‘If our university has to close, it will be your fault’.
I had just told my course mates that I had tested positive for Covid-19 when one student replied instantly.
I immediately felt guilty, the blame for this possible eventuality placed solely at my feet.
I had tried so hard to do everything right, but he made all my efforts feel useless.
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Our course was moved online as a precautionary measure and everyone was angry and frustrated about their studies being interrupted. The comments I received made me feel like I had done something criminal.
I responded that I’d been self-isolating since I found out and hadn’t been in contact with anyone at the university, so there was no way I could have spread it to any other students. Even though I’d done everything right, it didn’t ease the disappointed voices who swore that I had put the class in danger.
As if struggling to recover from Covid-19 wasn’t enough, I was also dealing with people shaming me for having it.
A few weeks ago – before the tier system came in and second lockdown announced – I went out in London with a few friends (under six people). When the 10pm curfew hit, we’d gone back to a friend’s flat to continue the party. While hungover the following day, I went for dinner with my sister and her partner. It was a pretty standard weekend.
By Tuesday, one of the friends I’d seen on Saturday night messaged to say he had tested positive for Covid-19.
Myself and my housemate – who had been with us – started self-isolating immediately. Luckily, I had been taking my university classes online that week and my housemate works remotely, so my sister and her partner were the only people either of us had seen since being exposed.
We ordered tests online straight away. We wanted to be as safe as possible, particularly as it seemed London was at the start of a second peak.
The test was extremely unpleasant. It made me cough and gag so much that I took several tries to do it.
The next Monday, we received our results. My housemate tested negative. I tested positive.
I had very mild symptoms. I was mildly congested and tired all the time but I had no cough or fever. The day after I sent my test off, I got a strange taste in my mouth. That was the only thing that made me think I might test positive.
When I got the result, I panicked. Even without the comments that I received after disclosing my diagnosis, I was overwhelmed by feelings of guilt. I knew it wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t have known that the friend I saw would start showing symptoms after I saw him, but it didn’t help with the sinking feeling.
My housemates would be unable to leave the house for weeks because of me. My sister and her partner had to take these awful tests because of me. I felt really bad about it.
I’m sharing the details of how I got coronavirus because it’s important to highlight that it can happen to anyone – even if you follow all of the rules.
I didn’t share my positive result on social media – merely an Instagram story captioned ‘a glorious morning to be stuck at home self-isolating’. I had several friends message me – perhaps with good intentions – but that made me feel worse.
Their messages were like interrogations – long paragraphs asking who I got it from, where and when I got it, who I’d seen since, if I’d logged it on the NHS app, or spoken to 111, or been on medication for it.
Even people I hadn’t seen in months were probing for every tiny detail. It felt incredibly intrusive having people constantly demanding information about my personal health. It felt like I was on trial for being ill.
Like many people across social media, it can be annoying seeing people not following the rules properly, but we need to be careful not to put this anger and frustration onto everyone that tests positive.
Covid-19 is at the centre of huge amounts of political discourse, anger and blame from all angles. When you have it, it feels like you’re an extension of that. You feel vulnerable and the isolation only makes it worse.
Everyone is scared and confused by the constantly changing restrictions, and it’s natural to want to find someone to blame. But the last thing people ill with Covid-19 need is to be the target of this.
With the support of my family, my friends and the NHS, I am finally on the other side of the illness and the weeks of isolation.
The silver lining of the experience was that it made me aware of the wonderful community of people around me who would go out of their way to deliver me shopping, send me gifts to cheer me up and check in on me virtually.
In the face of something as awful as Covid-19, we need community more than ever. If someone you know catches the virus, don’t blame or shame them for not knowing sooner. Ask how you can help.
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