My prior health status
Prior to Covid, I was one of those people who was “healthy.” I ate lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, “healthy” fats, and locally raised meat, and I often did juice cleanses. I didn’t eat fast food at all and very little junk food.
I also pushed myself to be pretty active. I’d done a few half marathons, a full marathon, and the year before I got Covid I did the Pike’s Peak Ascent, which is a half marathon with 8000 ft of elevation gain. I also did a lot of
yoga, meditated somewhat regularly, got massages and pedicures, and did my best to do all the things you’re supposed to do to manage one’s mental well being.
But I was also a massive workaholic who was terrified that my world would fall apart if I didn’t go above and beyond everyone’s expectations. Given that, it’s not surprising that I wasn’t actually “healthy”. I had numerous chronic conditions, some of which I’d been battling for decades, including: anxiety, endometriosis, gluten intolerance, histamine intolerance, seasonal allergies, recurring sinus infections, migraines, peeling nails, adult acne, chronic constipation, low energy, eczema, occasional depression, and probably other things I’m forgetting right now.
MY LONG COVID EXPERIENCE
I got a mild case of Covid in late July of 2020. Not only did it never go away, it got worse. Then, for a year and a half, symptoms came and went. Sometimes it would seem like I was getting better, and then I’d find myself stuck in bed a month later. I had to cut back on work significantly, I ended up in the ER twice, the vaccines made me a lot worse, and my GI tract basically shut down, rejecting most foods.
I hit rock bottom in November 2021, when I reacted badly to the medication I was supposed to take prior to a colonoscopy —to add insult to injury, it left me even more backed up, instead of cleaning me out! The doctor couldn’t follow up with me about my bad reaction for another month, and I was down to about three foods that my stomach could digest.
That’s when I saw a post on the Body Politic Slack Channel about a woman who had recovered from Long Covid by using Nicole Sach’s method. After two weeks of doing her JournalSpeak process, I was eating all foods again (including gluten which I hadn’t been able to eat for over a decade), and my GI tract was functioning normally. Over the next year, I slowly picked off one health issue after another, ridding myself not only of Long Covid, but also endometriosis, allergies, anxiety, and most of the conditions on the list above.
I’m still working through a couple of issues, but I’ve recovered so much and learned so much, that I wanted to share my experiences here in the hopes that it might help others.
The long version of my long Covid story
At the end of July 2020, I got Covid. Mine was a very mild case. I was mostly just very fatigued the first few days. Then, tired of being tired, I decided to do a light jog to keep up with the marathon training I’d started a few weeks prior. My long run, the weekend before I got sick, was 9 miles, but a quarter mile into this jog, my lungs were burning so badly I could barely breath. By the time I got home, I was fully sick with a headache, body aches, shivering, etc. After a few more days of feeling worse, I finally got tested for Covid, but by then, I was well outside the testing range, so it’s not a big surprise that I tested negative. For the next few weeks, I didn’t improve. Instead, a host of random symptoms kept popping up — headaches, ear aches, light headedness, side cramps, unbearable fatigue, and many more I can’t remember.
I finally scheduled an appointment with my doctor, but it was another week or two before she was able to see me. In that time, I got frustrated with not being able to function, and, as a consultant with the end of the month upon me, I decided to try to push through a lot of work to try to catch up on hours so that I could get paid.
By the end of the first day of working hard, I began to get a headache, but I just took pain killers and kept pushing into the evening to get the rest of the hours in that I could. The headache was even worse the next morning, but I still had work to do, so I took more painkillers and kept pushing. By the time I finished my calls on the third evening of this headache, it became an unbearable searing pain. I almost considered going to the ER that night, but my doctor’s appointment was finally the next day, so I waited.
It was a Thursday morning when I finally saw my doctor, and my head hurt so badly that my right eye was starting to swell up and run continuously. My doctor had me run a battery of tests and gave me stronger pain killers, and she advised going to the ER that night if I got worse.
At 9 pm that evening, even with stronger pain killers, the pain was the worst pain I’d ever experienced in my life. It felt like my brain was being pushed out of my eye, which had now swelled nearly completely shut. The ER was a ridiculous, useless experience that included a bad reaction to the drugs they gave me; an incompetent nurse, who kept asking me what drugs I thought she should give me to address the bad reaction; and a doctor who didn’t think it was worth to mentioning that the “bad reaction” was actually a fairly common side effect, and who instead insisted that I needed anti-anxiety medication since the bad reaction was scaring me.
They finally gave me something that made me tired enough to sleep through the pain. I went home and don’t remember much of the next few days beyond sleeping, taking over-the-counter painkillers because they were more effective than the “strong” drugs the doctors had tried, and the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced.
Over the next few days, the pain in my head eased, but my body had never been so depleted. Getting out of bed to walk the 15 ft across the hall to the toilet felt like climbing a mountain. Going downstairs wasn’t even an option. My husband had to get all food and water for me. And then, one morning, not even a week later, the awful headache started to return.
