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Overcoming fear: A COVID-19 survivor's story

I am happily married with two young children she adores. I am 29-year-old trained psychologist and hypnotherapist. I always in helping others is my passion and  motivation. I leads personal development workshops in Abuja– the main theme being “overcoming fear.”

When I began showing symptoms of COVID-19 in mid-March, The physical pain caused by the virus hit me hard. “Day by day my fever got higher and higher… and my back pain was really burning… and also, I felt very, very, extremely tired, and couldn’t get out of bed,”

After receiving several tests, doctors immediately advised me to stay in hospital and begin treatment for COVID-19. The virus had spread to my lungs. But it wasn’t the physical pain that was hurting the most.  it was my fears, first of all I was hit by a fear of death. But this was soon replaced by the fear of leaving my children behind without their mother to take care of them.

As a therapist knew that fear would breakdown the parasympathetic system which prevents the immune system from working properly, “so I knew I had to get out of this state of fear and instead find a feeling of safety.”

  I decided to use my psychology and hypnotherapy training to support my own healing process.I described several exercises which I used on myself. In one technique, I compares the ability to switch between TV channels to switching between thoughts… as a way to control my mind and avoid being stuck in unwanted negative thoughts.

   All day long my mind was taking me to fear of death, to fear of losing, and I was always changing the channel going to the next channel – saying no, everything is going to be very well, I will go out, I will be with my kids, I will go on holidays, I will do a lot of things.”For me, connecting and being in tune with the body is an essential part of my work. During my battle with COVID-19, I applied some hypnosis techniques that aimed to soothe my body. I would talk to my body parts and organs and send them messages: “I said, legs and feet, please calm down, everything is on track, I am safe… And then to my arms and hands, I said hands and arms everything is safe, right here right now, I am safe… It really, really, helped a lot, it calmed down my body, it calmed down my nervous system… it calmed down my fight or flight system.”During a regular illness that is not contagious I usually assume my family will be with me, comfort me visit me… but patients dealing with COVID-19 are extremely isolated. For many, that increases the pain that’s being experienced. 

     Although I knew the healthcare providers were intentionally staying away for both me and their safety, I felt “very strange, I felt like nobody wants to touch me, nobody wants to come close to me.”

Another technique I used during her stay at the hospital is one used often as a powerful relaxation method by many psychologists – visualization. I describes one I used; “I tried to energize my body, just like a light shower getting inside from my head, going down to the nervous system and also like branches of the light getting into my lungs which was like freshening the lungs… trying to take oxygen to the lungs.”While I was being treated for COVID-19, I received news that my husband Rasheed  had also been infected. He too was admitted to a hospital – yet was sent to a different one due to lack of available rooms. The news devastated I – but with frequent video calls, the two supported each other. My husband says COVID-19 reminded him of what matters in life, “It’s understanding how valuable the small family gatherings were… I am reminded of how important they are, how important the small things are, and how the things we thought were so critical are actually very trivial.”He thinks I may have benefited from the virus as a therapist, I believes that by going through the experience myself gave me an insight that reading about the virus wouldn’t have been able to give me. I hopes this insight can guide me in helping others fighting the virus.After 12 long days of treatment at the hospital, both I and my husband have recovered and are now back at home with their children. Though I still cannot hug them for a while,  “the reunion is like being in heaven.”

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