EPISODE 4: THE LONG COVID EPISODE

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INFO: We have a quick chat about where we've been for the last few months and then we just get into it. This is an episode about Gab getting COVID and it just never leaving - becoming long COVID, and changing her life in a hundred ways. 

Speakers: Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad

Transcribed by Michael Lacey

Jingle by Toynoiz

Hello and welcome to The White Pube Podcast. I am Zarina Muhammad...

 

My name's Gabrielle de la Puente.

 

...and we're The White Pube, of course. So we've got a chatty one for you today, very chill. We're doing it laid back, because we've been on a little break with the chatty podcasts where we actually speak to you in proper podcast format. The last one was what, November?

 

Yeah, November, I think.

 

We've had quite the four months, I think, since then.

Yeah. We always take December off because we need a break from the internet, we've done that for a few years now. But then on January 2nd I got Covid, and it just never left. Now it's long Covid, and to be honest I wasn't really able to speak properly at all. So that was a good excuse for not being able to do a podcast. But we're able to get there now and we'll just have a catch up. So, what have you been doing? What did you do in December when we took our annual break?

Well, I've got my bullet journal spread open, and I will literally tell you day by day what I did. Not day by day, because that would be tedious, but I'll give you a rundown. I went on a lot of walks, I read twelve books, I ate a lot of chocolate, which I don't normally do but it was Christmas and I fucking love Christmas chocolate. Like, all of a sudden, vegan chocolate takes a little step up. It becomes fancier in December.

This is how long it has been since we've spoken, I can see Easter eggs around me. We're on a different seasonal chocolate at this point.

It's true. I think vegan chocolate is shit apart from event-based vegan chocolate... know what I mean? The day to day stuff isn't worth it. I had an eye test.

Good to know!

No wait, hang on, because I've got a bugbear. I had an eye test before the Christmas lockdown and obviously, you have an eye test because you need new glasses. I need new glasses, I cannot see, Gabrielle. So I had my eye test, ordered my new glasses, paid for my new glasses, and then - lockdown came, and the optician I went to is fancy, boujie, they also sell sunglasses. So they shut down with the normal retail... Oakley in Covent Garden have been holding my glasses hostage for the last four months! I can't see!

 

Can you get them now that everything's opened up this week?

Yeah they e-mailed me last week to be like, hello, your glasses are here somewhere, but because it's been four months they don't know where they are. I've paid for them! I'm so angry! They've been holding my glasses hostage.

Not to be too pessimistic but your prescription might have changed in the past four months.

I know! I've worried about that.

Anyway, what else did you do in December?

 

I went to go see the Chila Burman Christmas lights...

At Tate Britain.

That was fun, then I reviewed them. Yes. That was like, a less exciting part, but the Chila lights were great.

 

Do you want to describe what they were, for anyone who isn't familiar?

They were kind of like Christmas and Diwali lights, is how I'd describe them. Like someone did a really kitsch sick on the front of Tate Britain - it's just mental. It was like being in a temple, but crazy. That was my first review of 2021 though, so I wasn't technically all on holiday. What about you, what did you do over December?

I did so much... I started the month by writing a list of different things I wanted to do - part social, part video game, part physical as well. I just achieved so much. I finally pushed myself to be able to run 5K and then did that all the time. I platinumed Death Stranding, which if you play video games, in particular if you've got a PlayStation, you'll know how hard that is. It took me about 160 hours? But I did it. I played The Last Of Us Part One in two days. It was fine, I really liked the story, thought it was a bit too violent for me and I'm scared to play Part Two now because I don't want to murder people in a video game. I played a lot of Hades as well, another game, and I did my taxes. So it felt like my December was just a full on catching up on stuff that people have been recommending and just achieving lots and lots, which I'm really glad about, because I didn't know how much of a turn things were about to take. I'm glad I was able to get all of that checked off before I got sick. Then I got sick.

Dab. (laughter)

I woke up on January 2nd and I had a fever and a cough and I shit myself...

Not literally? You didn't literally shit yourself?

