The Neverending Quest for Wellness of a "Long Hauler" Yogi

[I became my own health advocate. I felt the uneasiness of the symptoms and all the doubts, and practiced what I preached].

Between ounces of hand sanitizer, double masks, a shield covering my face, and my anxiety up to the roof, I waited 20 minutes outside my local pharmacy and received the results of test number 5. The result was negative one more time. Between august 2020 to January 2021, I had had a total of 5 COVID-19 test including the antibodies test and all of them came back negative. All of them gave me a temporary sense of relief; however, there were still a lot of questions without answers about my physical and mental health.

If it is not COVID-19, why do I feel like I can’t breathe? Why do I still feel pressure in my chest, why hasn’t the drainage in the back of my throat stopped? Why is there a metal taste constantly in my mouth? Why do I keep waking up in the middle of the night with palpitations in my heart and my limbs shake without any apparently cause? Why am I so incredibly tired and my body aches all the time? Why do I keep forgetting things and words? Why is it taking 20 minutes to finish an email? And why in the world do I keep losing hair, and have this strange sensation of uncontrollable anxiety?

The vast majority of Long Haulers test negative for COVID-19. There’s nothing specific to test for lasting coronavirus symptoms.

I was born an overachiever. Since a very young age I showed those in my family and circle of friends that nothing is impossible, and there is always a way to accomplish what you put your mind to - if you focus, work hard and create ways to reach your goals-. I do believe this is one of the many reasons I excelled in this country after coming with only $300 in my pocket. I have always strived for harmony and balance yet, I enjoy the challenge of opposition and setbacks. When things look difficult, I tend to find a way to succeed against all odds. My tunnel vision has allowed me to get things done, yet a few months ago I started noticing repetitive and incremental episodes of brain fog. I didn’t pay much attention to it, until one day, I was in my beautiful recently renovated home office and wellness studio and all of the sudden my mental blockage was so intense I couldn’t focus, and I forgot the words I wanted to use in an email I was typing. Being the overachiever and resourceful human I am, I changed my approach and started the email in Spanish with the intention to translate it later and the same thing happened. It was not that I couldn’t find the words in English, it was that my brain somehow short circuited and was not responding.

Days after this incident, early in January, I was rushed to ER in an abundance due to stomach-ache complications. My body was so weak and my mind so unaware that my husband had to call 911 and paramedics took me out of the house covered in vomit and pee. Not a nice picture!

That is when I paused and started to be more attentive about what was going on and gathered memories related to the recent change of my health that had been hunting me down for at least 6 months.

I decided to pay attention to what was really happening inside me.

I decided to pay attention to what was really happening inside me. The idea of LONG COVID was very present in the back on my mind but I had 5 negative tests, so, I had no way to ask for validation to anyone in my family or any of my health providers, who I visited quite often since August - including my therapist, GYN, dermatologist, ENT, dentist and primary care physician. I had raised my concerns to all of them about the brain fog and chest pains and other symptom and the only thing I heard was that everything on the extended list of tests came back normal and that the symptoms I was experiencing could be “just anxiety”. Well, I know now that it wasn’t.

It wasn’t until my dear friend, colleague and teacher Jennifer, made public her battle with long COVID and said she was a Long Hauler that everything started making sense to me. And for a moment, while reading her post, I felt validated and understood. She also had multiple negative COVID-19 tests and was struggling with the backlash of this horrible virus that no one, even the medical community seems to fathom.

As with many other COVID-19 issues, and because the disease is so new, much of the information and learning curve of how to treat Long Haulers also requires time. The vast majority of Long Haulers test negative for COVID-19. There’s nothing specific to test for lasting coronavirus symptoms.

With no answers from doctors, but equipped with holistic ancient wisdom, I became my own health advocate. My long history and lifestyle as a yogini and meditator kicked in and is playing a huge positive role in my recovery route – and I do believe that the application of Ayurveda, yoga, breathing techniques and mindfulness enabled me to keep the effects and symptoms of long COVID low for so long.

In my search for wellness and wholeness, I have been practicing the power of the Gunas, an essential tool for understanding and mastering my mind, body and emotions. In yoga talk, the Gunas referred to duality and the embodiment of Tamas (stability), Rajas (activity), and Sattva (consciousness and balance). Being aware of the 3 aspects of the Gunas guides me to accept my human condition, my mortality, and my divinity.

There are days where the tamasic energy is elevated and I can’t get out of bed because I am exhausted. So, I let "resting and inattentiveness" be part of my day. Sometimes I let rajasic energy serve me compassionately while I feel in pain, sick, hijacked. I just pause to breathe and sit there acknowledging my physical discomfort, the range of emotions and self-doubt, and touch my fears with gentle care, allowing my whole being to rest in the space of emptiness, find peace, relaxation and fulfilment on sattva, experiencing clarity, mindfulness, and a sense of contentment in the little things.

"My long history and lifestyle as a yogini and meditator kicked in and is playing a huge positive role in my recovery route".

In a most recent visit to an integrated doctor, the MD recommended to do more tests and, he did not dismiss my symptoms as a Long Hauler. On Tuesday, March 22, people struggling with long term COVID neurologic issues of performing cognitive tasks saw a dim light at the end of a tunnel when Northwestern Medicine published a clinical trial suggesting at least four neurologic symptoms (brain fog, headache, numbness, disorder of taste and smell and muscle pain) could be related to COVID-19 .

Long term COVID is a real thing. For you that are feeling alone and without any answers, I want to tell you, you are not alone. There are support groups online that are doing a great job to raise awareness and provide resources. Become your own advocate.

As for me, I will keep following my plan to get back into my real self and recover my energy and mental clarity with a combination of ancient holistic and modern medicine approach. I am hopeful these applications will support my trip as I navigate the unknown waters as a Long Haulers and life with the effects of long term COVID-19 .