As you might know by now, our founder and fearless leader here at Return of the Panda, Fatimah Abbouchi, is a long-term anxiety sufferer herself. Having recently been diagnosed with Covid-19, this had really tested her coping mechanisms. Despite how far she had come on her journey to recovery, her experience with Covid-19 had definitely challenged her.

In this article, she shares her experiences and what helped her over come the amplified symptoms of anxiety as brought on by Covid-19. Read on to find out if you might have had a similar encounter with Covid-19 and your own anxiety, and what helped her overcome it.

It is also worth noting that similar symptoms may be experienced with asthma or other respiratory-targeted illnesses and is not limited to Covid-19.

Fatimah’s experience…

“Like many people and maybe more than others, I have lived with a dark cloud around me, dreading the prevalence of Covid-19 and all of the stories I have been hearing in the news for a little over two years. Having all the information in the world could not tame the anxiety in me, because just not knowing if I would get it, when I would get it, how I would get it, and more importantly how I would be affected played around in my mind over and over again.

As someone who has suffered from an anxiety disorder for most of my adult life, many of the more recent years have been centred around health due to a personal health scare years earlier. This means unlike some people who may not give an unusual bodily symptom much, I do. I would say over the last 24 months I’d had a dozen tests, each time, resulting in a negative.

My symptoms…

Until just over a week ago, the inevitable happened. I found out I had tested positive for Covid-19. I was notified by a text message and an email (the email I found later in my junk mail). By that time I was physically drained, and depending on the hour, a different set of muscles hurt, sometimes shoulders, sometimes, legs, or head. 

The coughing was terrible and the sneezing too. It feels like the chest muscles were so inflamed from coughing and sneezing that your whole body hurts. Then there was the transition from throat to the nose, our noses blocked for a couple of days, sinus pains, congestion. Then it was earaches and headaches. The fatigue and headaches, feeling like you can’t do anything, and also not wanting to, was a big challenge. We had 2-3 nights waking up with sweats, chills, finding it hard to sleep.

For me personally, I struggled with my anxiety more than normal. I was fearing the worst but hoping for the best. I was concerned that I would not be able to breathe. I was worried that I would to go to hospital and they wouldn’t have space for me. I was scared that my usual coping strategies wouldn’t work.

It was difficult to control my thoughts also. I was so unsure about the things I did not know. I was obsessively thinking about Covid-19 and noticing every symptom and thinking how these linked to the known symptoms. I was thinking about how much of an impact this was on my life and how others who were in hospital must have felt. This was all made worse because when I was blocked in the nose, I couldn’t do my breathing exercises, a common coping mechanism for stress and worry. Then the muscle pain in my chest made it hard to ignore.

What helped me…

My anxiety often calmed when I read my Coping Cards alone for relief when I began to sense panic. Other things such as increasing my vitamin C and paracetamol intake helped to ease my physical symptoms, making sure I listened to my body and rested. I leveraged my network and spoke to several pharmacists and other professionals. I drank lots of water and focused on the problems I was having, increased my meditation and tried to distract myself with silly movies online.

And finally, a very important action was that I paid attention to how I was feeling and noted how I was getting a little better each day. Choosing to look on the positive side was really beneficial to keep my spirits up and prevent my ruminating from spiralling into greater symptoms of anxiety.

My anxiety was truly tested this last week and it was by no means easy, but I did remind myself, that I could get through it.

Final thoughts…

I really did not know what to expect. It was pretty scary because you didn’t know if you would be getting worse or be one of the lucky people who got through it at home. Having had Covid-19 now and recovering is relieving. I don’t take for granted that we are lucky to have been able to get through it, I know many people who were not so lucky.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I’m grateful to have had the support from our families. Thankfully my husband’s asthma was under control, which was a huge relief. As well as the whole process from getting tested and getting our results in 24hrs, thanks to the constant government texts asking us to record our symptoms, and the 3 pharmacists I spoke to for advice was very good.

All in all, I am grateful. As our symptoms disappear, I will soon be released from isolation. To be honest, I am not sure who is more excited, me or my 4yo Boston Terrier who has had to resort to playtimes at home. Additionally, as a small business owner, having an excellent team around me was something I won’t forget.

Tyson the Boston Terrier