No I didn't literally shit myself.

You said that like you literally shit yourself, like it was a symptom.

No - I emotionally shat myself. Like I braced myself because I thought, what the fuck. As a person I never get sick, I have always been this unstoppable force. I don't know how else to describe it. I've always done so much.

The way I'd describe it is, you're like, hardy. You're very stoic. What it is about you is that, it's not that you're immune to everything, but you don't let these little common colds, it's not a match for you. You will power through. Fun fact about Gabrielle - she doesn't take paracetamol because she doesn't want to build a tolerance to it.

Yeah!

That's crazy.

Oh god, I've taken so much paracetamol this year. Anyway. I felt really bummed out because I didn't know how I'd got it - it's not like I was breaking the rules over Christmas. It's not like I've ever broken the rules! I'm a fucking angel. I woke up on January 2nd and I wasn't well, and I ordered a home test, a postal test to check it was Covid, and over the course of that first week I ended up having to do two postal tests because they sent me a text, a few days later, and said they couldn't read the test. There was something wrong with it, I don't know. My covid was too powerful for the test. So I had to take a second one. But over the course of the first seven days... I was OK at first, I thought it was just a cough and a fever. I thought I'll just take some Ibuprofen and stop it in its tracks. But by the end of the week, I was so tired. I lost my taste and smell, I had insane back pain. I've never had back pain before, it was so uncomfortable. Then the breathing went, and that was the most scary thing. It was really - I don't want to be dramatic, but I think I am traumatised by it all.

That's fair.

I was in my flat, on my own, I remember - because it was just post-Christmas, the country was like, oh shit we need to go back into another lockdown. Because 50,000 people are getting positive tests. I was like, oh fuck, I'm one of them. I was seeing all these news articles, and maybe I shouldn't have been watching the news, but looking at videos of people in ICU wards. It would make me immediately upset because I knew now how they felt, I knew why they were there - I could feel it, the same choke of it all. It was just horrible, it was really scary and it got to a point where I couldn't speak properly because I couldn't breathe enough to speak. I just naturally realised that the only way I could be comfortable was if I was lying on my front, with my head to the side. I would alternate which way my head was. I say that was the only way I could be comfortable but it's also just a really uncomfortable way to put your body, planking forward in your bed. There was one point where I had to call 111 because I was just so worried about it. I was messaging you, messaging friends and family, everyone was amazing and really nice but it just got to a point where I needed to speak to a doctor. I didn't know how bad it was - should I still be at home on my own? I called 111 and that was about two weeks after first getting sick, quite a way into it. And they were really nice and said they don't think I'm going to get worse, they think it'll be the turning point. They sorted me out with an inhaler and Michael, my fiancee, went to Asda, picked up the inhaler and dropped it off to me. The inhaler helped a little bit, and I do think that's when I started to turn around, that day. But it's so strange to look back on all of this. I remember him standing and opening the door and obviously staying two metres away because I was full-on infectious. He passed me the inhaler or threw it or something and I just felt - I'm trapped in this flat, and so I should be, I should be trying to contain it so no one else gets sick but I'm going crazy, I can't breathe, I can't stand up to make food to eat. I know I should be eating healthy things but I just can't stand up long enough to make healthy food and the dishes are piling up because I can't clean them. I didn't shower for two or three weeks, I couldn't do anything. I felt grimy. I felt like mentally grimy. It was the worst thing ever, I do think I'm actually traumatised by it all. It is so shit that I didn't just then get better, it then became long Covid. It's insane to me.

I think it's fair to be traumatised by that though, that's like, crazy, fucking, virus, thriller, apocalyptic.... people keep talking about Covid like it's this apocalyptic moment and so much of that can slip into aphorism or cliche. But you had the actual apocalyptic, the world that contains you, all of a sudden turned. That was that moment for you. It's fair to be traumatised by that, that was traumatising.

