(This is the story of my “lesson” from my first COVID. It happened two months ago, and I finally had the time to write this out.)
After Taiwan finally opened up the border in September 2022, I booked the tickets to go home. It’s been too long since I last saw my family. I can’t wait to go home. I had FIVE COVID shots and Flu Shots to prepare for this trip. I was so happy to see my family and friends and had a lovely vacation in Taiwan.
I was fully ready to go back to work. On the flight from Tokyo to Boston, one of the passengers sitting nearby me threw up 20 minutes after the plane took off. So, I was extra careful after arriving in Boston to return to work. I tested myself 1-2 times a day, in the morning before I went to work and at night after coming home from work.
Still, the Thursday (1/12), after returning home from work, I tested positive for COVID! Thankfully, all my clients were very understanding, and I was able to stay at home recovering from the initial symptoms.
A week after I confirmed COVID, I tested negative (1/20) and was ready to return to work the following week! However, I tested positive again the next day (1/21), with some symptoms returning!
Words cannot express my frustration, anger, and fear. I tried to rest, hydrate, and eat well over the weekend. There was a part of me hoping this was just a nightmare, and I would wake up on Monday to find myself testing negative to return to work on Tuesday.
As Monday rolled in (1/23) and I was still testing positive, I felt depressed and powerless. Then, finally, I realized that I could do nothing and started to feel helpless.
Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, inspired by her work with terminally ill patients, proposed the five stages of grief and the concept of “acceptance.” These five stages were: denial, anger, bargaining/negotiation, depression, and acceptance.
I observed myself and many of my clients going through this cycle. As I sat in my bedroom on Monday (1/23) morning, I could see that I went through the process of denial (“Maybe it will go away tomorrow morning if I hydrae and rest.”), anger (“how could this come back after I just went through this?”), bargaining/negotiation (“I still have the weekend to change the course. I will rest and hydrate more this weekend. I will see how it goes until Monday.”), and depression (“there is nothing I can do but quarantine for another five days now.”)
As I sat in my powerlessness and depressive mood, I knew that I had to accept the situation and let it go. Still, I was agitated, and the more I tried to convince myself to “just accept it and let it go,” the more upset I felt. Then, I found myself ruminating about the entire situation, from landing in Boston to sitting in the bedroom frustrated.
Being an EMDR practitioner, I always return to my body and physical sensation to work through my issues.
The following steps were what I went through. Being an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) certified clinician, I always used EMDR’s four elements, images, physical sensation, cognition, and emotions, to assist me in discovering the resources in me. I hope it will be helpful to you if you ever find yourself in a situation where you know “there is nothing I can do to change the situation.”
Step 1: I pictured the worst part of the image for myself, in this case, the COVID rapid test with a positive outcome.
Step 2: I closed my eyes and pictured the “two red lines” on the COVID rapid test. I started to notice my breathing. I found myself breathing short and shallowly. Then, I saw the tension, and it was my chest.
Step 3: I experienced anxiety, agitation, and powerlessness. As I focused on the tension in my chest, I asked myself, “what do you (meaning the tension in my chest) want to say to me?”
Step 4: Suddenly, I realized that I was feeling fearful and “out of control.” At this point, I realized the fear of lacking income for a month now (since the holiday of 2022). I also discovered the fear of uncertainty and not knowing what to do if the uncertainty continues.
Step 5: As I faced fear and uncertainty, I suddenly experienced a sense of curiosity. I asked myself: “tell me more about the fear and uncertainty.” My body told me, “I feel like I am a burden to my clients. I am canceling their appointment for another week. I feel like I am a disappointment to them.”
As I finally faced my biggest fear, “I am a disappointment to my client,” I felt sadness and acceptance of my powerlessness.
I realized that I had done my best in the past three years to keep myself healthy and offer a healthy and clean environment. I have done my best, and if that’s not enough, I could accept being a disappointment to my client.
Looking back, I realized it’s easier to say, “just let it go.” However, to “let it go,” a person needs to first “accept it.” “Acceptance” sounds simple but not easy. To arrive at the “acceptance” stage, an important step has to happen: face me with honesty and curiosity. When I met myself with honesty and curiosity, I learned about my deepest fear (“I am a disappointment”) and could let the fear, powerlessness, and anxiety all go (“It’s Ok if my best is not enough for other people.”).
In all the EMDR processing, we asked the clients, “what is the information you learned about yourself today that is new/useful/helpful, etc.?” So, in conclusion: I learned from this experience that “face it, accept it, and then let it go” is the roadmap when I am powerless and lacking control.