Conquering Covid and the Biochemistry of Belief
BY MARY SLAGLE / DECEMBER 1, 2020
Four days before Thanksgiving I was diagnosed with COVID19. I had to get tested when I found out from a neighbor that I had been exposed. Concerns that I would catch it had been on my mind since March, and I had been extra careful to isolate and take precautions. I had even moved to a remote area in the Sequoia National park with a very small population of people. I had been working remotely for my company since the beginning of the pandemic and had very little contact with the outside world. Now I was faced with the reality that someone I had been in contact with had it.
I got tested and was told it would be 48–72 hours before my results came back. So when a few days had passed and I started to feel body aches,chills, a mild fever, and a terrible headache I knew that I needed to contact my doctor to report what I was feeling. I knew what I had — this was no ordinary flu. It felt bigger and had a heaviness to it as if it had been working out and taking steroids. Not all the symptoms matched what I’d been reading about; for example I did not have a loss of taste and smell and I did not have bad nausea. (I would later develop both of these!) The cough and deep pain in my chest was the most worrisome. Having battled both Pneumonia and Valley Fever in my thirties, I was told that once you had these you would likely struggle in the future with any respiratory illnesses.
One of the precautions I had taken months ago was to get a COVID kit — a protocol of 6 different medications to take if the onset of symptoms occurred. My physician and I had agreed on this course since he had successfully treated over 150 patients who contracted COVID and this specific “cocktail of meds” had proven effective for every patient of his. I had a strong belief that even if I did get sick, I would be okay because I was prepared.
My doctor started me on all the medications and after just 24 hours of being down hard with severe symptoms, I received a text from The County Health Department with my positive test results. Clicking on that link and staring at the document that read “Positive for COVID19” I was filled with the reality of this situation. Only a month prior, I had lost a family member to this disease. He was an older cousin on my Moms side of the family and he died alone in a hospital unable to be with family. Now I was faced with a battle with this same virus, isolated in a mountain cabin with my husband as we navigated through this infection together.
I think a difference for me was a belief system — a biochemistry of belief. Scientists and psychiatrists have studied this. Findings of carefully designed research indicate that our interpretation of what we are seeing (experiencing) can literally alter our physiology. In fact, all symptoms of medicine work through our beliefs. Arthur Barsky, a psychiatrist states that it is the patient’s expectations — beliefs whether a drug or procedure works or will have side effects — that plays a crucial role in the outcome. By subtly transforming the unknown (COVID19) into something known, tamed and explained, alarm reactions in the brain can be calmed down. I had a belief in my doctor, his experience and the recommended treatment. I was calm, positive and focused on the best possible outcome.
__________________________________________________________________Related: What we still need to know about the Coronavirus
Days into the protocol and treatment, I was determined to stay positive. I pushed forward even after getting a chest x-ray that showed pneumonia at the onset of the virus. My doctor ordered me a pulse oximeter to use to measure the volume or saturation of oxygen within my bloodstream. Several times a day I checked to make sure it was not dropping below the level he had set. I kept getting myself up and out of bed to walk around and stretch making sure to breathe as deeply as I was able to. I took short walks outside among the Sequoia trees believing that the oxygen they shared with me was somehow extra powerful.
A few friends from work had reached out to encourage me having learned about my diagnosis. My co workers have always pointed to me as the most positive person they know and a bright light in an otherwise grey and dismal corporate landscape. Now this — how can this be and will she be okay? I had one coworker ship me out some of my favorite local honey so I could enjoy it with my hot tea and lemon. I survived for the better part these past 10 days on that golden elixir.
I am told that the fatigue and weakness can linger for 6 to 8 weeks and that there can be residual long term effects such as smell and taste problems, sleep issues, difficulty with concentration, memory problems. These all remain to be seen, and proactively my doctor has ordered a series of Vitamin shots to be administered weekly.
I am turning a corner on this, and I can see the finish line. My husband and I are both so thankful to have been through this together. Our families can at some point very soon be reunited and share a “lates-giving dinner” to make up for missing the holiday. I am optimistic and extremely grateful. Even the reality of contracting COVID19 has has a residual benefit. This experience has shown me how my belief system is the key to my success, and that is a benefit that I plan to continue to build on and share with others.
1. Braden G. The spontaneous healing of belief. Hay House Publishers (India) Pvt. Ltd; 2008. ISBN 978–81–89988–39–5.