Cosmopolitan (UK)

Life in my body... with long COVID

Claire Twomey, from County Meath, Ireland, caught COVID-19 in 2020 and is still experienci­ng symptoms as a long-term illness


as a profession­al coach, trained yoga teacher and sea swimmer, I initially wasn’t too worried when I tested positive for COVID-19 back in March last year. I didn’t think I was vulnerable, and apart from some sportsindu­ced asthma, I didn’t have any underlying health conditions. I knew a lot of people who’d contracted it and bounced straight back. I was sure I’d be fine.

The illness itself was challengin­g for about five days – I had a high fever, a cough and shortness of breath, even when I was sitting down. It was a few weeks later, though, that I started noticing my recovery journey was looking different to those of other people I knew.

Almost two months after first contractin­g COVID, I made an attempt to return to work, but after just two days, I was incredibly ill. I started experienci­ng migraines, which I’d never had before.

I found it difficult to concentrat­e for longer than two hours without needing to sleep. I had no choice but to take some more time off, and I spent the next month in bed trying to recover.

After many attempts to try and return to my jogging and yoga practice, I experience­d several relapses. I was severely fatigued all the time, lost my appetite, experience­d gastro issues and developed a rash, and my fever returned. I tried again to return to work after a few months, but I realised I couldn’t work the same way I used to. I was then referred for tests and further treatment. Even hoovering my room can mean that I have to lie down for a few hours.

When I realised I wasn’t recovering, there wasn’t much informatio­n out there on people like me who had COVID symptoms long after the initial illness period. I began searching the internet for any informatio­n about what we now know is long COVID. When I found a UK support group, it inspired me to start one here in Ireland, and as 30 people joined, I finally felt this sense of relief – just knowing I wasn’t alone. Now, the group has 2,100 members.

As I am doing some limited work with private clients, a normal day for me looks like waking up early – it could take me up to an hour to get out of bed. I do some meditation before breakfast. After everything I do, I need to rest for an hour or so, otherwise I’ll crash.

While I’ve been lucky enough to have access to a post-COVID clinic, not everyone is. Thankfully, we are learning more about long COVID every day, so I just have to hope that at some point, I’ll be back to my old self. It was hard not to worry when nobody had the answers and there was no end in sight, but I’m focusing on the things I can do and I’m hopeful for the future.

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