I was terrified. I couldn’t withstand pain like that again. At the very least, I needed to relax. I took ibuprofen, turned on a relaxing audio book, and focused on/visualized breathing through my lower abdomen, down my legs and into my feet. This might seem like an odd choice, but I think I wanted to focus as far from my head as possible. I did this for five hours, and it worked. The headache never returned to the strength it had hit me with to send me to the ER. I didn’t even need to take more pain killers that day. That five hours of breathing turned out to be life changing, but more on that in another section .
The next day, I had another appointment with the doctor. It had been a week since the ER trip and this was the first day I tried to shower. I had to sit because I didn’t have the strength to stand in the shower. My husband drove me to the doctor. She gave me some antibiotics, just in case the headache was a sinus infection that they’d missed — it wasn’t— and she told me that I should expect it to take about 6 months to fully recover.
Even though I’d tested negative for Covid, she was confident that’s what I’d had because at the time, they were finding that people had to test negative about 8 times before they could be confident that the negative results weren’t false negatives. Her personal experience getting Covid and watching other people recover from it was that it took a long time to get over, and she expected my case to be the same.
The six month prognosis was depressing, but it was also good to have my doctor give me such a long recovery time, as it took pressure off of me to try to get better too quickly. Based on so many other horror stories I’ve heard about people’s experiences with their doctors, I was grateful that my doctor believed me and had a realistic sense of what I was up against.
I was also lucky in that I had contract work and employers who were willing to accommodate my illness. For about 2-3 weeks, I did no work. I slept, watched TV, and spent a lot of time doing deep relaxations and meditations, all in bed. For the next couple of months, I kept work to a minimum, and also only did that in bed. I would get tired easily and work, especially calls, could quickly lead to headaches.
Breyers mint chocolate chip ice cream and Coke were oddly helpful for the headaches. I had terrible brain fog and memory lapses. Even as I was working, I barely left the bed and still relied on my husband to help a lot with things like going to the kitchen to get me food or drinks. But over time, I did slowly get better. I started doing more. I started moving around the house more. I started taking the dog for a walk again. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2020, I started to feel much more like me.
Over the course of the first six months, I just kept getting better until I almost felt like my normal self again. But then something happened. I started to get worse again. The headaches were getting worse and more frequent again, and my food intolerances seemed to be getting worse. After a couple of weeks of this, I checked in with my doctor again. She ran another battery of tests, which all came out fine. She thought stomach acid might be part of my problem, so she had me try Mylanta. The first dose made me feel like I had a rock in my stomach, and the second dose depleted me of every last drop of energy. I literally could not get back up the stairs and had to spend hours on our couch waiting for it to wear off.
So next my doctor had me try Prilosec. For a couple of days, that actually seemed to be helping. But then, on a Sunday morning, I suddenly got intense pains in my chest and stomach, my heart started beating erratically, and I got badly lightheaded. I was alone and didn’t know what to do, so I ended up calling 911 for an ambulance. The ER doctors initially tried to convince me I’d just had a panic attack, but when the test results came back, it turned out my potassium levels had dropped a bit too low too quickly. When they gave me potassium, I felt better. But it wasn’t clear why my potassium had gone so out of whack in the first place.
The next day, I was eating dried apricots (high in potassium) when I started to have a mild allergic reaction to them. Not bad enough for a doctor’s visit, but my esophagus got itchy, and it was disconcerting. My esophagus stayed irritated for over 24 hours, and I wasn’t able to eat. My doctor was at a loss, since all of my tests kept coming back fine. She ran a small food allergy test on me, and I had a mild-moderate allergic response to most of the common foods tested. So I cut those foods out. But she didn’t have much else to recommend for me. I got well enough over the next few weeks, but I was still having some issues and an increasing number of foods were irritating my digestive tract. Then came the vaccines.
I got my first Covid vaccine in late May of 2021. It took me a week to recover from that, but then I had a week of the best health I’d had since before I’d gotten sick with Covid the previous summer. For one week. I got much sicker after the second shot. And then I never got better.
Week after week went by, and I had no energy, I was getting headaches all the time, but the worst was the food. I just seemed to be reacting to everything. And I was badly constipated. It’s like all the food just got stuck in my stomach and couldn’t get out. I often couldn’t consume solid foods and had to rely on juices. My doctor didn’t know what to do, so she sent me to a local gastroenterologist and she got me on the waitlist for a GI doctor at the nearby prestigious research hospital.
It was around July by that point, and the prestigious hospital couldn’t get me in until November, but the local GI doctor got me in fairly quickly. The local GI doctor also didn’t have much to recommend. She’d seen a lot of people developing GI issues after the vaccines, and the best she could offer was that it would likely get better with time. (Side note: I’m very pro-vaccine. I just reacted badly to this one.) She did give me some high-potency probiotics, but those didn’t help much.
That reminds me. I took every freaking supplement anyone could recommend that might possibly be useful. I spent hundreds of dollars on supplements, and for all I know, it might have been in the thousands of dollars—I did not have the energy to keep track. The doctors bills were racking up, but the supplement bills were not far behind. I had all the vitamin Bs and Cs and Ds and Es and quercertin and fish oils and probiotics and digestive enzymes and digestive bitters and iodine and many dozens of other things that I can’t remember anymore. The only thing that really seemed to help by this point was Claritin.
