A Black Girl’s Guide To Coping With COVID-19

The author, Maiya, while quarantining at home.
At the beginning of the pandemic, like many millennials, I wasn’t too concerned about catching COVID-19. At the time, the media had become a hard resource for me to rely on and, honestly, I thought our government would have had measures in place for these sorts of things. But as the virus spread globally, and I realised its severity and impact on the Black community, I knew that it was not only going to change the world, but my life.
The pandemic led me to move from New York back to my home state of Florida. Florida is known for being messy, but I knew I would feel safer there. Having personal transportation and a larger space to live in made the lockdown more bearable. Besides, at the time, New York City had over 164,000 confirmed cases and Florida had over 34,000. You do the math.
But, on November 13, I tested positive for COVID-19. I thought I was doing everything right, including wearing a mask at all times, keeping six feet away from people, washing my hands, and only going places that the government deemed safe, which eventually included the gym. I know, I know, you’re probably wondering why I would return to a place that’s a hotspot for mixing bodily fluids, but my fitness facility was practicing social distancing and I didn’t see it as a risk because there was barely anyone there. Then, one day in October, I walked in and the gym was at full capacity. I was shook. The Taurus in me refused to slack on my physical fitness goals so I stayed, but I soon realised that the places where you feel most safe are the places where you need to take the most precautions. I can now pinpoint the exact class in which I contracted the virus that has been disproportionately killing Black Americans. While HIIT training became an integral part of my fitness routine, it was also my biggest mistake.
I wanted to share my journey with COVID so that, hopefully, people can learn from my mistakes. If you haven’t experienced the frustration, exhaustion and fear that comes with getting the virus, even if it’s a minor case, I hope you never have to. If you have COVID and are feeling helpless or isolated, know that you aren’t alone. Here’s my unofficial, non-medical, homie-to-homie advice. 

COVID hits different for Black families because of our history with pre-existing medical conditions, which scared me even more.

Listen to your body and get tested! 
COVID was unlike any other cold or flu I’ve had. It started with a continuously intense burning in my nose. Then, I lost my sense of taste and smell. These symptoms are common, according to the CDC. But my nose wasn’t stuffy, my throat didn’t hurt and I didn’t have a cough. When my body started overheating to the point of sweating and fatigue, I realised that this was more than my annual cold and that I should get tested.
Protect yourself — and others — at ALL times
If you are indoors, even in places where you feel safe, wear a mask and stay six feet apart. A minor slip up like mine can cause you to come in contact with the virus without you even knowing. You could also be an asymptomatic carrier so, again, for the people in the back, WEAR A MASK. 
During the whole process it was important to me that I sheltered my mama from getting the virus. My mum is a cancer survivor with a compromised immune system, and I would have never forgiven myself if I had gotten her sick. Her results came back negative but I felt so guilty for bringing the virus into her home. I felt like I had put her life in so much danger. And for what? A few squats and burpees. Being the amazing mother and woman that she is, she promised me that everything was going to be alright, but I knew looking into her eyes she was scared. It was a look I never want to see again.
COVID hits different for Black families because of our history with pre-existing medical conditions, which scared me even more. To make sure that my mama was protected, I quarantined myself in my room. No one was allowed in but me, and I wore a mask at all times. Communication was limited to texts and phone calls and if I needed to use a common area, such as the kitchen, I would call to make sure she wasn’t in there first. 
Prepare for the ride of your life — but don’t drive yourself crazy
The first two weeks were a roller coaster of various symptoms. One minute, I felt fine. The next, I’d be so drained I had to lay down. 
To help manage my symptoms on the day to day, I also turned to Jamician home remedies. I took notes from YouTubers like OkayAfrica and Chef Ricardo Cooking, and my best friend, Zoda. I ended up making a tea that consisted of mint leaf, ginger, lemon, turmeric, and honey. Nearing the home stretch, I tried garlic and Wray & Nephew rum, which ended up loosening up mucus that I didn’t even know was in my chest.
My biggest symptoms were loss of taste and smell, and to this day, they have not completely returned; both go in and out depending on the day. It’s possible that they may never fully return. I’m keeping an open mind about the future since the long-term side effects of the virus are still mostly unknown. I’m crossing my fingers that I don’t have any.
And for overthinkers like me, doomscrolling is never a good idea. While scrolling through social media one night, I came across a video of a nurse talking about patients who survived COVID—no matter the age and previous health standing— having seizures caused by tumours. This sent my brain into overdrive, especially reading the comments, which wasn’t healthy for my healing process. Bottom line: try to stay positive and Google is not your friend! 

I decided that when I beat it, I was going to press play on every idea or project I had on pause.

maiya carmichael
Stand on the shoulders of your emotional support team
It felt like there was no escaping the virus. It was so upsetting when I retested on November 20, a week after my first diagnosis, and I was still positive. I didn’t have a stuffy nose or chest congestion so I didn’t know what to do. Turns, out, crying hysterically because of the situation’s emotional weight is a great way to clear out mucus, but it’s probably not the healthiest option to start the healing process. All of the emotions that come with COVID made it important to have a strong support system. Keeping your spirits high during this difficult time is key. 
My tribe consisted of my best friend and my mum. Even though they couldn’t physically be around me, they were the foundation of my healing process. Making sure that your friends are mentally ready to receive what you’re about to say is important too. I always started our conversations with, “Do you have the mental capacity to talk right now?” 
Let this experience ignite the fire inside you
On December 1, I tested negative for COVID-19 and it was the best feeling ever. Over time, my energy level increased, allowing me to start working out again — NOT at the gym of course. I started jogging on a trail near my house which helped with my physical and emotional recovery. Throughout my journey with COVID, the main thing that ran through my mind was, If I died today would I be happy with my life? The honest answer was... no. So, I decided that when I beat it, I was going to press play on every idea or project I had on pause. In the past, I allowed fear to get in my way, while pushing my happiness to the side. Over the past few months, I’ve learned that the smallest things can change your life, so I might as well live it to the fullest. COVID aside, 2020 definitely isn’t taking any prisoners.

More from Mind

R29 Original Series