 

Yeah. It is so strange. I was also thinking at the time, I didn't think I was going to die, and I knew then that I wasn't going to need to go to hospital, I was just going to have to tough it out. It was the sickest I'd ever been, I couldn't handle it. Especially doing all that on your own, I just can't describe how weird it was and how sad I was. And not even being able to cry because you can't get enough breath out to cry, it's all so dark, so dark.

Oh no, I'm going to cry!

I'm going to cry as well!

It is emotional.

It was so shit, it was so shit. I'm actually crying! God. I remember at the time, reading an article on the BBC, I think it went up the week that I got sick. It said people who experience five or more symptoms are more likely to have lasting effects. I remember also reading in that article that it's more likely to affect women in the long run, and women over 50. I was like, I'm 26, I'm fine! But at the same time, I knew I wasn't going to be fine. I remember thinking, this isn't going to end any time soon, it feels too deeply bad. So when I had Covid, I've got a list in front of me because I can't do this off the top of my head. When I had Covid Covid, capital letters Covid, there were nine symptoms - fever, coughing, tiredness, loss of taste, loss of smell, headaches, back pain, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Nine symptoms, right - it's not like they just magically stopped, it just feels like they changed and they spread out and got comfortable. So nine symptoms with Covid became 15 with long Covid, and they sort of go up and down the ranks. Some days one of them is really centre stage and some days I'll do something and it will trigger four of them, four symptoms. So the new symptoms are - maybe I should give a scenario. This is something that happened IRL. I live in a flat on my own, because it's a little flat there's no stairs between the bathroom and where I sit in the living room, so that's fine. This is important for later. Fatigue is a really major symptom of long Covid and one of my top three that has been affecting me. Because it's so knackering to like, I can't do life administration that you need to keep up with in order to live alone anymore. What are you going to eat this week? How are you going to get the food? How are you going to cook it, or wash the dishes? That is just so impossible, in a way it never was. There have been points, and I know this sounds absolutely disgusting, but just to get real on the White Pube podcast. There have been so many dishes and I just can't do it, I've had to put them in the shower and power-hose them. It sounds horrible! I rinse them first... anyway. That's how intense it has got, I don't have a dishwasher. At this point, it's all accessibility hacks - whatever fucking works. I'll do it. Because all of that is so difficult, immediately after getting sick and when I wasn't infectious anymore, I basically moved into my fiancee's parents' house. The issue is that they've got stairs - it's a house, the bathroom's upstairs. So I still can't really taste and smell in the way that I used to and another symptom is loss of appetite. Zarina, what is my relationship like with food?

Do you know, I think out of both of us, it's really unfair that it happened to you.

 

Yes.

You did not deserve that specifically. Anyone else I'd be like, oh whatever, loss of appetite. Loss of taste, I think, is just whatever - you just carry on. But you hate wasted meals, that's a thing you do not experience.

I hate wasted meals. A wasted meal, for anyone listening, is a wasted meal. It's when you just put something shit together and you eat it, you didn't really enjoy it and it didn't taste good but you ate it anyway. You can't live life having wasted meals, life's too short! You've got to have three good meals every day that you love.

That is you saying that, I do not live that way. I have three wasted meals a day. Maybe I have two good meals a week? The tedium, the tedium! Of three times a day, being like, what would I enjoy? My brain doesn't work like that, I cannot think of three good meals on the spot, that are like, 10/10 and I'm really going to enjoy. But you can. You've got that skill! That's why it is really unfair.

