Hi everyone! So, the last time you heard from me, I was in bed, feeling like death warmed over, after testing positive for Covid-19. I have since recovered, almost completely, but there are a few symptoms I’m figuring out.
Flashback to Thursday, March 31st. I’d noticed throughout the week that my brain fog was worse than usual, and it was causing me to forget things and make silly mistakes. Then, midday Thursday, I started getting lightning headaches. I would see a flash of light, like a photo was being taken or lightning was flashing outside, and it would be followed by the worst head pain I’ve felt to date. Now, I’m no stranger to migraines, but I’ve never had ones with an aura before. I managed to make it through the rest of the day and head home, mercifully coming up from the brain fog in time to get off the subway. I had just started making my dinner when something unexpected and awful happened.
With another flash of light, it felt like my brain was trying to carve its way out of my skull. But this time it didn’t dissipate, it stuck around with a vengeance. I only just managed to make it to my room and collapse onto my bed, pulling a blanket over my head to muffle any sounds and light that might peak through.
A few minutes later, my roommates noticed I’d disappeared, and they came to my room to see if I needed anything. I was able to say, in a voice so quiet as to keep my head from exploding, that I needed help, and these lovely people sprung into action.
After about half an hour, the medicine started to kick in and I was able to remove the blanket from my face. I sat up, intending to say thank you, but no words would leave my mouth. It wasn’t like I’d lost my voice, or something was caught in my throat. It was different. It was worse.
I couldn’t speak, at all.
Cue instant, heart racing, panic.
I started crying hysterically, not helping the migraine of course, and tried desperately to say something, anything at all. But words would not come. It was as if Ursula herself had taken my voice. I could think the words, I could write the words, I could understand them when spoken to me, but they would not go from my brain to my mouth.
Eventually I managed to calm down enough to gesture for my phone and typed out what was going on. We immediately consulted Dr. Google and decided this was a strange aftereffect of the migraine, and that the only thing I could do was sleep and hope it was better the next day.
Through God’s mercy, I woke up on Friday and, though I struggled to find certain words, was able to speak relatively normally. Except for a few words my brain decided it didn’t like anymore.
For the most part, though it was taking longer to form sentences, my speech was well enough to teach. But some words were not coming out right. Take “cat” for instance. That night, I was trying to tell my roommates that the feral cats who had WWMeow smackdowns in the alley behind our apartment had returned, so I tried to say “the cats are back”.
But what came out was “the guinea pigs are back”. I instantly knew that what I said was wrong, so I tried again.
“The guinea pigs are back. Guinea pigs. No, hold on. Guinea pigs. GUINEA PIGS! THE GUINEA PIGS ARE BACK!”
No matter how hard I tried, I could not get the word “cat” to come out of my mouth. I knew the word and thought it so hard that I was sure my heretofore unknown telekinesis would present itself, but try as I might, only “Guinea pig” came out. It was like the word took a detour when leaving my brain and changed before coming out my mouth. As slightly amusing it was to be yelling the word “Guinea pigs” repeatedly at my roommates, it was scary to not be able to say a word I knew. (I eventually landed on “the not-dogs” to get my point across.)
It was time to see a specialist.
Saturday, April 2nd. I made an appointment with a neurologist, and was surprised to get answers straight away.
I was quickly diagnosed with post-covid aphasia.
Apparently, some people who have been infected with Covid-19, particularly the sub-varient of Omicron, suffer from brain fog and aphasia for weeks, sometimes months after the infection has cleared up. Spoonies who suffer from illness induced brain fog and migraines are unfortunately prime candidates for this brain malfunction.
So what does this mean for me?
For now, it just means that I have to search a little harder for certain words, put reminders everywhere to help jog my memory, and most of all, be kind to myself.
For other people who are suffering from “long covid”, I know how frustrating this is. You’re exhausted, your brain doesn’t seem to be working right, and unfortunately there is very little information to help you. All I can say is that I empathize with you.
Be gentle with yourself. You’re going to be okay.