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We need to talk about Long-Covid

0 2 years ago

Until recently, I worked as the Clinical Psychologist in a specialist Long-Covid Service for NHS staff members. Grace, a Physiotherapist living with Long-Covid, was referred to the service by her manager. She saw myself and the rest of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) during her attendance of the Long-Covid self-management group, plus some additional 1:1 support from the team Physiotherapist. Here, she outlines what her Long-Covid journey has been like so far, to set the context for what follows from me.

The perspective of someone living with Long-Covid

“My name is Grace. I tested positive for Covid-19 in October 2020, and have had to make adaptations across all areas of my life ever since.

I was 32-years-old when I got Covid. At the time, I was working four days a week plus additional work due to the pressures of the pandemic on the NHS. I was also teaching online fitness classes from home via Zoom. Myself and everyone around me thought that I would bounce back within no time and be back at work after my isolation period ended. This was not the case.

Four months later, I remained off work. Even when I did return, a very graded phased return had to be put in place. I struggled to accept my new diagnosis and would frequently demonstrate a ‘boom and bust’ approach, which frustrated me even further. Previously I was someone who was always on the go; Long-Covid meant that I needed to nap after having a shower. A mixture of old and new symptoms would come and go with no pattern.

I buried my head in research looking for answers, but couldn’t find anything. The thought of not knowing when or if the symptoms would completely go away was exasperating. Eventually I decided to ask for help and have been mourning the loss of the ‘old Grace’ ever since. I have been learning to pace, plan and prioritise, and am now listening to my body and what it needs. Long-Covid symptoms vary from minute to minute, never mind day to day, so the unknown is scary. Making plans is difficult, because I cannot anticipate how I am going to be, which often causes me to avoid social engagements. This makes me very isolated and I often feel alone, especially when no-one around can truly understand what I am going through.

Recovery from Long-Covid is not linear, but we all seem to be learning this the hard way. I have created some YouTube videos about my own experience called ‘My Long COVID journey podcasts – Grace Ferguson’). I have also created a video in conjunction with the Scottish National Wellbeing Hub, discussing my return to work.”

A psychologist’s perspective

Many different approaches to managing the spread of Covid-19 and mitigating its impact on health services have been taken, with advantages and disadvantages to different approaches (Siddaway, 2020). In this article, I argue that, as psychologists, we need to focus our professional efforts not just on Covid-19 but also on Long-Covid.

I view Long-Covid as a serious, complex long-term health condition that can be very challenging to live with and have a devastating impact on people’s lives. My experience, and that of other psychologists I have talked to who work in clinical health psychology across the UK, suggests that awareness, knowledge, and attitudes towards Long-Covid and other long-term health conditions continues to be highly variable, including amongst health professionals. Disbelief and stigma continue to be common experiences, with many told or treated as though ‘it’s all in their heads’.


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