At that time, I’d also started to see a local naturopath, who ran a much bigger food intolerance test, and I tested intolerant to a huge number of foods. And she gave me even more supplements to try. I was also seeing a nutritionist remotely because, in addition to all the specific foods I was testing as reactive to, I seemed to be reacting to histamines, salicylates, and oxylates in the foods. At some point I was connected to the Body Politic Slack Channel, and I added lots of supplements that people there were finding helpful.
To be clear, I was reacting badly to the majority of supplements as well. I had countless bottles of pills, from which I’d only taken one or two of the pills because they’d actually made me worse.
By the time I finally made it to the appointment at the prestigious hospital in November of 2021, I’d had to cut back on work again because I was just too tired and headachy and sick to function well. The doctor at the prestigious hospital seemed great, and it turned out that not only was he a GI doctor, but he was the GI doctor who was also working with the Long Covid team at this hospital. He was kind and courteous and listened to all of the stomach related health issues I’d had over the years, and he seemed to genuinely want to help me get better. He had me run another slew of blood tests, and he wanted to get me in for an endoscopy, a colonoscopy and an MRI.
In the days leading up to the colonoscopy, I tried to take the pre-surgery medication that’s designed to clean you out. For someone who was suffering from constipation as badly as I was, being cleaned out actually sounded kind of nice. But no such luck. Within about an hour of taking the first dose, it was like my body shut down. Similar to what had happened with the Mylanta, but even more extreme. It was like there simply wasn’t energy left in my body to move or do anything. Moreover, not only did the medication not clean me out, it left me even more backed up than normal.
I had to cancel the procedure, and the doctor couldn’t squeeze in a video call with me to talk about what had happened until mid December of 2021, which was still about four weeks away. I scheduled the appointment, but I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do next. After that, my diet became even more restrictive and I was down to about three foods that I was able to eat.
And then someone posted on the Body Politic Slack Channel about how they’d recovered from Long Covid by using the work prescribed by Nicole Sachs. Nicole argued that chronic conditions are essentially your nervous system trying to get you to deal with repressed emotions and experiences that had just been bottled up inside you and growing bigger the longer they were hidden. Her “work”, JournalSpeak *, was basically an extreme form of journaling. She advocated doing a 28 day challenge to test the process out. It sounded like a lot of BS, and I thought journaling was a ridiculous activity (and I’m a writer), but it was free, and I was stuck in bed with nothing else to do.
For my first journal entry, I ranted about how pissed off I was about having Long Covid. When I finished my first 20-min JournalSpeak session, I didn’t feel better, per se, but I felt lighter—quite literally as if a weight had been lifted off my chest. That evening, I actually had enough energy to sit on the couch in the living room and watch TV with my husband for a couple of hours. I hadn’t been able to do even that in quite a while.
And so I decided this JournalSpeak thing was worth trying. I threw myself into it, reading everything I could find about John Sarno and work relating to what Nicole taught. I listened to her podcast every day, and I journaled twice a day, letting out my deepest emotions on all manner of things that I’d just been ignoring for years.
Within two weeks, I was eating all food again, including gluten (which I hadn’t been able to eat for over a decade) and all of the foods I’d tested as mildly allergic** or intolerant too, and I’ve been regular every day since. My GI
tract is working as it should, and I never went back to the prestigious hospital.
Since then, I’ve recovered fully from Long Covid, as well as most of my other chronic conditions, including endometriosis, allergies, anxiety, and migraines. There are still some issues I’m working through, but I’ve learned so much in the last year, and I’m hopeful that sharing my experiences might help others. Ulitmately, JournalSpeak was one of ten techniques that supported my recovery , but it was probably the most important and impactful.
I want to be clear that this does not mean my health issues or anyone else’s health issues are “in our heads.” This is 100% a physical issue: Any health issue is very much a case of one’s physical body not working right and needing
to be fixed. But the process for fixing a physical issue may not be a medical treatment, and the causes for many physical issues don’t seem to be very well understood by modern medicine.
Honestly, I think everyone should be doing this work, regardless of their health status—we all have internal turmoil*** that’s preventing us from living as full of a life as we’d like.
I still feel some occasional anxiety or depression but those usually go away once I figure out what I’ve been repressing. I still get some eczema and acne. I still have a random symptom pop up now and then, as if my body is trying
to test me. I still find work stressful, but I’m not sure anything can fix that 🙂
*JournalSpeak is NOT the same as journaling. This is a common source of confusion. Journaling never did a thing for me because it doesn’t tap into the core repressed issues. JournalSpeak gets deep within you and excavates everything that’s been repressed for decades. I write about the differences here .
**I had mild allergic reactions and never an anaphylactic reaction, nor did I ever test positive for Celiac. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to advise anyone do anything, but personally I would not have tried re-adding foods if I’d had a dangerous reaction to them.
***I’m not a therapist, and I never had any significant or “big T” traumas. People who have had “big T” traumas may want to consult with a therapist about these techniques.