Wednesday 6 April 2022

Pathologically (Covid) Positive

If you follow me on social media you’ll have seen that I’m currently on a fortnight’s holiday from work. I rented a car for the first week and took little excursions and day trips here and there in the northeast of England. Alnwick. Bamburgh. Belsay. Otterburn. It was good to be behind the wheel after more than two years, and to revisit places I’ve not seen since the start of the pandemic. My modest adventuring stalled, however, when I developed a cough late last week. I took a lateral flow test on Saturday which confirmed I’d picked up a coronavirus infection from somewhere. It was bound to happen at some point. I’ve had all my jabs but that was never a guarantee I wouldn’t catch it.

I can’t say where, when, or from whom I contracted it. I imagine it was one of the restaurants or coffee shops I visited last weekend or at the start of the week. I’m not mad at whoever passed it on to me. Maybe they were asymptomatic and had no idea they were contagious. Maybe they thought it was just a cold. Maybe they suspected what it was but figured they were unlikely to pass it on. Maybe they planned to take a test but couldn’t get to the shops or pharmacy. None of us is perfect. I’ll own my share of the responsibility. I’ve continued to wear a face mask when grocery shopping or on public transport, but I’ve become less strict about wearing a mask in other settings, social distancing and other measures since England officially emerged from its pandemic regulations. Maybe I’d have avoided catching it if I’d been more careful. My main concern now is not to pass it on to anyone else.

The first thing I did was cancel the plans I’d made for the weekend and for this week. It’s a shame to spend the second half of my holiday keeping as much to myself as possible, but fortunately my symptoms have been relatively mild. I’ve a cough, a sore throat, and was very fatigued and “wiped out” for a couple of days, but it’s not been too bad. I’m grateful for the vaccination and booster shots which make it — for me so far at least — little worse than a heavy cold. So, instead of grumbling (too much!) about the things I didn’t or won’t get to do while I wait it out, I’ll focus on what I was able to do last week, what I can do this week, and whatever positives I can take from the experience.

My holiday fortnight began two Fridays ago with a lovely evening out with friends in Newcastle. Before falling ill, I managed three trips to the Blacksmiths cafe at Belsay, an afternoon at Alnwick Garden, a trip to Otterburn Mill, breakfast at The Barn at Beal, a visit to Bamburgh, and meals out at several local pubs and restaurants Other wins from the first week of my holiday include learning how to use the WAZE navigation app on my phone to replace my ancient TomTom satnav device, and the book giveaway Fran and I ran for World Bipolar Day. Over five days we gave away 150 Kindle copies of our books (130 copies of High Tide Low Tide, and 20 copies of No One Is Too Far Away). It’s good to think of all those new folk reading our words for the first time and — hopefully — finding something there to help and inform them.

Despite needing to isolate as much as possible, there are some things I can look forward to this coming week. I can take local walks — weather permitting! I can maybe arrange some nice video calls with friends, to make up for not being able to meet in person. (As I said to one of my friends the other day, “You can’t catch covid from an e-hug!”) I can practice my Teeline shorthand, which I’ve been meaning to pick up with again. I can also write, if I’m not feeling too run down.

I’m smiling to myself as I jot down all these things I have to be grateful for and look forward to. I remind myself that it’s okay to feel rough, ill, sad, disappointed, or annoyed. I don’t have to “look on the bright side” all the time! That’s true, of course. Being overly optimistic or positive isn’t a healthy trait. It is part of my psychological DNA, however. The title I chose for this post is a gentle reminder that Fran used to call me pathologically positive, and she didn’t mean it as a compliment! I’ve written about this before, including in this article about things I’ve found hard — but necessary — to hear from Fran and other friends who live with illness.

Fran calls me pathologically positive and it’s not meant as a compliment. We only met at all because she was furious at my inept response online to someone in suicidal distress. I’ve always been a positive person, but mostly I deployed it defensively to avoid facing up to how shitty life gets. It’s been hard to accept this was hopelessly naïve and prevented me engaging fully with life and with other people. [...] I’m learning that courage isn’t about being relentlessly positive. Real courage is dealing with the shittiness of life when you’re unable to set it aside or run away from it.

I explored the idea further in an audio piece you’ll find on our YouTube channel. Recorded the morning after the UK general election in December 2019, I discuss my pathological positivity in relation to politics and privilege. Listening to the recording again today as I write this latest blog post (in between coughing and sipping at my mug of Lemsip) I’m reminded how privileged my life has been throughout most of my life — and still is.

I have covid right now. It’s not a fun experience, but I’m fully vaccinated and able to take time to rest and attend to my symptoms. My general health is such that a week with covid is unlikely to pose any dangers. It sucks being ill when I’m on holiday (could this not have waited until I was back at work?!) but I’m fortunate in having a job at all. I get paid holidays, and paid sick leave. Falling ill is inconvenient but my job, home, income, and livelihood are not at risk. I can afford — literally and figuratively — to be positive about my present situation, but it’s important for me to remember how privileged a position that is, and hold myself open to hearing, helping, and supporting those who find themselves in less fortunate circumstances.

Pathological or not, that’s one positive I can take away from this experience.



  1. I Hope you're feeling better and soon funky recovered ... Big e-hug from me ...

    Charlotte(s Notebooks )

    1. Awww, thanks, Charlotte! That's so kind of you!

  2. I hope you feel better soon!

    1. Thanks, Lydia, I'm pretty much recovered now. Appreciate your good wishes! 🙂