It all started on what was supposed to be a fun holiday in Byron for New Years. I’d been looking forward to this holiday for months, but as it started to approach, the COVID situation started to look more and more dire as each day went by. In the lead up to our holiday, I was being super careful to not get COVID because I had the very widely held fear of having to spend my time off from work stuck inside isolating. 

We left for our holiday on the 27th of December, very excited to get away after a year in Sydney spent mostly in lockdown. The holiday started well with a negative rapid test telling me I was good to go. 

We kept somewhat of a low profile for the first week of our holiday, because we had big plans for New Year’s Eve that we didn’t want to get derailed by the spicy cough. Mostly, we spent our days at secluded beaches, waterfalls and national parks.  

Come New Year’s Eve, which was a Friday, no one had come down with any symptoms, and we were stoked to be able to go out together and bring in the New Year with friends. Over the next few days, I felt completely fine, aside from being a little tired (which I attributed to the aftermath of the big NYE party). 

On Monday night, I started to get a little bit of a cough. That night, I woke up around 2am in a cold sweat, feeling terrible. I had a fever, a sore throat, a bad cough, I was super congested, and I had a kind of pounding headache that felt like my head might explode (it sounds dramatic, but it genuinely felt like this). To make matters worse, we were sleeping on a mattress in the back of my car. I remember laying there staring at the roof thinking “I’ve got it, I’ve definitely got it.” 

Day One - The Reality Check

On Tuesday morning, after a less-than-average sleep, I checked my phone to see a message from two of the people we’d been staying in a house with, saying they’d just tested positive on Rapid Antigen Tests. This confirmed my suspicions that I, too, had COVID. To be sure, I did a rapid test as well. I was pretty certain it would come back positive and lo and behold, two strong lines appeared. The holiday was over, and a week of self-isolation was about to begin. 

The start of day one was a bit of a scramble. We were in Byron Bay, a good eight-hour drive from home. We no longer had accommodation to stay in and we were sleeping in the car. I felt awful, and I couldn’t bear the thought of having to sleep in the car another night with COVID, let alone a whole week. We also didn’t want to book an Airbnb and risk infecting more people. Driving home seemed to be, by far, the better choice. So, I started the drive home. 

We smashed the drive home between three of us – me, my boyfriend Harry, and his brother Jack – without stopping, except for one petrol stop. Harry and Jack had both tested negative, so Harry filled the tank with fuel and paid at the pump, he wore two masks and was extra diligent with sanitising his hands and the pump. We were all super careful not to come into contact with anyone on the drive home. 

We made it home in record time, ordered a nice Thai dinner to be delivered to the door, and went to bed early with the intention of getting up early to get PCR tests. 

positive covid rapid antigen test
Not a faint line in sight: after a positive Rapid Antigen Test result, it was time to self-isolate for seven days.

Day Two and Three - Settling In to Self-Isolation

After an amazing 12-hour sleep, I woke up feeling a bit better on day two. I was still feeling quite congested with a cough, headache, and sore throat, but the fever had subsided, and I wasn’t as fatigued. We were all exhausted and slept through our alarms, so we decided against lining up for PCR tests, because we didn’t want to get turned away. 

I did what I always do when I get sick and called my mum first thing in the morning. Mum’s a nurse so over the years she’s always given great advice on what to do when I get sick. The medical advice in question was simple: paracetamol every four hours, lots of fluids, good nutrition and rest. 

Mum also offered to drop off some groceries and supplies for us, so I hopped onto Google for some advice on what foods to eat to boost immunity. I put together a shopping list of immune-boosting foods, ready-made meals such as soup and risotto (for when the fatigue kicked in), a variety of herbal teas, pain relief, throat lozenges, and a thermometer.  

Turns out, test cricket was on for five of our seven days in isolation, which was fantastic news. The beauty of cricket is that there are a lot of breaks in play, and you can multi-task while watching. So, I spent a lot of this time reading books and playing games – namely 8-Ball Pool and Candy Crush – on my phone.  

On day three, we woke up at the crack of dawn and got to the drive-through testing clinic at 6:30am to line up. They didn’t open testing ‘til 8am, but we were hoping to beat the crowds. We got our tests at 8:30am and were back home by 9. 

My symptoms had lessened substantially (just a headache, slight cough, and scratchy throat) and my energy levels were slowly creeping back, so I decided to tackle some cleaning to make me feel more productive. I cleaned out the wardrobe, re-organised my shelves, and did a heap of laundry. We still had the cricket on in the background all day. 

