By Elisabetta Franzoso, Life Coach, Counsellor, Speaker, Trainer, Author & Social Activist at InsideOutYou Coaching & Training.
With time and lots of practice and experience, I have learnt that life is not about what happens to us. It is about how we react to what happens and, above all, what we do with that. Do we resist or surrender? Do we ignore and deny, or do we embrace and feel grateful?
Yes, this year I contracted Covid-19, and I went through the experience completely on my own. My daughter lives in London, and my mum (aged 81), in Italy. I am currently in Barcelona – one of the worst-affected cities in Europe when it comes to this pandemic – and, at present, a city that is in a state of alarm.
So, how did I catch Covid-19?
I started experiencing symptoms a few days after attending an Ecstatic Dance class with several other people (average age 35-45 years old). My friend Anna was with me – she’s 50, and I’m 57.
I love dancing. Since training with Gabrielle Roth in 2000 (and other different schools of movement around the world), I use free dance-movement as a way to remain present and healthy with my body and mind. For the eight months before falling ill with the virus, I had been dancing at home or by the sea as part of my morning routine. But I was tired of dancing alone, so I chose to take the risk and enter the unknown. I was aware that meeting other twelve or so people indoors, in a place where we would be dancing together (and therefore sweating together) could potentially be the opposite of ‘staying safe’.
But I believe at times risk is necessary. If we want to live a fulfilling life that makes us feel human and alive, we have to take some risks. And this was it for me. If I had not gone out and joined a group class, I feel I would have died of depression or anxiety – feelings and emotions that were starting to take hold, deep under my skin.
I had already given up playing padel because of the pandemic and the lockdown, and, living on my own, I struggled to find the motivation for fitness, yoga, and running. That did not surprise me though. Because life is not to be experienced alone. Life is about sharing with others, being with others, and feeling with others. And this is exactly what, as human beings, we were asked to give up during this pandemic. But are we aware of the consequences this can have on our lives?
The Ecstatic Dance session was on a Tuesday night. On the Friday evening that week, Anna and I had dinner together at her place. She was well, and so was I. I had not been in contact with anyone else on the days in between. I work online as a Coach and Counsellor, and I had not played padel with anyone – I had simply been too busy with work.
But when I got home after having dinner with Anna, I noticed that my muscles were aching. As I know this is a typical symptom of running a fever, I checked my temperature – it was 37.7 degrees Celsius. During the night, it went up to 38.5 degrees. So I got up and had some Paracetamol, thinking I had probably caught the flu.
By the next morning, my temperature remained high. There was no sign of a cold, but I was feeling extremely tired. So I decided to stay in bed and inform Anna, who was well. Still thinking I had the flu and needed to let it run its course, I felt at ease. Safe. Nothing felt out of the ordinary.
Over the next couple of days, I stayed calm, in bed, and continued to take Paracetamol regularly. By Sunday, the fever was still there, but it was lower than 38 degrees Celsius. It kept going up and down – never below the 37 mark, but it was not too high. Although I was feeling much better by that afternoon, when Anna invited me to go out for pizza with some mutual friends, I decided not to go. I was still very tired.
Of course, it did occur to me that I could have coronavirus, so I went online to check the symptoms and even talked to my best friend in Rome, who had already caught it and recovered. Given the fact I only had a fever, it was hard to understand whether I might have it or not. Plus, how could I have caught the virus if Anna was still well and perfectly healthy? After all, she had been with me at that class. Or, could Anna also have the virus but be asymptomatic?
Over the following days, the fever kept bouncing from 37 degrees Celsius to 37.7 and vice versa. On the Monday though, I realised something quite weird. I could not taste my food or smell the perfume I was wearing. Having spoken to my daughter and my best friend, I was aware that a temperature that goes up and down and the loss of taste and smell were symptoms of Covid-19.
And that’s when the fear started to creep in.
Until then, I had stayed calm and in control. But I was now starting to realise I might indeed be ill with coronavirus, and I was on my own. I could not take the risk of infecting anyone else, which meant I could not get in touch with my neighbours or ask any friends to come and keep me company. But what could I do if things got worse?
