I got both of my Pfizer vaccinations in April 2021. 4 months after, I tested positive for Covid and was sick for 2 weeks. I’m pretty sure this makes me a Delta variant breakthrough case. Here’s my Covid experience.
It started in Mexico
My Mexico trip lasted 3 weeks. The first 2 in San Miguel de Allende with friends, and the last week solo traveling in Guadalajara. It was on this last leg of the trip that I contracted Covid.
How did I get Covid? Here’s my best guess: I was going out almost every night drinking tequila, mezcal and my favorite cocktail carajillo. If you know me personally, you know I don’t drink much—but I’m a social drinker especially when traveling. This matters because alcohol + bad sleep = compromised immune system.
Going out every night in a country with low vaccination rates also increased my exposure. Talking to locals, I learned that there was a shortage of vaccines, and some people were still waiting for their first or second dose.
Before my flight back to LA, I had to get tested. Here was the sequence of events:
- Tested negative Saturday afternoon
- Saturday night: went out, drank, slept late.
- Sunday night: Felt bad in the morning but shook it off as hangover from the previous night.
- Monday morning: I had a morning flight so the adrenaline rush of packing and flying back distracted me from feeling sick.
- Monday afternoon: the moment got home and stepped through my front door, I thought: “Oh shit. I’m sick.”
I did some Googling and chatted with my mom on the phone. She told me to just assume I have Covid and start quarantining. That was a good call.
Days later, I did a drive through test a Kaiser to confirm, and indeed I tested positive for Covid. Kaiser doesn’t tell me which variant I got, but I’m pretty sure this must have been the Delta breakthrough case.
My experience being sick with Covid
Week 1: Feeling like death
The first week was the worst. Fatigue like no other, my energy was zapped. Bad headaches concentrated in the forehead and top of my head.
The most obvious external symptom was a hacking dry cough that took my voice out for a while. I lost my sense of smell. My favorite thing in the morning is grinding freshly roasted beans and burying my nose in the container to take a deep whiff. I realized my sense was gone when I did this and didn’t smell the coffee.
But the scariest part was subtle: BRAIN FOG. I couldn’t think as clearly. I made a lot more typos than I usually would. I’d look at messages I wrote and realized some of them felt off or strangely worded.
As bad as my symptoms were, at no point did I ever feel like I needed to go to the hospital. I didn’t have trouble breathing, and most of the Covid experience felt like a really bad flu, with some additional symptoms.
Week 2: Feeling slightly better
Everything in week 1 but dialed down by 30%. I felt good enough to work a few days, but I was more easily exhausted. What would take me 1 hour would take me 2, especially mental work.
I got better over time, but day by day recovery felt nonlinear. One day I’d feel great in the morning, and like shit in the afternoon. Another day I’d feel like I beat Covid, for things to only return the next day.
Week 3: On the path to recovery
Seeing the light! By this time most symptoms faded away. Only slight fatigue and headache. But at the tail end of this week, I had a strange reversal of symptoms. Massive fatigue that had me bedridden. It felt like the virus was dying inside of me and trying to make one last go of it. That lasted for two days.
Week 4: Normal-ish
A month into having Covid, I felt 90% back to normal. I lost 5 lbs #DeltaDiet. I recovered just in time (with a 2 week buffer) to go to the Same Same But Different Festival.
There are still some symptoms that persist at a subtle level, like brain fog. My sense of smell recovered a bit, 80% back to capacity from my non-scientific estimation.
There were some days I felt fatigued, but I didn’t know if that’s just from normal exertion or the ongoing recovery. This made me feel confident that I was almost back to normal – if I couldn’t really distinguish the difference, then I counted that as a successful recovery.
What I didn’t experience: fever, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, strength. I was surprised I could still lift weights and eat lots. I strongly believe that my symptoms would’ve been a lot worse if I hadn’t been vaccinated.
Things that helped in my recovery
I was the most worried about brain fog, and worried that the mental symptoms would persist long term. Googling my symptoms just made me more neurotic.
None of this is medical advice. Just things that I tried:
- Brain health supplements: I upped my dosage of brain health supplements like fish oil and foods rich in good fats, like salmon and sardines. I also just upped any vitamin intake I had, especially Vitamin D and C.
- Mushroom supplements: I took the OM Master Blend mushroom powder at least once a day. I also took some medicinal mushrooms, which is a story for another time. But I think it helped save my brain.
- All the home remedies: I increased my intake of turmeric (good antioxidant) and black pepper, the latter which increases the absorption of curcumin.
- Exercise: I continued lifting, and tried to go outside more (masked) to regulate my mood. I felt pretty depressed at times and movement helped a lot.
- Essential oils to help with smell: To stimulate my sense of smell, I would smell a variety of essential oils including rosemary, lemongrass, peppermint, grapefruit and lavender. There are some studies suggesting that smell training may help with anosmia, the loss of sense of smell.
Closing thoughts on my Covid illness
I can call myself a Covid survivor. What a nice way to participate in the Zeitgeist of 2021. Since I have natural antibodies now, I consider it getting a free booster shot.
I’m thinking of delaying my booster ~6 months from recovering, also in hopes that the new booster will address more variants.
I get really annoyed when people make the anti-vax argument that not a lot of people die from Covid, especially if you’re young and healthy. Take it from someone young, healthy, vaccinated and still got Covid: you don’t want it.
If you’re on the fence about getting vaccinated, consider this a strong “Yes” vote from me. I don’t know how bad it would’ve been, e.g. hospitalization, if I wasn’t vaccinated.