COVID reset my personality

I unfortunately caught COVID last week and have been dealing with it throughout the last eight days or so. My symptoms are thankfully gone now, save for a cough. I’ve caught it before, so the symptoms were familiar to me. What I found interesting this time around were the psychological changes I noticed co-occuring with the illness.

A lot of this will be vague recollections, due to the mental fog lingering over the whole ordeal. But before I even knew I was sick, I recall having a downturn in mood. I think I had uncovered some malaise regarding the general direction of my life & career, and was dealing with that. Anyway, getting sick after feeling like that has the curious effect of making it feel like your bad feelings are breaking out into the physical world, in a way.

Photo credit: 이태수

While sick, I spent most of my waking time on my phone or playing Breath of the Wild. I generally dislike the idea of using screens as a distraction in daily life, mainly because I struggle so often with that distraction. But when you actually have a good reason to want to step away from the here & now (e.g., because you have constant miserable chills), I’m pretty grateful screens serve such a use.

In the worst of the fever, I recall a palpable feeling that the normal drives and energies that run through my body had all slowed to a crawl. There was a huge decrease in appetite, as would be expected, but I also noticed how I neglected other desires as well. Normally, I’m quite talkative, but I wanted to talk as little with anyone as possible. I also usually read a lot on the internet, but soon I felt as though there was no point in doing so anymore.

For a few days, I was pretty bummed out, dwelling on my various flaws and problems, and did almost nothing but play Breath of the Wild. Gradually, though, I noticed something about my anhedonic state of mind. Prior to getting sick, a certain anxious busyness had been building under my surface for some time, and it had been driving me to increasing levels of distraction. I felt as though I needed to do anything that occurred to me right away, or I would never get it done, and this drove me to be either ineffective or avoidant with things I needed to get done.

My anhedonia erased that feeling. When I woke up today and got started at work, I found it far easier to focus on work than it has been for months. Maybe without the normal expectation of good feelings, I was able to just focus on what I knew I needed to do and not get pulled away to other interesting & exciting things. In any case, it made me realize that even as I get back to normal, I should maybe try an alternative to my normally reactive & explosive habits of thought. I need to make a point of moving more slowly, leaving space for genuine discernment & focus, rather than getting pulled by whatever occurs to me in the moment.

If the mind is a garden, I think COVID tilled up the soil, leaving some room for something new to grow.

Have you gotten COVID? Did it affect how you think for a time? Have you ever had a big psychological shift after getting sick? Let me know your thoughts at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​