I had that skill, I don't have it anymore. So I've eaten, between the fatigue and brain fog that comes with long Covid, I've eaten so many wasted meals in the past few months. It is depressing. Anyway, I moved into my support bubble house, because then my fiancee could cook instead. He's been making all this food and I've tried to drink as much water as possible, but when you drink lots of water, you need a wee all the time. None of this is an exaggeration - if I go up the stairs, my heart beats at a million miles an hour. Because it beats faster I breathe faster. Because I can't breathe as deeply anymore, I start to hyperventilate, and that's an issue. It's an issue that - I never went to hospital when I had Covid but I went to hospital in an ambulance because of the stairs one day, because of long Covid. I was at the house, I'd gone up and down the stairs too many times, and I was hyperventilating. When you do that it means that your oxygen levels can drop to a dangerous level and that's what happened to me, so the ambulance had to take me in. That's unbelievable, to have gone from a December full of 5ks and enjoying it, to being worried if I have to go up stairs - I can't put it into words. The other thing that comes with that is if I go up and down too many times, or even if I sometimes do nothing at all, I get muscle pain and joint pain that is actually worse than any other symptom on the list, I think personally. It's so painful. It happened to me yesterday, because I stood still in one place for too long. That's also something that brings it on. I was saying to Michael on the phone last night, it felt like my legs were in the bath, they were so hot. I was just sitting on the couch and it felt like my legs were on fire. It feels like growing pains, but also cramp, and sometimes painkillers work, sometimes they don't. A lot of people have recommended magnesium and I haven't noticed a difference with that. I started taking creatine, I stopped because nothing worked with that. It's really difficult because it keeps me up at night, sometimes the leg pain is so bad that I can't sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the night because it still hurts me. That happened last night, I was awake at 5am. It was my first thought - oh I'm awake because my legs hurting. Sometimes it comes on from inactivity, sometimes it's too much activity. It's difficult because it is only me who can learn how to stabilise that, and the pattern of it, and I'm just not at the point where I have found the answers to any of it. Have I got a chronic illness now? How long is this going to last? Nobody knows how long it lasts for, long Covid, they can't entirely say what it is. Some people think it's the immune system going haywire after Covid, some people think that the infection itself is still present but so deeply in your body that the nasal tests and swabs can't pick it up. I don't know. I never want to say I've got a chronic illness, I don't want to put too much weight behind that because I don't know how permanent it is. Maybe in a month I'll be completely different.

Do you think there's a hesitancy - chronic illness feels big. Are you downplaying the things that you're experiencing? You're dealing with the same issues of like, ability and access and all of these things being affected. I think it is a chronic illness.

Yeah, I think... yeah. I should also say, I named 15 symptoms. So a lot of them I've already mentioned. I get pins and needles, and dizziness, after the stairs as well. I get the pins and needles in my arms, which is weird, I've never had that before. Then something that I feel I've not really spoken about too much on the internet - it's hard to find any research on it because all of this is so new - what long Covid has done to my periods. It has sent them fucking haywire. They are more painful than they've ever been, there is no regularity whatsoever, and I'm having the worst PMS I've ever had, I'm not exaggerating. Because of the lack of regularity, I had to take a pregnancy test at one point. But it was just long Covid pretending to be a baby and scaring me.

Ha ha!

I also, less funny than that, there have been really boxed off singular days where I've felt like, what is the point in life? I just couldn't get out of bed, couldn't stop crying. I just felt really incredibly low and I thought, I'm going to be in pain forever, what's the point, what's the point? No one can answer that, so I'm right. Then a few days later I would come on my period. I was like, what the fuck - it was PMS all along. But there's no regularity for me to know that it is PMS. It's so unfair that this is happening. I hate it, I hate all of it. I would not recommend long Covid.

Zero out of ten, would not recommend to a friend.

I hate it. And then I had the vaccine, so Liverpool has had a lot of surplus vaccines because the fucking cosmic scousers aren't getting the vaccine. Zarina's pulling a face, she doesn't know what a cosmic scouser is.

I don't...

Cosmic scousers are the sort of neo-hippies who drink on Lark Lane... they're like the anti-vaxxers and think it's all Government control, whatever.

Cosmic scousers!

There's a lot of surplus in Liverpool, so I got a vaccine. I got Pfizer, I was really grateful to be able to get it. It threw me for a loop. I was so, so ill for a solid seven days after it. It was like a mini Covid again. All the symptoms crunched into a week including changes to taste again. So I had like, metal taste in my mouth for a few days, and I had the vaccine two weeks ago today. My fatigue is still not up to what it was the day before I got the vaccine, if that makes sense. All of it is crazy. I keep feeling really self conscious that we are so visible on the internet and I want to talk about these things and tell people about Covid, because it's interesting, and because I want people to be safe and not get it, most importantly. But also because I want to find the other people who have got long Covid and who maybe have found ways to make the leg pain stop, for example. Some ways to help.

