Researchers around the world are paying close attention to the lasting physical impacts COVID-19 is having on patients, but one Creston woman is speaking out about the toll the respiratory illness has had on her mental health.
Beth Swalwell, who has lived in town for 25 years, doesn’t know how she contracted the virus, but she suspects it was from her husband’s work travels.
On March 23, they both began showing symptoms, including sore throat, headaches, and dry cough.
“I was never afraid of getting COVID because I’m a healthy person,” said Swalwell. “We had always been hyper vigilant with wearing face masks and washing our hands. There’s not a lot that we could’ve done differently.”
As owner of Art Barn Studio, she immediately cancelled her all-ages art classes and notified students – some of who have underlying health conditions. Her main concern was transmitting the virus and implicating fellow community members.
“It was a huge source of guilt,” said Swalwell.
“People have to quarantine and take two weeks off work, so that affects their family’s income. I was devastated.”
The couple didn’t receive any judgement from their family and friends. Instead, they were eager to offer their help and support.
Although Swalwell was given the all-clear to resume regular activities on April 8, COVID-19 is still impacting her family.
“What I do hope is people understand our feelings of dread and sadness as we wait for updates about my father-in-law, who is in the hospital fighting for his life with the virus that he caught from us,” she said.
Lasting impacts of COVID-19 go beyond physical symptoms
Like many people over the past year, Swalwell felt the detrimental effects of spending time in isolation away from her social circle. Not only that, she also displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I would have flashes of traumatic images like patients on ventilators, people dying in the hospital, and trucks full of dead bodies,” she said.
“I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. COVID may not have been as bad as the kidney stones I had a month ago, but the mental suffering of knowing I might have passed it to other people was terrible.”
Once Swalwell had identified the problem with her doctor, she began to work through it.
It is her hope that sharing her story will lead others to take COVID-19 and the health restrictions – including mandatory mask use – more seriously.
“I just hope that’s something that people can understand, and they might not,” she said.
“When I wear my mask in the grocery store, that’s me saying that I care about you.”
For mental health resources, contact 310-6478 or the Interior Health Crisis Line at 1-888-353-2273 for immediate assistance.
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