Having Corona was no joke. I ended up on oxygen in the ICU. With the help of the amazing hospital staff that worked overtime, I was lucky to stay alive. I got there just in time as my breathing stopped suddenly. The recovery after hospitalisation, or better, me trying to come back to every day life, was even worse.
Before I got infected with COVID-19 I was living the busy life, always having several balls up in the air. Doing multiple projects at the same time was my groove. I liked that. I enjoyed the excitement. Never was I depressed nor down. Always ready to rumble. My brain was my friend and together we accomplished a lot of good things in life.
Five years ago I teamed up with a start-up named Gaimin. An idea at the time. It was the dream of a group of lifetime friends. I immediately could see the enormous potential of Gaimin which is why I joined them to help to put this gem on track. More about Gaimin later on.
It was February 2021 when I started to realise that I wasn’t actually recovering from COVID-19. This was three months after spending a week in the ICU and then recovery at home. I was hooked up to an oxygen machine next to my bed to keep my 02-saturation above 95. I got out of bed only for using the bathroom and to shower. During that period I visited the hospital on a weekly basis for all kinds of tests and scans. They found nothing and they still have no idea how to help me. So I needed to figure it out myself.
In March of that year I started physical therapy. After 4 sessions I decided to quit. What happened was that after each session I needed two to three days to recover. One single session of physical therapy wore me out so bad that my immune system acted up by releasing all the COVID-19 symptoms I had when I was in the hospital, like; shortness of breath, exhaustion, tinnitus, sore eyes, blurry vision, arthritis, and a lot more ugliness. But, it wasn’t just the physical symptoms that were haunting me. My brain was having its own dark issues.
Whilst in the ICU I was awake most of the time. It wasn’t easy to get sleep as there was always something going on around me; check ups, blood samples, lung scans, etc. The medications I was being given made me feel somewhat ok, physically. But somehow I didn’t feel good up there in my head. There was literally nothing I could get interested in. I turned away the TV that was hanging from the ceiling because I just couldn’t watch it, it made me feel anxious and I did not understand why.
Every day I had two face-time moments with my husband and my parents; one in the morning and one in the evening. Even though I wanted to speak to them, I just could not say much. I couldn’t think clearly let alone speak. It was weird. I didn’t feel like myself. So we kept the calls to a minute or so to only say hi. I felt best when no one talked to me or tried to get my attention. I avoided eye contact because even that made me anxious.
Until the month of June I spent most time in my bed. I only got out to move around. Eventually I started to force myself to walk more. Outside. In that month of June I also received my first Pfizer vaccination. Miraculously this shot gave me a boost of energy. It made me feel a wee bit better. For the first time in 8 months I could walk up the stairs without breathing heavily. I was like; what is this? I took this opportunity to start walking more outside and I hired a trainer to improve my poor physical health. During the 8 months in bed I gained 20 pounds due to corticosteroids with moon-face and all. That excessive weight needed to come off.
It took me a year to build back my stamina and getting rid of the unnecessary weight. During this process I had many relapses. Every single relapse was the same; shortness of breath, tired, brainfog, depression, unable to gather my thoughts, confused, short memory loss and what not. After each training session I took the rest of the day off to rest in bed. It was all I could do. The relapses lasted from a few days to sometimes 2 weeks. Now, I could have chosen to give in to the relapses and stop working out completely to not have any relapse anymore but that would have meant the end of hope for me.
In September of 2022 I was invited to go on a business trip with Gaimin. By that time the dream of the Gaimin team had come true by hard work. Much better even. I went on the trip with the guys, even though I knew it could be too much for me, and it was. Day three I had a severe relapse which caused an anxiety attack with suicidal thoughts. That was the last drop for me. That moment I was so scared and I promised myself to never let myself end up in a situation like that again. I needed to take immediate action if I wanted my life back.
The first two weeks after the relapse I stayed in bed. Resting and meditating. No TV, no noise. Just me in solitude. The third week I forced myself to the gym first thing in the morning. I always loved working out and something inside me told me to go for it. So I did. The first few workouts were hard and I needed a whole day to rest after each session. The other days I would go for a walk along the beautiful canals of Amsterdam.
Another important ingredient of my self-made routine is avoiding anything that could potentially cause stress. This cocktail of exercising and saying no to anything I cannot handle mentally seems to be working for me. Oh, and eating healthy, mostly plant based.
Right now I feel better than I have ever felt in the past two years. Every day is still a challenge but I am determined to get the best out of myself and enjoy life again at some point. For two years I did not feel joy. At this point in time, especially during my walks along the canals, I start to feel sparks of joy again which is the reason I can actually write this.
What I am trying to do with my new routine is to keep raising the bar. Getting as fit as possible. The relapses are milder now and the same goes for the brain-fogs. I am not there yet but am on my way, I hope. And once I feel comfortable to elaborate on the details of my self-made routine, to help others who are struggling with similar post covid issues, I will do so. According to the WHO there are 17 million people dealing with Long Covid symptoms in Europe and 18 Million in the USA!
In order to positively stimulate my brain I recently started an initiative to raise awareness for Mental Health; Walk of Light. There are so many people struggling with mental health issues and I want to let them know they are not alone. I believe we need to talk about mental health much more because many people who are struggling are afraid to talk about it. They feel alienated because most people do not understand them and therefore have a hard time believing them. I experienced this myself and I think this only make things worse.
So let’s open up and do our best to be a light in the darkness for the many people who are living in it every day. It can make a difference. Check your friends and family how they are doing.
I am looking forward to be able to do some work again. Even a little. Good thing is that Gaimin is up and running and already have thousands of gamers signed up to earn while playing games. Check out the website https://gaimin.io to see where we are and what we are doing. For inquiries or else you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you like my initiative Walk of Light I would like to invite you to like or follow my page. The pictures we post of our walks are meant to bring hope and light in this sometimes hopeless world. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100087969241533
The next Walk of Light is on Christmas Eve, in Amsterdam.
Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.
Cheers, Arjan Eikelenboom