My Time with the Thief
My personal journey with COVID-19.
Abstract art of watercolor-pencil, by Bonnie Rose Weaver, made during isolation with COVID-19.
I am coming out of the ‘sick room’ to say, I have had COVID-19. Most likely, the Omicron variant and in fact I may still have it. As I write this on the dawn of Tuesday, January 11th 2022 I await test results which will clarify my status.
The intention of this writing is to give insight into my experience and share ideas of herbal protocols to inspire another person to navigate having this disease. I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to know or give medical advice.
I will also start with a mention of Get Rad, Boil Roots, a collaboratively written guide to home-remedies for COVID-19 which I helped create (graphics below), along with Gina Badger et all in March and April 2020. This resource is wonderful, and I encourage you check it out. For a shorter version of how I personally approached COVID-19, read on.
I first started having symptoms on Sunday January 2nd. I woke up with a sore throat, and thought it strange but I didn’t feel bad otherwise. I went about my Sunday activities, grocery shopping and doing laundry. I kept my mask on just to be safe*. I also started some routine immure support, which I always do at the start of a cold:
3 dropper-fulls of Echinacea tincture, 3 -4 x day. This is a SUPER high dose. In short, high intervals, Echinacea is commonly known to support white blood cell production to help the body fight off anything that is not supposed to be there. I definitely felt the boost as I went about my day.
Chopped Garlic. While it may give a person fragrant breath, a clove of raw garlic is an incredible, affordable and easy to come by powerhouse for the immune system. I notice it seep through the digestive and respiratory systems too, which are often impacted by COVID. My preferred method is to mince the garlic and eat it in a spoonful of honey or nut butter. Raw, plain garlic can be hard on the stomach so it’s best to eat with food.
Lung Tea: Mullein, Thyme, Nettles, Marshmallow, Ginger, Licorice. 2-8 hour infusion to support my lungs, throat and overall body. (Want to know more about these herbs and why I used them? Check out Get Rad, Boil Roots!)
*In hind site, I should have stayed home! Let this be a lesson for all of you with a sore throat! Stay home, get tested. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge we have experienced yet another leadership failure as many people, myself included, are expected to show up for in-person work without proper PPE or safety considerations during the Omicron surge.
SHOCK AND SHAME
By Tuesday January 4th I was feeling a lot better and had assumed that the mild, short cold I had had earlier in the week was over.
That evening, I found out I had COVID-19 through a text message that alerted me that my test results were ready. Going through the motions of clicking the link and logging in to my account as I had done so many times in the life of this pandemic, always to read “NEGATIVE” - a process which now felt performative, obligatory, I proceeded.
Click, click, what? I had to read the page three times before I could comprehend what was before my
I want to share with you, dear reader, that I have taken every precaution NOT to get COVID. The weeks preceding my diagnosis I had cancelled plans with friends, avoided taking BART and had gotten a vaccine booster. As a person with a history of asthma I considered myself to be at higher risk when the virus was first active. I wash my hands at every opportunity, reduced the amount of people I spend time with indoors and sought out well-fitting masks to protect myself.
As I called the people I had been with on New Year’s eve, and my parents who I had been with over the weekend, a wave of shock followed by a wave of shame came over me. I then informed my employers that I wouldn’t be coming into work for a while, and cancelled my upcoming social plans too.
As the reality that I would be home for the next week or so settled in, I reached out to some friends. Kind offers to come by and drop off food and treats brightened my days. I continued to use herbs.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil. A few drops on the floor of my shower or in a bowl of water as a steam (use a towel to tent it in) to moisten my airways. While the lungs have stayed clear, I wanted to do what I could to protect them.
Elderberry Soda. Elderberry syrup is a remedy I keep in the fridge this time of year. I added it to bubbly water, and it became a highlight of my day. This anti-viral is delicious and staying hydrated was critical, so it is a fun way to keep drinking water too.
Boneset Tincture. I got on the phone with Lizanne Deliz, friend and herbalist who had also recently had COVID. She reminded me that no matter how mild my experience was, there was still a virus lurking in me, and not to forget to take antivirals. I poured myself an ounce of Boneset, a powerful (and bitter!) antiviral from my apothecary and continued to take Echinacea, 3-4 x day.
Hydrate. I started drinking water like it was my job. Occasionally with a hint of salt, lemon and honey to help me stay hydrated. Also, important as I navigated loose stool and a headache.
By Day 4 I hit a wall of boredom. It’s hard to describe. I wasn’t myself. The shame started to fade as I grappled with the fact that this is our reality. I believe the first week of January 2022 is a major inflection point in this pandemic. Many of my loved ones who called to check in referred back to the fear and panic we all experienced in March 2020. All around me I heard of people making difficult choices about the pandemic. Waiting in long cold lines for a test, navigating decisions around work and school (UM, hi SFUSD can we please have masks, testing and more sick pay?), and swallowing the large, hard pill that cases at an all time high means less socializing and more time for puzzles at home with the cat (or the proverbial cat in my case). Phone calls with friends and movie recommendations started to come in. Thank you sweet friends for keeping me entertained and feeling the love!!
The symptoms I experienced on days 4 and 5 were mild and infrequent chills and fatigue.