Also to not be alone in it?

Yeah. There's something about the visibility just makes me feel self conscious because there are days when I can do stuff and days when I can't. I don't want people to think oh she's back, she's back to normal now. And then to think that I've lied about any of it, do you know what I mean?

Yeah, it's happened a few times where like, something has come out on someone else's channels, we've recorded something back in November that's just been released. And people are like, oh wow, is Gab back? And I'm like - no - the way that sick leave is conceptualised is like, she's doing this so she must be better, she's back on the mend. I'm sure it comes from a well-meaning place but I dunno, you just need more time to heal and have a lie down. Have a lie down, Gabrielle! Away from other people, away from that pressure of their expectations. You need to be able to put that aside, I don't know if that's entirely possible when it's coming to you through your phone.

Exactly. I woke up today and I said to you, OK let's do the podcast. But maybe tomorrow morning will be a really bad morning. It's so elastic and it's so annoying that it goes up and down in this way. Whenever I've been sick in the past, you just expect this perfect linear recovery, and then full energy and full ability to think. One of the things that has got to me the most is how my thinking has changed through it all. Which, again, I just don't really see people talking about online. Maybe I'm not doing enough research into it all because I don't have the ability to think in that way. I used to have this job as the White Pube which has this whole administrative exercise behind the scenes where we're trying to negotiate jobs, put them into a calendar, and on top of that we have the weekly texts that we write so for me, that also means scheduling in time to play games. On top of that we also have a fortnightly podcast that we were recording, and then getting transcribed. I was also reading texts outloud, live on instagram, there was so much. I also had another job in my self employment where I also run OUTPUT Gallery, on my own, which again is a whole... I had to deliver a whole public programme of shows. Then on top of that, life administration, social life, creative life on top of that, and again- the amount of times I was running around the park and getting really excited about being able to run for a long time. There was this constant mental balance going on of being able to think about these things in a really organised way so that everything functioned. I enjoyed that and I also found it really easy. None of that feels easy now. Compared to what I was doing in December, my ability is like 30% of it. All I do now is write the weekly texts, you handle the emails and everything for the White Pube, and I've given the gallery over to Michael who... I feel like I'm waiting for someone to call nepotism on that, but it's sort of an accessibility thing as well. He's the person I see the most so I can oversee what he's doing in the easiest way and with the most familiarity as well. It would take too much energy to be able to teach someone from the ground up to manage any of that, it's totally an accessibility thing. I feel the need to reintroduce myself to the world because so much as changed. But again, not wanting to put too much weight behind that because I don't know how long this is going to last. It's very weird.

I have a question.

Go on.

I don't know if this is like, a question you'll want to answer... maybe not on the podcast, but it's something I'm wondering. It's like, I mean this as broadly as possible as well. I feel like you have had such a stable relationship with your body, how has Covid changed the way you feel towards it? You don't have to answer that, it's quite personal.

No, it's a really good question. So, the other symptom that I've not mentioned because I'm trying to deny it's happening, and also I don't know if it happening, is hair loss. It's not a listed symptom of Covid, it's a listed symptom that can happen after trauma, whereby the body itself, a few months after something has happened - pregnancy, major surgery, apparently Covid - the body goes into lockdown and only does the things it really needs to do. And growing hair isn't one of those things. Now, I'm noticing that the drain clogs more than usual. I'm noticing even when I'm sitting down, more hair is coming out in my hands. I don't know if it's hair loss or if it's the fact that because of the fatigue I'm probably not washing and brushing my hair as much as I used to, do you know what I mean? So I don't know if it's just hair from that, but it is really making me start to feel a little bit worried. So things like that I've never really thought about. I think I have had a really stable relationship with my body, but in a way where I've not really thought much about it at all. Because my body just functions, it didn't need any attention. I've always had a good relationship with food, and I don't think that has really changed. But it's definitely been challenged because I can't taste food in the same way... everything feels like it needs a lot of salt. I got an M&S meal deal thing yesterday with noodles and duck and a chilli garlic ginger sauce, and loads of veg, and it tasted like nothing. This is more than three months after. It was so disappointing, sitting there, eating out of necessity. I wasn't eating for joy, I wasn't eating because I love food, it felt like a wasted meal even though on paper it was a good meal. That's just been really depressing, the food thing has been really strange. To ask you a question, what's my relationship been like with Coca-Cola?