And also, what did I have to go by? The experiences of several other friends who, over the previous months, had lost their parents. Or, in case of one of my friends, the story of her husband being taken into hospital by ambulance all by himself. This could get serious. And I knew it called for remaining in my ‘centre’ and observing myself and my reactions moment by moment each morning when waking up.
At some point, I chose to call 112 – the emergency number. I had been told that if you are experiencing symptoms, you could call for someone to come and test you. But when I called, they did not listen. While I tried to explain I had mild symptoms and wanted to be tested, they insisted on asking me for my address to come and take me to the hospital.
Thankfully, I was present enough to tell them not to panic – all I wanted was for someone to give me a test and tell me what to do. But no one had come. And no one had called back. I realised at that moment that the only things I had real control over were my actions and my reactions. The alternative was to surrender my life to the hands of strangers who probably knew very little about what a mild coronavirus case looked like.
As a Coach, I love to take charge of my life, and I am happy that, in this case, I did. I needed self-responsibility. Alone at home, considering how I was feeling, I could take care of myself. No one else could have done any better at that stage. The fever was under control, and I had plenty of Paracetamol at my disposal. I could breathe just fine, and sure, I could not taste or smell, and my appetite had gone. I felt weak, but I could stay in bed. By now I had developed a light cold too, but it was nothing in comparison to the flu. Even the fact that my sleep was broken was down to worry, rather than being badly affected by the virus. So things were under control, after all.
The hardest thing for me was to stay at home for an additional week with no contact with others after the symptoms had disappeared. But I knew I had to be responsible and observe quarantine – it was my personal choice as nobody (apart from close family) was aware of the fact I had experienced Covid-19 symptoms.
How can I be sure I had coronavirus, you may ask? Because when I felt well again, I went for a private test to check whether I had developed an immunity. And I had.
My reflections about the experience
Of course, I feel grateful for overcoming Covid-19 without any major physical consequences, especially compared to what I know others experienced. Thankfully, I recovered fully, although after the fever had gone, I still felt weak, both physically and emotionally. I had had blood tests a few weeks before getting ill, and I knew all was well. I live a healthy lifestyle, and I was confident my immune system was strong.
I definitely feel that this experience allowed me to expand intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. I was able to see, in practice, what I coach people about – that self-control and courage are major elements in emergency situations.
When I got ill, I was alone. Nobody could offer any help. During the first four days, I did not even inform my daughter that I had possibly contracted coronavirus. How would that have helped? What would this knowledge have done to her? It would have only worried her and distracted her from her life and work.
I was also aware that the most important thing was not to engage in chats and complaints over the phone. Instead, I chose to go inwards. To go inside myself. To tap into my own resources – those that would allow my energy and spirit to remain high in those days of complete isolation.
During the two weeks I spent at home, I made the effort to continue to:
- Meditate every day.
- Practise appreciation and gratitude.
- Practise light movement.
- Rest in bed as much as I could in order to recover and regain strength.
- Do my best to eat healthily and regularly and never skip lunch or dinner.
- Take vitamins.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Watch YouTube videos that motivate me.
- Avoid spending too much time on social media or over the phone talking about coronavirus.
- Go onto the rooftop to breathe fresh air in the morning or evening.
- Journal in order to release my feelings.
- Spend time doing nothing and feeling what was inside.
- Avoid watching TV or reading news that could influence me negatively.
- Have a good laugh at least once a day.
- Allow myself to cry when I felt the need to.
An experience that allowed me to grow intellectually, emotionally, and in relation to myself
I must admit I felt more affected by this experience emotionally, rather than physically. When the Covid-19 symptoms disappeared, I still felt weak and fragile, and I allowed myself to feel all that was there. I knew that those feelings were needed if I wanted to get the best out of this crucial experience. I did not want to escape or remove the emotions involved, and especially the fear I had around facing this alone. This fear was caused by negative thoughts which would often surface during the night, when I would struggle to get back to sleep.
The sense of loneliness and lack of protection was strong. I allowed myself to feel these emotions, rather than try to escape them. I felt completely powerless and without control. Even thinking back about those days now gives me a strong sensation in my stomach.
