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Covid test anxiety deepened pandemic misery and resurfaced my infertility trauma

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Covid test anxiety deepened pandemic misery and resurfaced my infertility trauma

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I kept staring at the single pink line on the test and squinting. Did I see another line?

Please let there be another line!

I had been waiting for a second line forever, for the indication that I finally had a positive test.

Oh, no, wait. Wait a minute, I had to remember. Although the test looked exactly the same with its blue and pink lines – one for negative and two for positive – and I was still waiting with trepidation for a second line to appear, it was not a pregnancy test .

Who experiences trauma from the pandemic is also informed by how much it evokes our previous mental health struggles.

This was a rapid home test for Covid-19. I absolutely did not want to see a second line appear.

As I waited the required 15 minutes, trying not to stare at the test strips, trying to be calm and casual, trying to maintain a serenity that eluded me for most of pandemic parenting, I didn’t I couldn’t stop my heart from beating furiously.

The Covid test brought back the past trauma of my four years of infertility. At the time, I felt like I was always using test strips: to see if I was ovulating. To see if I was pregnant. To see if the pregnancy line was getting stronger – a faint line could indicate a miscarriage. And then, after a miscarriage, to see if the line was gone so I could start another round of IVF.

It’s been over seven years since I’ve had these tests (our daughter is 6) but the home Covid tests cause me so much anxiety. And I’m not the only one.

Everyone is anxious right now as the omicron variant rages on, averaging over 1.3 million cases a day in the United States. But it is also the tests, the wait – sometimes days for a PCR result – that weigh on us.

The pandemic has worsened all symptoms of trauma and anxiety, according to Katarzyna Dlugosz, a psychotherapist who specializes in treating trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. “People with general anxiety started having panic attacks and insomnia, those who used substances recreationally started abusing them, those with trauma and PTSD started reliving their traumas and their PTSD symptoms more frequently and more intensely.”

Who experiences trauma from the pandemic is also informed by how much it evokes our previous mental health struggles. “Have they been traumatized in the past? Does the pandemic match their personal pattern of past trauma? ” she asks. If so, “these people are particularly susceptible to trauma as a result of the pandemic.”

Four years of infertility traumatized me – and this constant testing definitely triggered it. Fertility, however, isn’t the only reason these tests cause so much panic for many, including me.

“In order to send my son after school, I needed to take a PCR test before I came back, and it’s been a really long wait, and I had this feeling like, ‘Oh, no, it’s gone again’, like it’s March 2020,” said Erin Khar, author of “Strung Out: A Memoir of Overcoming Addiction,” referring to the end of winter vacation.

“I felt that the anxiety I had felt at the start of the pandemic was coming back,” she explained. “I’m scared of having to stop our life for quarantine, the anxiety that my youngest won’t be vaccinated – he’s only 4, and if he was one of the children who would have to be hospitalized – and the anxiety of giving it to other people.

These are also my anxieties. Beyond testing, almost every phone call, text, or email makes my stomach ache. The other day, when I saw a text message from my sister, I freaked out, wondering if that word was “positive.” (He said “nothing”, in response to my question of “What’s up?”)

Every email from school gives me chills. “We regret to inform you that X has Covid…” began the last, and I saw stars in my eyes before I finished the email and learned that my daughter’s class had no not to quarantine. (But she had to take one of those expensive, hard-to-get tests every day to stay in school.)

March 2020 was terrible for almost everyone: so many people died, lost loved ones, lost jobs, homes, income. I was one of millions of mothers blinded and stunned by a 4-year-old clinging to my sweatpants. With every test I take for the hypercontagious omicron, I panic that it’s all going to start all over again.

Dlugosz says she tells her patients to focus on today and “what they can do to feel safer.” She says these days many of her clients feel more in control because they’ve incorporated precautions like masks and physical distancing — and, of course, vaccines.

This is how Khar controls his emotions. “I remember it’s not 2020, and we know so much more and we’re vaccinated – almost everyone in the hospital is unvaccinated – and hopefully we don’t get sick,” she says.

It’s true. My 4 year old is now 6 – and finally vaccinated – back at a school that has pledged to stay open. She left my leggings unwashed for friends, hobbies and sequin crafts (ugh!).

“Believe it or not, the last two years have become a turning point for many people in making better decisions for themselves,” Dlugosz says, noting how many have started prioritizing family, health and to self-care, and to consciously evaluate life choices, goals, relationships, and career paths. “In psychology, we call this post-traumatic growth.”

Well, my family didn’t make any big changes in their lives. But we moved to have a garden and had a puppy for our daughter. We spent more time with my extended family and fewer but closer friends.

And those things will help deal with the pandemic whether I see a second line or not.

Covid test anxiety deepened pandemic misery and resurfaced my infertility trauma

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