It's just like a part of you, I think? We've known each other for eight years now, and in the grand scheme of my life, my time not knowing you has been longer, but I cannot look at a can of coke unprompted without thinking of you. Like, that's Gab. It conjures you. Like, you've overtaken Coke in my mind. You're twin entities. It's not even like you drink loads of it, it's just always there.

I just love it, I really love it. I think it's the best drink. So take this information - I've not had a can of coke since the beginning of January.

Shut up, really? Well I guess you can't taste it. But do you not just have it out of habit?

No, because advice given to people with long Covid is that they shouldn't have caffeine. When I first got sick, that very first week, I had a can of coke twice I think. First because I wanted it, I just drank it, I didn't really think about it. At that point I didn't realise my taste was going. Then the day that my taste went, I opened a can of coke and I tasted it and it was like nothing, it was like bubbles. There was a physical feeling but no taste. I left it on the counter there all day and then I just poured it down the sink. Then I learnt that you weren't allowed to have caffeine. That's fine, whatever. But since then, every so often I'll taste a little bit of Michael's drink and it just tastes so artificial. I'm getting this sense that now, and this isn't blanket, across the board, but when I taste things I can taste like, the constituent parts of it. I can't taste the overall flavour that it's trying to achieve. For example, I had a packet of pickled onion Monster Munch and it tasted like popcorn, because I could taste the corn, do you know what I mean?

Obviously there are different tastebuds that can taste different, like salty is one receptor, sweet is another one - do you reckon they're coming back like, in phases?

Maybe, maybe that's the case. So when I tasted Fanta at one point, it just tasted like chemicals. Coke is better, it's less chemically, but because it's a taste I know so well I am using that as a measure and it's just not there yet. It's all very strange.

Gab, that's...

Are you going to cry again?

Honestly, I know all the rest of this stuff, but that, that's the one that's upset me the most!

I can't taste coke!

You have nothing.... like Ian Beale, "I've got nothing left!" can you not just have one thing, one coke? Have the rest, but come on!

So much of it is like that, so in terms of that question, has my relationship with my body changed? I think, definitely. I feel like all those things I did on autopilot, I'm just having to think about in a new way. The appetite thing is really big. Luckily it doesn't feel like it has changed my eating habits, I'm still eating and drinking and all that stuff but the joy is gone. Hopefully it will come back, I'm sure it will. Physically I really miss running and exercise. Before the pandemic started I was doing kung fu two times a week and starting to really fucking love it, getting to a point of doing flying jumps through the air. My flexibility was amazing. I felt strong and really precise in my movements and my footwork. All of the dance of that was so enjoyable. I'm in a Whatsapp chat with my kung fu group and they're starting to talk about, now things are opening up, should we start to practise again, maybe in the park, outside? I can't answer them, because I'm like - guys, what would I say? I can't walk upstairs without getting upset. I can't do any of it! It's really difficult to see a roadmap back out of it all, because I'm really cautious of doing too much, pushing myself back further and the implications that has for when the pain is so bad I can't think. Then I can't write or do work. It's a very, very tightrope to walk.

I think as well, because exercise of any kind has got this mentality or logic around it where like, it's gonna hurt - no pain no gain! You've gotta push through! While that might motivate you as a person, exercise... it might be motivational but sometimes it's not good for your body, you can't push through it. How is that meant to make you feel? That takes a mental toll as well as a physical toll. I just don't think any of that is helpful.

