COVID Guilt – The guilt experienced from having caught COVID and the fear of infecting others.
Since the COVID pandemic started my best friend has taken the situation seriously. As a proficient sewer she went above and beyond making as many masks as she could, spending her own money to make sure people could be protected. She stayed in, avoided people at risk and was even known to give out boxes of supplies to others when she had extra.
But then suddenly early January everything changes. After one ill-fated holiday encounter she tested positive. All her positive charity and precautions flew out the window as she grappled with her results. A few days later she made this post and I realized I was seeing something raw and real. Something many people feel and few have the words to say. But she had those words and agreed I could share them here.
People keep asking me how I am. I know they mean physically how I am since testing positive for CoVid last week. I’ve been good. Bored, pressing myself too hard some days, so a little worn out the next, but overall good. What people don’t get it the mental stress. When I saw positive as my results I was in disbelief and dumbfounded. I just couldn’t comprehend it. I feel guilt: guilt for the fear I’ve brought to those I’ve been around and guilt for all the work I left behind so last minute. I feel ashamed and disgusted that I caught CoVid. Just walking to the mailbox with mask on and keeping a great distance I feel like I’m walking with a big scarlet A on my chest like I’m a leper. I have 4 days left until I can return to work and the idea terrifies me and is triggering anxiety.
It broke my heart to see the pain she was going though. She could care less about her own health instead focusing on others. She was experiencing COVID guilt, taking all the blame on herself. She recovered well and was later able to return to work. On her first day back she sent me the following message describing her experience.
Today was my first day back. I was nervous and ready to get things over. Some coworkers were happy I was back, while others started to poke and prod and ask questions about it. Yes, I was asymptomatic but I felt like a science experiment or something. I did have some people who you could tell that were legitimately worried and were glad I was ok. Others who would come start to tell me of something, pause, then take 2-3 steps back. With someone who is already on edge with anxiety, this was not helpful. I don’t know how many times I went to the bathroom this morning as an excuse to step away and breathe. As the day went by, it got a little easier, but the stigma was still all around.
There is a stigma about people who get COVID. Assumptions they got it being unsafe, brought it upon themselves. Not to mention the fear.
There is no great insight or magic advice to this post. This is about awareness. Letting those who have been infected know they are not alone, helping those who judge people remember that we are all just human and, with the exception of some, we are all just doing the best we can.