Day Four and Five - Embracing 'Me Time'

The weather was sticky, the cricket was in full swing, and my energy levels were on the rise. I was starting to get a little over the cricket, just because it felt a bit like it was the only thing happening in my life. On the bright side, I was feeling a thousand times better, almost completely healthy aside from an occasional cough and a tiny bit of a headache. I couldn’t believe the speed at which my body had fought off the virus. 

I spent a little extra time outside on our deck reading books – I finished ‘Apples Never Fall’ by Liane Moriarty and went on to start ‘Eggshell Skull’ by Bri Lee. The fresh air helped me feel a little less foggy. The time flew by with some extra help from a little online shopping. Okay, it was a lot of online shopping. After binge-watching ‘Emily in Paris’ (guilty pleasure) I was feeling inspired by all the outfits, which led me to some retail therapy. Which I thoroughly enjoyed. My wallet, on the other hand, not so much. 

I did decide to try my hand at some exercise in the afternoon of day five. I did a 30-minute intermediate stretching routine, and let me tell you, it was hard. I usually exercise most days of the week and do some pretty high intensity workouts, so this should’ve been a breeze, but I struggled. I felt light-headed, my muscles were aching, and my joints were clicking like crazy. Needless to say, this was not the return to physical activity I was hoping for, but it still felt good to get some movement in. 

reading while in self-isolation
Sitting on the deck reading, relaxing and indulging in homemade chocolate chip cookies dropped off by a friend.

Day Six and Seven - Peak Boredom

By the end of the week, aside from the remnants of that spicy cough showing up here and there, I basically felt completely healthy again. I also had some fatigue, mostly in the mornings, but it was nothing my morning coffee couldn’t fix. At this point, and I never thought I’d say this, I’d reached my binge-watching limit. My screentime was through the roof and I was genuinely very bored. 

So, I decided to get creative and do something different. My options were limited, but I remembered I had a beading kit lying around in a drawer somewhere from peak lockdown boredom last year, so I dug it up and made necklaces for my friends. That kept me occupied for a few hours. 

Considering we were all feeling basically completely normal, and it was, technically, the weekend, we decided to have a couple of drinks and have a games night. We have a pretty solid selection of board games and card games at our disposal, so this was a great way for us to break the boredom and inject a little fun into our isolation experience. 

My final day of isolation was also my first day back at work after the holidays. I’m lucky that I’m able to completely work from home, so I could return to work if I wanted to. Of course, Springday offered me to take time off if I needed it, but by this day I didn’t really have any more symptoms and I was actually very excited to get back to work and have a little bit more structure and normalcy in my days. I was still feeling fatigued and a little foggy, but I was ready to kick my brain back into gear. 

The Wrap Up

It took me until day nine to feel almost 100 percent. The only symptom that remains is that I’m not a morning person anymore. I’m really fatigued in the mornings. I’m normally an early riser, but now I wake up and long to go back to sleep. I think about sleeping a lot more than usual throughout the day, too, but I’m sure this will pass in time. 

We finally got our PCR results seven days after our tests, and all three of us were positive, despite the boys both doing multiple negative rapid tests.  

I isolated for a little longer than seven days because I still had a little bit of a cough, but when I finally left the house for the first time it was just *chefs kiss*. I went for a walk at lunchtime which was a little more difficult than usual, but it felt so nice to feel the sun on my face and have a change of scenery. On top of that, I went to the beach for probably one of the most glorious ocean swims I’ve ever had.  

So, what can I take from this experience? Well, firstly, I have a newfound level of appreciation for my daily walks, and swimming in the ocean. Also, barista-made quality coffee. You really can’t beat it. I’m also grateful that I was able to work from home and earn an income while isolating, I know this is a privilege that only extends to so many. 

If I could give advice to anyone else doing self-isolation it would be to be kind to yourself, listen to your body, and rest as much as you need to. You may see people all over social media being super active while isolating, or being crazy productive, but you don’t have to do that. This hits everyone differently, and the most important thing is to take care of yourself and get better. Plus, you can’t go past mum’s fail-proof advice (she always knows best): paracetamol, lots of fluids, good nutrition and rest. 

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About the Author

Sarah Gillard is a marketing coordinator and content writer at Springday, focusing on digital strategy and wellbeing content. Outside of work, you can find her at the gym, bushwalking with friends, seeing live music, or feasting on delicious food.