Definitely.

It's just completely the wrong way to go about easing back in to things like that. I don't know. Obviously the whole exercise industrial complex, the gym industrial complex, is toxic anyway...

It is, but then there's the fun of having that routine, and the personal achievements. Like doing Tan Tui, Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. I was so proud to complete that form. I was maybe two weeks off doing my first belt and then the pandemic hit and everything closed down. Now, between like, physical ability and mental ability, I can't remember how to do it or what I would do. That is so upsetting. There are so many values around long Covid that just aren't fixed and it's so unfair, it's so unstable, I don't know how long it is. I don't know how to treat it or how to get better, every day feels different, there's no linear recovery and if you do too much you're going to make yourself worse. That's the picture of it so I feel stuck in this moment, now. In a way it's not too bad of a moment because what I get to do is the thing that I love, I get to play video games and try to write about them. That's really nice. But even there, I feel this massive limit with that because the process of writing is taking me twice as long. The video games I feel able to play are very limited, like there are massive open world roleplaying games that require resource management and orienteering skills to get through. Then the physical coordination of a battle, the speed and the pressure and the anxiety - the good adrenalin that those situations can make you feel, that's what makes video games fun. I just don't feel up to it. It's so broad and my brain feels so much more narrow. I'm really limited in what I can do. All of that is just so not who I have been, and that's what I'm trying to contend with.

 

It's like recalibrating yourself, yeah. It's not just the world that you're in, it's also like, you and how much you're able to, how much of the past self you've been able to slide back into. Not slide back into - but how much of your past self you've been able to carry with you, through this actual trauma that your body has undergone. Of course, inevitably changed it. You need to recalibrate yourself to those new...

New parameters.

Yeah! I just want to give you a hug. We never hug.

It's so strange, we never hug.

We've hugged like twice. I just want to give you a cuddle because like, it's just not been fair. I don't know what to do, as this person that exists, the pandemic has made me your business pen-pal. I don't know what to do other than, I want to give you a hug. It would collapse the business pen pal thing, that's like, not what pen pals do, it's a friend moment. You know? I don't know what other gesture exists to be like hello, I'm your friend and I love you, other than a hug.

I feel that, though. You've taken on so much work where I've not been able to get to it. You're buying me time to get better, which is amazing. There are plenty of people who get Covid and have to go back to work the next day, as soon as their sick leave is over. They are ravaged by the pressures of the state and the system. There are people who get this way but also have caring responsibilities for other people or their kids or whatever. I'm in a really privileged position where I don't have any of that. I'm self employed, you're my business pen pal, and you've been able to buy me time to get better. It really scares me that other people don't get that. I can't believe there isn't governmental sick pay for people who have long Covid. It's really a fucking travesty, it's ridiculous. The fact that there isn't sick pay for Covid itself - there is, but you have to jump through so many hoops and basically already have to be on benefits in order to get it. The reality of it is I got sick on January 2nd, however many months after Covid first hit this country, and the fact that the government was so stupid and unorganised and - as far as I'm concerned they're literally murderers - I wouldn't have got it if they had their shit together. I wouldn't have got it so late in the game if they had their shit together. Why the fuck they removed responsibilities over Christmas astounds me, because that must - even though again, I didn't break the rules but I was still having to go to Tesco to get food. I must have touched something in the shop or touched a door handle on the way in to my apartment building. I don't think Covid would have been on that handle or on that object in the shop if the government had their shit together. I'm sick, months after getting sick for the first time, because of them. I absolutely hate Boris Johnson so much, and every little idiot around him, it pisses me off so bad. I'm literally sick right now, I'm recording this podcast with my legs crossed and my legs are killing because I've had them crossed for a while. It hurts because of them.

