What I Learned About Myself During My Extremely Cautious COVID-19 Isolation
4 min read | Apr 2022

What I Learned About Myself During My Extremely Cautious COVID-19 Isolation

I had some surprising revelations during my week of quarantine.

NORTHERN DREAMER / Millennial / Socialist / Student

Life in a pandemic is something that we have all navigated differently. I personally have been the super cautious friend.

The friend who sits at a distance and refuses to go on nights out. The all-around party pooper. Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t wanted to make memories again, but my fear of infecting those closest to me is something that I just can’t shake off. But despite all of this, I am also somehow the friend who caught COVID—typical, right?

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I Went Through a Whirlwind of Emotions After Testing Positive

I spent Christmas at home with my parents, visiting elderly relatives from a distance, all whilst watching the daily cases rocket on the evening news. I took a test before traveling back to uni, which, to my delight, showed only one red line. But a few days later, stuck between the four walls of my uni accommodation, a precautionary test showed that the previously single red line now had a friend. Positive. 

Suddenly, I was one of the statistics that I had been tracking on the news, and my first response was a wave of anxiety. Who had I been in contact with? Who had I put at risk? I just couldn’t bear the thought that I had been walking around potentially infecting others. And I also couldn’t bear the uncertainty of the effects that the virus might have. But then my next reaction was denial. I could still smell the awful jasmine-scented reed diffuser that I had put in my room a few weeks before—I really wished that I couldn’t! So if I could still smell, didn’t have a cough or temperature and could still taste my supermarket’s finest tortellini, could I really have COVID? Well, a follow-up PCR said yes, I could. 

So I was back at uni, stuck between four walls with the world passing by outside of my window and two bright red lines staring at me from my desk. My boyfriend was only going to be in the city for one week until he headed off for work, and I was going to be stuck indoors for at least that length of time and maybe more. It really wasn’t the ideal start to my time back at uni, and the thought of being alone for that length of time, potentially feeling unwell, filled me with dread. But whilst there was so little to do in a week of confinement, one thing that I definitely did was learn a lot about myself.

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While Quarantining, I Learned About Myself and My Values

Firstly, I learned that I like to overthink. Me? Overthink? Well maybe. From trying to calculate when I might have caught the virus and who I might have caught it from, to panicking that my housemates might catch it from me. I was wearing a mask in the shower, opening doors using paper towels and washing my hands before ever emerging from my room—wearing a mask, of course! It was an entirely exhausting process, but if nothing else, it made me realize just how much I care for others. Maybe a little too much sometimes. But everyone was fine in the end, so I guess being overcautious paid off. As for the calculations, they were a total waste of energy! With none of my recent contacts testing positive, there was no way that I could have ever pinpointed when and how I caught COVID.

The second thing that my isolation experience taught me is that sometimes the sound of my own voice doesn’t quite cut it. There really is nothing quite like a good old catch-up when you’re not feeling on top of the world. As the days felt long and the boredom had set in, I tried to fill the silence with the sound of friends and family on the phone. Listening to the riveting updates that I was in my room, I was tired and I was still testing positive on a lateral flow presumably wasn’t a highlight of their day, but they listened anyway. They sent me treats in the mail, left cakes on my doorstep and streamed some questionable choices of movies for us to watch together online. It made me appreciate even more that I really am surrounded by the best people and, at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

The next thing that I learned during isolation is that I can, in fact, leave windows open. Huh? What a great achievement. A crucial personality trait of mine that I haven’t yet revealed is that I am terrified of spiders. Even hypnosis hasn’t helped me with that. So I really hate to leave windows open in case any eight-legged friends decide to take a vacation in my room. But with a desire for fresh air on my days stuck indoors, my windows were propped open. Now, that is an achievement in my eyes! 

And this kind of, although in a jovial sense, links with the final thing that I learned during isolation: Even when things are tough, I continue to surprise myself. The thought of being alone in a room for at least a week with the fear of infecting my housemates and the worry that I had already infected others was overwhelming, to say the least. But actually, my inner optimist made the best of the situation. Every day, I took control by making a plan. I sat at my desk and wrote out my goals for the day. Whether it was to finish reading a paper, finalize a chapter of my thesis or simply enjoy watching an episode of my latest favorite show on Netflix, adding structure to my day really made my time in solitude better.

And despite gazing out of my window, enviously watching passersby and wishing that I, too, could enjoy a daily dose of fresh air, I read my way through isolation. I had a head start on a term’s worth of work, and I realized that the things that truly bring me joy are spending time with my nearest and dearest and exploring the world around me rather than being in one place. My time in isolation certainly was a rollercoaster of emotions but it was also an enlightening learning experience that I didn’t know I needed.

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