I felt each day was a gift because things were not getting worse – something that many would expect in a coronavirus case at my age. I deliberately chose actions that could elevate my spirit. Writing was very useful, and so was crying. I am not ashamed to say that I cried a lot. Holding a pillow in my hands, I allowed myself to feel all I could feel. And fear was definitely the major emotion for me.
Those days of deep fragility allowed me to connect with an old fear that I had never really assessed, not even during years of working on myself – fear for the future. I realised that uncertainty had entered my body and mind during that time alone at home while taking care of myself with my own hands and strategies. When I finally recovered and could go out, I remember real panic surfaced. It felt like life had become so heavy and unsafe. I felt I had no protection. No control.
I am a strong woman, and I am fully aware of my own resources. But what about more fragile people? People who do not have the same resources and tools? People who do not have the self-awareness I possess? This experience has certainly helped me realise how blessed I am.
The message I would love to send out to everyone, as a Coach and as a human being
During those days alone, when I experienced so much fear and uncertainty, I started to see the purpose that the pandemic might have in our lives as human beings. Whether we acknowledge this or deny it – accept it or reject it – it is a personal choice. But despite what we think and are told, I believe the pandemic has befallen humankind for two reasons:
- To remind us that, as humans, we have no control over life and death.
- To help us accept that each and every one of us experiences their own journey with coronavirus – and each experience is different.
In my case, the illness was mild. For others, it might be more serious and challenging. But what this pandemic gives every single one of us is the opportunity to reflect and consciously learn more about ourselves and our fears.
I also believe we need to remember two important things, should we become affected by Covid-19:
- If we are alone at home, it is important that during and after the disease we tap into our own resources,in order to maintain high spirits. And we can only do that when we become aware of the effective resources we have.
- Just like life is not about what happens to us but how we respond to it, coronavirus is about how we respond to it and what we do with it. In other words, our choices matter.
For me personally, the entire experience became a time of consciously learning about myself – a time to expand and ‘remain within’. I clearly remember how one day I connected to the deepest part of me – my spiritual self – and asked, “What do I need to do? Where do I need to go?” The answer came quickly and clearly as, “Let go of fear. Simply trust. Everything is happening for a reason, and you are not alone”.
When facing the pandemic, we have a choice. We can stop resisting what we cannot change and choose to focus on what we can transform – our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Remember – resistance, control, and fear only breed more resistance, control, and fear. And with those emotions comes pain. So how about choosing to surrender to and flow with what is instead? How about trusting that the Universe is simply re-adjusting at its own pace and for our own good?
Perhaps coronavirus is a blessing in disguise for this world. It is the wakeup call that humanity needs. Let us stop making excuses and procrastinating in life. Of course, when we see disintegration in action, resistance kicks in in full force. But remember that just like there is no order without chaos, there is no integration without disintegration.
So let’s not waste this chance.
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This blog post is categorised in both the Physical and Emotional Dimension. To view blog posts based on the 4 dimensions click the links below:
► Elisabetta Franzoso is a multi continental Life and Wellness Coach practicing between Barcelona, London, Milan and Singapore where she has many loyal clients.
► Elisabetta empowers men and women to master their mind, body and personal relationships through renewing their confidence and building a sense of wellness. She does this through her unique Coaching In 4 Dimensions framework which takes into account the physical, emotional, intellectual and relational aspects of humanity.
► Elisabetta will inspire you to live the life you want to live, maximise your potential and achieve self mastery. Aside from coaching, Elisabetta is a passionate social activist and spokesperson against abuse.
► Elisabetta has been featured extensively across international and UK press including Thrive Global, Grazia Magazine, Breathe Magazine and Health & Wellbeing Magazine. Stay up to date with Elisabetta at instagram.com/elisabettafranzoso and www.elisabettafranzoso.com
– John Whittington: lifeloveleadership.com/men-and-their-mothers
– John Gray: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
– Elisabetta Franzoso: Stella’s Mum Gets Her Groove Back – A True Story ( Kindle link …)
– Emerson Eggerichs: Mother and Son: The Respect Effect
– Steve Biddulph: The New Manhood: The Handbook for a New Kind of Man
– J.R. Bruns, M.D – R.A.Richards II – The Tiger Wood Syndrome – When men Prowl and how to not become the Prey.
– Lundy Bancroft: Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
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