It's a direct influence. You are directly affected by the bad decisions that these stupid men, these very, incredibly murderous people. You're right, it is murderous, they are literally murderers at this point. You're directly affected by their bad decision making. I feel like I know why you need to clarify that you followed the rules, because the way that public discourse around this has been happening has been so beneficial to them, and their bad decision making. It has reduced, you got Covid, oh did you follow the rules? People still get it anyway! That's the way that public discourse has been conceptualising it - only the people that don't follow the rules get Covid. If you play the game right, if you're really good at following the rules like me, then you should be fine. And like yeah, you should be fine, but maybe you won't! It's still spreading anyway. I think it is maddening, because as things are opening up now, there was that survey someone did. I think a couple of days ago. It was like, do you think that the British public, like, will people take advantage, or misbehave, as lockdown eases? And everyone said, yes probably, people won't obey the rules, it will go west. What about YOU, do you think YOU will follow the rules? Oh absolutely, I will not be breaking any rules. There is such a lack of faith in the public, it has been reduced to this individual responsibility. Rather than state responsibility. It's not really on any of us, our individual actions, to shoulder the burden of that virus spreading. Surely that's on the Government? They're in charge, I'm not in charge.

There's no consistency there at all, it just doesn't follow through. It's all bullshit. It's all bullshit! I am really glad I've had the first vaccine. I feel different when I leave the house, I feel safer. The only benefit of having had Covid so bad is that my antibodies will be high, and it means then that a lot of people say I will only need one dose of the vaccine to be fully vaccinated. I'm going to get two, I might as well, if it's on offer. I will say, I am absolutely shitting myself about getting the second one because of how sick the first one said me. I don't say that to scare anyone off, I say that to long Covid sufferers in particular to clear out your week, just in case. I'm really scared to get that. I'm worried about what's going to happen next, and the different countries that are advising against getting the vaccine, like the crazy man who runs Brazil. I'm worried about the implications that's going to have on the rest of the world - I just don't see Covid ending for years. It's not going to. As happy as I can feel about getting this one vaccine, it might mean that in a year, I have to get another Covid vaccine for more variants, and how sick these ones made me makes me so worried about having to go through this again and again, because of the ineptitude of other Governments, as well as our own.

They do say - I don't know who says this? Maybe it's just an urban legend. But I keep hearing this, everyone says that if you get knocked out by the first one, the second one won't be as bad. And if you don't get knocked out by the first one, the second one will be bad. I don't know if that's true.

Everyone gets it differently. Some people don't feel anything, I'm just scared, I hate being sick and I've been sick for months and I hate it so much.

I feel like when long Covid... I don't even know if there is a roadmap out of this. When you are out of it, I think you deserve a holiday. Don't come back to work, go to the fucking Maldives. That's, I think, the first thing you should. Post long-Covid checklist for Gabrielle - banana boat.

I really don't want to be dramatic about all of this, even though maybe this has been a really dramatic episode, I can't tell anymore. But the fatigue and the cost of doing different activities that I then have to weigh up. If this lasts for a long time, I might have to think about whether or not I have children. In the past one of my favourite things to do has been to travel to countries on my own, and walk round all day, doing things, and eating food. I couldn't do any of that right now. Will I be able to do that in the future? It's still early days, it really is still early days. In the back of my mind, those are the thoughts that I have, because I miss the old way of life.

My chair was making so many fart noises as you were saying that intense and emotional thing.

Maybe we should give an ending to this podcast, but I don't know what the ending is.

I dunno. Part of me is like, I don't wanna give you, the listener, a point of closure or a neat ending, because this hasn't been a neat, packaged, regular shape for you. So how could we sit here and be like, and then she... had a lung transplant... and lived in the forest with the animals. Do you know what I mean? There's no happy ending because that's not... part of that would be reductive. It would be dishonest.

Yeah, it would.

The ending is, your body says, shut up stop talking that's the end of the podcast. Bye.

It is, God. Wear a mask, guys!

Stay away from each other!

Stay away from each other, wash your hands. None of that worked for me, so I don't know why I'm advising it for anyone else. It's so depressing.

Don't vote Conservative next time, I think.

That's the answer.

If we're going to off load responsibility onto individuals it should be the fucking idiots that voted Tory.

OK! Thank you for listening, and please stay safe.

Love you, bye!