My experience with COVID-19 – the symptoms, the fear and the aftermath

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What strange times we are living in. I truly hope you and your families are all well and safe. I’m sending hugs to everyone who is struggling at this difficult time – whether will illness, finances or the emotional toll this is taking on all of us.

 

I’m writing this blog post to share my own experience of COVID and how it’s affected me physically and mentally. I’ve had suspected COVID-19 and complications since March 13th – 74 days and counting. It’s been one of the scariest, most frightening times, and it’s still dragging on. For people who think “it’s just the flu”, I am telling you now, I’ve had flu, I’ve even had walking pneumonia and I have never experienced anything like this.

As many of you know, I have lupus. This means it isn’t unusual for me to take time out of writing. I can be gone for months at a time whilst dealing with a flare-up, or a particularly busy time with work and my mother (who has terminal cancer). But usually, in the background, I’m still hammering away writing. Since March 13th I haven’t been able to do anything. COVID hit me hard and I’m still experiencing symptoms 74 days in.

The first week I got sick I had a temperature, a bit of a cough and a tight, sore chest. For 7 days I foolishly believed that it wasn’t so bad. That I could manage it like I do my lupus – with rest, painkillers and fluid. By the second week I was struggling to breathe. On the Thursday of the second week I was gasping for breath so much, my husband had to call an ambulance. The sheer terror of not being able to get air into my lungs and having a paramedic dressed in full protective suit (complete with respirator) was one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through. Although my oxygen levels were good, because of the underlying lupus they recommended I go to hospital. However, I refused. There is no guarantee I would have been tested and without the need for oxygen at that point, I was at more risk of infection if I went to the hospital. After all, although everyone was pretty certain I had COVID, what if I didn’t? I chose to stay at home and continue with antibiotics, painkillers. I also had a very irrational fear – what if I was taken to hospital alone and never came out?

I just want to say a big thank you to the Yorkshire Ambulance Service here. They arrived quickly, we’re amazing and stayed for a few hours to make sure I was okay. I cannot thank them enough for their assistance at such a scary time for me and my husband. They were brilliant. And immensely reassuring.

I won’t bore you with the mundane details, but some of the symptoms I was having over the following weeks including extreme fatigue (and this from someone who deals with fatigue on a daily basis), shortness of breath which meant I could barely walk a few steps without panting, a chest so tight it felt like my lungs were being constricted, vomiting and upset tummy. At one point in the last few weeks I even had conjunctivitis.

74 days in and I am still getting some of those symptoms. Yes, my temperature is down. Yes, I’m not coughing as much. The breathing, however, can still be horrific on some days. And the tiredness is off the charts. If I try and do too much, I’m back on the couch, symptoms reoccurring with a vengeance. This is 74 days in. That’s not taking into account the total paralysing fear that comes with having shortness of breath flare up – is it coming back? Am I reinfected? How bad is it going to be? Is this the time I’m going to have to go to hospital and risk being put on a ventilator? With no guarantees of immunity, I’m living in daily fear of a killer I cannot see.

In the grand scheme of things, I am lucky. So, so lucky. I’ve not been in hospital, I’ve not been in an intensive care unit, but the aftermath of dealing with the disease is debilitating. I’m still not working my day job as I can’t manage more than an hour or so at my computer. I need to sleep lots and physical activity is very limited.

My husband has been amazing. He’s supported me every step of the way. He lifts me up on days I’m sobbing and don’t feel I can stand another episode of breathlessness. He goes out to the supermarket to get food and prescriptions, risking his own health so I have food and medicine. He’s taken over all the household duties, despite still working from home. He is truly my rock. I can’t thank him enough or tell him how amazing he really is. He is my ultimate romance hero.

The other thing this disease has robbed me of is visiting my sick mother. She lives miles away and since lockdown has been in place, she’s been extremely ill. And I’ve been unable to travel down and be with her as I would be risking her and myself. The guilt is almost as crippling as the symptoms of COVID. My Mom is my best friend. Not being able to hold her, hug her when she’s crying or in pain, is one of the worst things imaginable.

Relatively speaking, I am so much better than I was at week 4 or even week 8. It’s been a tough ride. There have been setbacks. There are going to continue to be setbacks if you read the reports about people recovering from COVID. It’s comforting to know it’s not just me.

One thing this journey has made me realise is the life I was living before lockdown wasn’t serving me. I was super stressed out about the smallest thing. Day job stress was through the roof. I was bouncing from one thing to another – home, work, my sick mother, hospital appointments for me, always doing, doing, doing. Yet all the time resenting myself because I wasn’t taking care of myself or my mental health. I wasn’t taking small, productive steps towards the life I want for myself – becoming a full time writer. And all of that was leading to resentment.

