recently. She wasn’t very sick — she said the flu was actually worse for her — but the anxiety and panic and shame spiral she went down was a nightmare for her and all of her friends who were trying to provide remote emotional support. Sounds like you’re getting there yourself. Take a step back and try to focus your energy elsewhere.

Online discussion of Covid can get very shame-y and that’s not what you need right now. For what it’s worth: you’re not a bad person for getting sick and you shouldn’t blame yourself for having gone to the freaking grocery store.
posted by vanitas at 7:14 PM on January 25, 2021 [11 favorites]

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