What is it like to self-isolate?

My personal experience with COVID-19 began when my boyfriend, Marshall, called to tell me that he had tested positive for the virus.

Marshall works as a patient aide at Audubon Hospital and had been tested for the coronavirus after he had been experiencing a low-grade fever for a little under a week. When Audubon began to treat its first COVID patients, we decided to sleep in separate rooms to limit our exposure to each other because I have asthma and would be more vulnerable to the illness. So, staying apart was something we had gotten somewhat used to. 

But with a positive test, isolating ourselves from each other became more urgent. How could he best self isolate during his 14 day quarantine? The only way to do that would be for one of us to leave our house. 

My parent’s next door neighbor Janet, who is like a grandmother to me, has been away for the past few months. Perfect! Marshall could go there so we could completely self isolate. 

It wasn’t an easy decision by any means, but It was the best solution to a bad situation. My dad had been cooking just about every day while staying at home, so he would fix Marshall meals that my mom would take over and leave outside the back door for him. Dad would make me a plate of food as well, and some nights I would come over and eat with Marshall. He would stay inside the screened in porch, and I pulled up a chair in the driveway, so at least we could talk to each other even though I couldn’t see him very well in there.

Along with our socially distanced dinners, we also found other ways to spend time together. We played some interesting games of badminton (we found out we’re both pretty terrible at it), and I talked to him in Janet’s backyard while he walked laps around her carport to get some fresh air. In the end, Marshall recovered, and we both are fine.

As for my time in quarantine at our house, it wasn’t too terrible. I tried to keep myself as busy as possible by reading, practicing my violin and working out in our home gym and making masks.

What really got me through the quarantine was making masks for people. At first I just made black and white masks from fabric I already had, but then I decided I wanted to start tie-dyeing them. I started out making masks just for me, Marshall and my parents. It grew to making masks for my family members in Western Kentucky, my friends, my parent’s friends and eventually for their families as well. I’ve also begun sending masks to my neighbor who is in Boston working as a crisis relief nurse. She and her coworkers are now using fabric face masks to preserve the life of their N95s. Being able to get masks to people who needed them really helped me get through the isolation.

My Quarantine Routine:
11ish — Throughout my quarantine, this is when I usually wake up. Depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll sometimes take a breathing treatment and practice therapeutic techniques before getting out of bed because my anxiety has recently been worse when I first wake up. Once up, I make breakfast and sometimes I’ll read or practice my violin. 

1 p.m. — I start working on masks for a list of people who’ve asked for one or more for their friends and family. Making them has been keeping me occupied: I usually work on them for four or five hours.

6 p.m. — For dinner, I visit Marshall and eat my dad’s cooking. I also get to talk with my parents from the driveway while they stand behind the storm door. 

8:30 p.m. — I’ve tried to keep up with my workout routine. We have a small garage we turned into a gym. I usually do my strength training for about an hour.

10:30 p.m. — After, I have a snack and start working on masks again. It’s become something therapeutic, and it feels good to help people. So far, I’ve made and mailed around 90 masks. I’ll usually work on masks for two or three hours at night.

12:30 a.m. — This is when I watch Netflix and try to wind down for bed. It’s been much harder to sleep. I’ve always had vivid nightmares, but with the coronavirus pandemic, I’ll sometimes have two or three a night. It’s often around 3:30 or 4 a.m. before I fall asleep and stay asleep.

During our quarantine, Marshall and I would still have dinner together, but in quarantine it was while he sat in the screened in porch and I stayed in the driveway. | Photos by Kathrnyn Harrington.
Marshall spent a lot of his quarantine on the screened in porch at my parent’s neighbor’s house.
This was about how much I could see of him through the screen.
The day Marshall finished his quarantine, I gave him a much-needed haircut.
I tried to keep up my workout routine throughout quarantine and not let myself get too lazy.
During quarantine, I spent many hours sewing masks in my living room.
To get some fresh air, I would sit in our hammock in the backyard and read.
We played a few games of badminton while I stood on one side of the fence in my parent’s yard and Marshall stood on the other side in my parent’s neighbor’s yard.
I hung the tie-dyed mask pieces outside to dry after washing out the extra dye.
During my quarantine, when my anxiety would act up from worrying about whether I had COVID-19, I would take a breathing treatment. If I had a panic attack, I couldn’t always tell if I was having trouble breathing because of my asthma or because I was panicking.
I start my masks by tie-dyeing the outer fabric and later sewing on the lining.