Always reboot: the chronic illness of long Covid

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The chronic illness of long covid: an older woman with short grey hair stands next to a window looking outside.

Always reboot: the chronic illness of long Covid

This story describes how the author feels like that old, clunky, overheating, 10-pound laptop as they navigate the world as a person with the chronic illness of long covid. 

I imagine myself as an older, chunky, 10-pound laptop. One of those that would take 10 minutes to just wake up, another 5 to get to the login screen, and then have an impromptu update that blocks any functioning for another 20 minutes. The one with that rough trackpad that has a delay between request and action. Where clicking on an icon sometimes opens the wanted program, but frequently, confusingly, opens solitaire in the middle of a game that was never actually started. 

I'm this old IBM, Dell, Asus laptop with the thick plastic border around the overheating screen. The one that needs to be plugged in at all times or gamble on a half hour only if one program is running. The laptop that can't be on a lap because it gets so hot it hurts, that needs its own deafening fan to keep cool. The one that overheats and shuts down before any work is saved. The laptop that somehow always runs an outdated operating system, restarting for unknown reasons at the most inopportune moments. 

I'm this laptop when music is on and someone tries to talk to me - but only one process is available at a time. When I'm doing the supposedly leisurely task of knitting, but the focus leads to a system overheat, pain, and requires me to rest against my will - a reboot no matter what. 

My body is this laptop when I need to dress down in shorts and tanks in 50F weather, cooling my own system down with velcroed ice packs around my neck and stuffed in my pockets. 

My processor is this laptop when I can't find the words I need, when memories aren't saved, and the time lag increases with use. When what I see takes time to be understood as the mouse click slowly registers in the CPU. I am this brick of a laptop when multitasking renders all applications frozen, and I can't complete any task. 

I am this laptop mid-update, stuck between function and dysfunction, waiting for the array of tremors, pain, nausea, fatigue, and other useless symptoms to subside. The laptop with the blue screen caused by opening Paint, overloading the motherboard with requests and needs. Waiting, waiting, waiting for the silicon brain to give access to the plastic body.

I am not always this laptop. I used to be a new laptop, with faster RAM, 50 tabs open, listening to music with Netflix in the background. A new laptop with high computing, instant access to a thesaurus and a dictionary: a central filing system well organized. But a virus embedded into the software. It snuck in on the back end of a message, tore up the control panel and disrupted synapses. Coming in through a familiar route, like breathing through the world, disseminating disruption and disease in its wake. 

I am this laptop, living amid the remnants of a war-torn microchip, a post-viral state in chaos amid recuperation. As the tech rebuilds the laptop, so too do I rebuild my systems, bolstered with medication and flushed with therapies. Where a new hard drive is installed, I have prescriptions, and where a factory reset is initiated, I have exercises and compression socks. The laptop and I, hijacked by a now gone virus, are forever marked by its legacy, like hot tea across a keyboard. 


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