It wasn’t until Day 6 that I finally started to feel like myself. I woke up feeling silly and chatty; a bit of my spark was back. I made myself boba as a treat and I went on a walk around my neighborhood.
San Bruno Mountain at sunset from Sunnyside, San Francisco (occupied Ramaytush Ohlone land). 1/8/22
It was at this time that I started to really see what I, and we were going through. I recognized that the boredom I had felt was not boredom as much as apathy - I had been invaded by the virus. I reflected on my days in ‘the sick room’ as they call it on the CDC website, as historic; the days I danced with the thief, in isolation, as the world grappled with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
I also came to realize that some of the best medicine for me was being gentle with myself and allowing others to show up for me with care and tenderness too.
Wearing Soft Clothing. I pulled my late grandmother’s cashmere sweater out of the closet and wore it around the house.
Sweet Care. A friend dropped off low-sugar chocolate, fresh baked gluten free bread, cara cara oranges (I didn’t want to miss this important seasonal fruit!) and a garland of citrus peels. I’ve never felt more seen! The bright colors decorated my space and gave me a glimpse of the sun sighing through the storm.
Amber Necklace. While I’m not a big crystal person, I did put on my amber necklace (not a fashion choice mind you) to help soothe my nerves.
Delicious Food. While I was apathetic about cooking (something I usually LOVE to do) it was critical that friends dropped off food as it gave me incentive to eat. Yuzu tea and chicken-root soup? Yes please. :D
As I mentioned I’m still in the recovery phase. I’ve started to leave the house for a couple hours at a time. I find it tricky however, as I still need to hydrate frequently, which is so tricky with a mask on. I really miss my students and I look forward to going back to work. I do really dearly hope however, that I am given (and can give myself) the time I need to rest and recuperate.
The reality is, we just don’t know what it means to get this variant in the long term. We don’t know the effect of having vaccinations and boosters before getting COVID. We know this is a virus running rampant in our bodies and communities and across the world. Like a thief in the house, we don’t know immediately what has been taken.
We know that in times of illness, it’s best to give the body time to heal. We know taking herbs can shorten the duration and impact of a disease or imbalance. We know the body heals it’s self and the action we take to support the hard work of the body can impact the long-term outcome.
And so for the first time in my life I’m taking the time I need to heal. A true luxury (thank you teachers union and sick pay). I’ve decided there is no paycheck that can make up for these days of sweet self care and recovery. If you need me I’ll be at the park, or by the ocean, or in bed, doing the following ancient home-remedies:
Sleep. Can’t get enough of it. We know brain fog and fatigue are long-term symptoms of COVID. I’m supporting my body with rest and relaxation in hopes of avoiding these issues down the road.
Watercolors. At home or at the local park, enjoying some of the more over-looked passed times for being quiet and present with place.
Sticker Apps. I’ve become obsessed with sending people virtual stickers as we text message. Return of the sticker book! Sorry not sorry.
Social Distanced Hangs. As I wait for a negative test result I’ve had fun using phone and video calling to catch up, watch movies, do art or rituals with friends for fun ways to pass the time.
Herbs. Some things on my mind are continuing to take gentle antivirals like elderberry and olive leaf for several weeks or months. I will also be supplementing with medicinal mushrooms like reishi for overall energy and lion's mane to support cognitive function.
A friend and herbalist reminded me last night that getting COVID is not a moral failure. I needed to hear this. I want you to be reminded of this. I did everything I could NOT to get it, and yet, here we are.
I share my story in attempts of normalizing it. Of, as I say at the beginning, coming out of the ‘sick room’. There is an infinite amount of things you can read about COVID online, including from the CDC or western medicine. What I love about herbs is that they are preventative medicine that is safe and have been used for 1000’s of years - yeah, like last time there was a global pandemic and time time before that and the time before that.
We are here because we are the resilient ones. Our ancestors survived illness and trauma and so I give thanks to this life each day the sun rises.
Last but not least, I want to say there is a major race and class piece to this surge. In 2020 the majority of people who got COVID were poor black and brown people of color. We know the social impact of this disease has been along lines of race and class. It is not lost on me that as a white, college educated person with a union job it is a privilege to be getting COVID two years into the pandemic when we have vaccines and somewhat of a deeper understanding of what this disease is and how to deal with it. Thanks to modern technology and science I was vaccinated in Spring 2021 and boosted in December. During my illness, I am truly blessed to have never worried, "Will I survive this?"
A big shout out to all the people who supported me while I was sick and to the herbalists who encouraged me to share my story.
In no particular order, thank you Ann Lawson. Jennifer Lynch. Emma Ashley-Roth. Stephanie Safran. Heather Weiss. Abby Bell. Paris Premdas. Lizanne Deliz. Chuck Bowman. Gina Badger. Emiliano Lemus. Finn Oakes. Mariah Weaver. Patrick Weaver. Jessica Polaniecki. Suzanne McDonnell. Dennis Weaver. Amanda Chui. Jennifer Pei Huang. Cyd Bernstein. Sam Raridon. Richard Kay. Melissa Craven. Mariah Benedict. Shamsi Soltani. Juliette Georgeoff. Stella the Good Witch. Bailey Fan. Violet Thorns. Aida Marin. Ancestors of the highest good. Science.