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For some who have recently contracted Covid, an unexpected emotion: relief

When Daniel Storm found out he had Covid-19, he was shocked. He had been so careful, barely socializing and always wearing a mask whenever he left the house.

The results of his PCR test arrived via email on January 8. As he eyed the word “positive,” Storm, 52, of Wilmington, North Carolina, said he felt angry and disappointed.

Then relief washed over him.

“I feel like I walked on pins and needles, like the omicron was everywhere,” Storm said of the hypertransmissible variant of Covid.

He had received his shots and his Covid booster, but he was terrified of unwittingly passing the virus on to someone more vulnerable. Getting news of his case – which ended up being asymptomatic which he discovered while testing on a whim – allowed Storm to isolate himself at home and feel more relaxed afterwards, both for him. himself and for those around him.

“I feel even more protected now,” he said.

As the pandemic enters its third year, some with recent Covid diagnoses are finding that contracting the disease they’ve worked so hard to dodge for so long has brought them unexpected respite from the anxiety – instead of the further aggravate.

Their relief is hardly universal, given that the disease remains a serious threat to the immunocompromised, the elderly and many others.

But for people at low risk of complications from Covid, a positive test result at this stage of the pandemic can bring surprisingly positive emotions, along with a range of other feelings.

It may sound illogical, but psychologists say it’s an example of anticipatory anxiety, where the fear you feel before an event ends up being worse than the event itself.

“You’re in this constant state of anxiety of ‘What if I get it? “It kind of gives you permission to stop caring a bit.”

This may be especially true with omicron, which studies suggest causes less severe symptoms than previous variants, especially for vaccinated people.

As a result, many, especially those vaccinated and boosted, say contracting Covid despite their best efforts to avoid it felt like an opportunity to surrender.

“We don’t have to worry and wait anymore,” said Sarah Moon, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, who received her recall and just tested positive on Friday after her 4-year-old child, Mira, had Covid earlier in the week. “The bad thing happened, and now we can get to work dealing with it.”

But experts warn that no one should intentionally research Covid.

“There is an individual, social and public health responsibility for everyone not to get sick because they tend to make other people sick,” including those who could have life-threatening complications or those who are not. eligible for vaccinations, such as children under 5, Dr. Robert said. Havey, associate director of the Havey Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Additionally, he added, there is still a degree of unpredictability about who might be hospitalized or develop long Covid.

“You don’t know if you’re going to have bad luck,” Havey said.

Short-term relief? What we know about immunity after infection

Whether you’re vaccinated or not, contracting Covid boosts your immunity to reinfection – at least in the short term.

‘It’s like getting a little booster shot,’ Havey said, explaining that it’s ‘very unusual’ for people who don’t have a weakened immune system to be re-infected within 90 days of having Covid. .

After that, all bets are off. Havey saw a dramatic increase in reinfections with the arrival of omicron in patients who caught earlier strains.

Reinfections occur in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, he said, although protection thereafter is stronger in vaccinated people.

Yet the relief after catching Covid can be more than just a sense of protection.

Makie Fuse, 30, lives in Melbourne, Australia, a country that used strict lockdowns to contain the pandemic earlier and is now seeing record numbers of infections amid the spread of omicron and d easing of restrictions.

Fuse is not yet eligible for her Australian recall, but she has received her first two Covid shots. She tested positive last week after developing a sore throat which has steadily worsened to the point of being “unbearable”, she said.

Makie Fuse.Courtesy of Makie Fuse

She was scared when she found out she had Covid, but after so long thinking she might have it, she said there was also something relieving in knowing she finally had it do.

“For the past two years, we have been so stressed by the confinements, but also by the symptoms. Every headache, every sore throat, every feeling of tiredness can be a symptom,” she said.

It was as if it was the first time that she didn’t have to question herself.

“It was this relief of ‘I’m not crazy. I feel this, and I tested positive, and I’m going through something that a lot of other people have been through as well,'” she said.

“It was this relief of ‘I’m not crazy. I feel this, and I tested positive, and I’m going through something that a lot of other people have also been through’

In Rhode Island, Moon’s daughter contracted a mild case of Covid, but Moon, her husband and 6-year-old son, all vaccinated, initially tested negative. By the end of the week, Moon had developed symptoms.

She compared the arrival of Covid in her home to a horror movie.

“I’ve been waiting for this. You’ve been in this horror movie and you’ve been running around for so long that you know the bad guy is going to show up and get you,” she said.

Catching Covid is not inevitable

While experts agree it may seem like Covid is unavoidable, they say it’s not inevitable that everyone will get it.

There are signs that the omicron-induced surge may soon peak nationwide, and it has already begun in some parts of the country.

As we go through the peak, Havey said, it’s important to take the same precautions that have been recommended throughout the pandemic: wear masks, wash your hands, and get vaccinated and boosted, if you don’t. haven’t already done.

And there are ways to feel less anxious without having to go through Covid to get there, Wright said.

You might be comfortable going to a restaurant for a week, then the cases go up and you go back. It’s about allowing you that flexibility without judgment.

“It really comes down to focusing on what’s in your control, making sure you’re always doing the protective things you need to do, and avoiding high-risk situations, especially if you have a vulnerable person in your life. life,” she said. “Once I’ve done all of these things, how can I continue to live my life in a way that protects me but doesn’t make me feel stuck?”

Everyone’s risk tolerance will be different, she said, and could vary from day to day depending on factors such as changing infection rates in a community or simply the mood of the individual. someone.

“Give yourself permission to fluctuate a bit, because you might be comfortable going to a restaurant for a week and then the cases go up and you go back down,” Wright said. “It’s about allowing you that flexibility without judgment.”

For Storm, being vaccinated, boosted and now clear of his asymptomatic infection makes him comfortable enough to go see a local band outside, something he probably wouldn’t have done before he got sick. He’s not ready to go to a place like a movie theater and sit next to a stranger whose vaccination status he doesn’t know.

But because Covid-19 is likely to become an endemic disease, like the flu, he hopes to find a way to safely resume more of his pre-pandemic activities.

“I’m not going to be locked in my house,” he said. “I’m just going to do my best.”

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