You know when you’re working on something and your computer goes on the fritz and so you have to do a hard reset to get back to normal? My entire life had a hard reset in 2020.
Everything in my life had a little routine. Commuting to work routine, work routine, and yes, my precious skin care routine. Granted, each routine was at least partially rooted in chaos, but overall steady and comfortable.
Then March hit and everything stopped. The week my office, and the city at large, shut down, I got very ill. This was sick in a way I had never experienced before. I know that’s cliche, but as someone with a chronic autoimmune disease, sick is something I’m disgustingly familiar with. So when something is out of the norm I’m on high alert.
Then March hit and everything stopped. The week my city shut down, I got very ill. This was sick in a way I had never experienced before.
What I Went Through
My lungs felt like they had weighted stones in them. My body had an all-over ache that wouldn’t go away. My body would erupt into painful chills from the slightest brush. And I felt like I was breathing through soup. On top of all of that, food ceased to register as food to me anymore. I’d look at a piece of toast and the thought of eating it would be akin to imagining biting into a block of wood or your cell phone. It had no taste, it seemed unnatural, and I had no desire or appetite to eat. I was absolutely miserable.
As the days went on, this relentless illness kept going strong. My city was the country’s hotbed of infection (it still is), so they set up dystopian drive-up testing centers in the middle of the city. Driving up to the white tents with busy, panicked workers running back and forth in full hazmat suits was incredibly jarring and frightening. We waited hours to get our brains harpooned by the notorious COVID-19 swabs, and we were damn thankful to have the opportunity to do it.
My lungs felt like they had weighted stones in them. My body would erupt into painful chills from the slightest brush. On top of all of that, food ceased to register as food to me anymore.
My family and I returned home and awaited the results as my condition further deteriorated. A few days later (or a week? Honestly, it’s all a blur), I couldn’t catch my breath, and our provincial nurse helpline directed me to go directly to the ER. I was shuffled through sheets of plastic constructed into makeshift hallways that led directly to the part of the emergency room set aside for the suspected infected. All my vitals were taken and a portable X-ray machine was wheeled into the room to take a lung X-ray from six feet away. It was incredibly unnerving.
Shortly afterward a doctor poked his head around the corner and told me he was giving me an antibiotic prescription for pneumonia. I was then escorted out of the hospital onto the street. It was probably about minus 5-degrees Celsius outside, and I was ate up with this virus, shivering and terrified. But I got it—nobody knew anything at that time and were treating patients like the plague. Honestly, I don’t blame them at all. I waited for my husband to collect me as I wheezed and coughed into the cold air and wondered if I was going to make it through this alive.
My results still hadn’t arrived yet, but I felt like I wasn’t improving at all with the antibiotics. So I was sent by the healthcare system to a clinique chaud or “hot clinic” for COVID patients, where suited-up doctors spent as little time as possible near you for examination. I was so weak, just walking through the corridor was a herculean effort. I got another lung X-ray and my pneumonia spot was gone, but I actually felt worse than I had before. Some days I would wake up feeling improved only to plunge right back into the depths of hell by the early evening. I still couldn’t eat and had lost 15 pounds. I was so sick I didn’t have the energy to roll over in bed. I never could sleep, and it felt like my airways were on fire with each breath. The doctor announced I likely had asthma now and sent me on my way with two inhalers and a wish of good luck. I certainly felt like I needed that last part.
Some days I would wake up feeling improved only to plunge back into the depths of hell by evening. I was so sick I didn’t have the energy to roll over in bed. It felt like my airways were on fire with each breath.
The rest of my story is a lot of the same, feeling better only to feel worse again. Good days, bad days, crying days, hopeful days. There were four more trips to the hot clinic and hospital emergency rooms. Many ups, downs, and sideways movements on the getting better scale. All in all, I was sick, like really sick, for three months.
How COVID-19 Changed Everything
Everything in my life changed from that fateful week on—everything, yes even my skin care. My beloved daily and nightly self-care ritual was just too much for me to handle during the worst of it.
Now, I’m someone who always packed a skin care bag to the hospital, did my full routine hours after giving birth to a 10-pound baby, and did my makeup in the ICU before emergency surgery (true story). I didn’t think there was anything that would come between me and my routine.
Y’all, coronavirus is on a whole other level. The weakness and overwhelming doom I felt completely destroyed me. Some days I could do my routine, or at least do it once a day, and some days it just wasn’t going to happen.
My beloved daily self-care ritual was just too much for me to handle during the worst of it. Some days I could do my routine, and some days it just wasn’t going to happen.
Because of that, I made a lot of changes. Now each product I use has to be completely and thoroughly amazing. There’s no dancing around with maybes or messing with “but I really like the smell of this one.” It either has to be a workhorse or it’s not getting out of the gate. Every purchase is carefully considered and purposeful. I was always a researcher when it came to ingredients, but now I’m sticking to tried-and-true things I know work for me, and there’s not a lot of room for experimentation.
I rely heavily on actives now, which I would go back and forth on before. My creams must be thick, nourishing, and kind to my moisture barrier. Each step and product has been streamlined for maximum efficiency and results. The mist for between steps? Upgraded to a treatment mist. 7-skin method? It’s now 3- to 4-skin but with a much heavier toner. Vitamin C, AHA, BHA? All in play, every (alternating) day. Massaging and masking? Those are treats I can do in bed, and to be honest I’m only now getting back around to them. But like old friends, I’m sure glad to see them again, especially since I can’t see my actual friends again until who knows when.
As of the time of this writing, I’m actually awaiting the results of yet another COVID-19 test. Two weeks ago my son was forced to return to daycare or lose his coveted spot. By Friday he had a soaring high fever and we were all coughing. We were all tested, and it came back negative for all, but my symptoms persisted and I was sent for another test a couple of days ago just in case we had tested too soon to detect the virus. The doctor has reassured me that there are a lot of respiratory bugs going around right now, and he hasn’t swabbed a single case of COVID originating from a daycare … yet. It could be that the prior March illness is exacerbating my symptoms now. Whatever the outcome, I’m just going to be over here awaiting my results, hoping for the best, and sheet masking in bed. As they say here in Quebec, “ça va bien aller.”