During lockdown I’ve reorganised some of my priorities. Sure, I have days when all the fear and doubt and resentment comes back into play, but I know what I want now. I know how I want to feel in life.

Joyful. Creative. Calm. Resilient. Optimistic.

My priorities are my health, my husband and family, my creativity.

With these in mind, I’ve completely re-thought how I structure my days. Obviously this will change once I am back at the day job, but that’s where resilience comes in. Go with the flow. Don’t sweat the smaller stuff. It doesn’t matter what people of think of me (having a chronic illness makes me over achieve, over perform, so people don’t think I’m lazy), it only matters how I feel about myself.

The past three weeks have seen me take a completely new outlook on writing. Even though I’m still sick, I’ve managed through small steps to finish editing two books of a trilogy I’ve had written for a while, and create a whole marketing plan for those books. I’m now on to editing the 3rd book and every single day I feel joyful to get to work. To be creative. I’m even finding joy in doing the things I used to hate like writing blurbs, creating teasers images and revamping my website.

One thing I am grateful to COVID for – giving me back my passion and joy for creativity.Untitled design (4)

There is a long road ahead in which there will be illness and grief, but there is also light and laughter and joyfulness. There is hope.

Take care and stay safe,

Scarlett

Happy 2020! What do you have planned for the year?

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Happy 2020 to everyone! It’s a new year and a completely new decade. How exciting.

I hope you all had a great festive period and got to spend time with people that make you happy. I took some time off over Christmas to spend with Mister Scarlett and my parents. As most of you know, my Mom has terminal cancer so it was a quiet Christmas with lots of laughter and some tears. But the most important thing was we all had a great time 🙂

This week marks the beginning of a new decade. I can’t believe where the time went! 2010-2019 was a great decade for me. Of course, there were some lows, but the highs were amazing.

I got published with Ellora’s Cave in 2011 – something I’d been hoping for since I started reading their books. It was a dream come true (for a while, but that is another well publicised story) and I met some wonderful readers and authors – you are all amazing!

I got married to a wonderful man who is everything to me. Loving. Handsome. A great friend and champion of my writing. I love him more than words can say.

We had some beautiful holidays in places I’d never been. Got a lovely new house and a garden where I can grow veggies and plants.

It also saw my lupus and chronic illness restrict what I can do. I had to drop my work hours to part time and then my Mom – my best friend – got cancer. We got the terminal diagnosis not long after, and I know the next few months are going to be very hard, but I’m still blessed to have her here.

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What are my hopes for this year?

Well, I’m on a regular writing schedule. Woohoo! So the motorcycle club romance trilogy I’ve been promising you for years will finally be released. I’m working on those books this month and by spring, the first book WILL be available on Amazon. I’m also going to submit the manuscript I wrote during #NaNoWriMo to the Mills & Boon Dare line. *Fingers crossed* you’ll see that some time this year!

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As a child, I always got a fancy fountain pen for Christmas and this year Mister Scarlett surprised me with one in my favourite colour. So there will be definitely be lots more writing.

I did the Good Reads challenge last year and managed to read 111 books. I’m not setting a goal this year for reading as it pressures me into the mentality that I’ve “gotta read”, but I am committing to one hour per day.

Other goals include increasing my strength and fitness. I love to go for walks, but since I’ve been ill that is so much harder. I’ve started exercise routines in the past that have crippled me over the weeks, and diets which have made me ill. This year is about strength. Emotional and physical. As with my writing goals it will be manageable. Slow and steady.

Finally, I got some circular needles for Christmas. I’ve never been able to knit in the round, so this is the year I want to learn 🙂 If you have any patterns for beginners, leave me a link below. I’ve already started and, after a shaky beginning, seems to be going well.

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So to sum up, my goals for 2020 are:

  • Write and release more books with a regular writing schedule.
  • Manageable strength and fitness for my health
  • See family and friends more – make time for them
  • Grow my edible garden
  • Knit in the round

2020 is a new page, a new chapter. Let’s make it a good one 🙂

Let me know what your goals, hopes, resolutions. I’d love to hear them!

Writer Wednesday – writing year review for 2019

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For the last #WriterWednesday of 2019 I thought I’d do a post on my writing year in review. It’s been a rocky one – ups and downs galore – but I’m happy to admit I’m ending 2019 on a writing high 🙂
So, let’s start with January.

In January I decided to get my sh*t together and create a plan (okay, so the plan didn’t come together until the end of January, but hey, it was still January!). I love watching YouTube videos from the author, Sarra Cannon. She has a craft channel called Heart Breathings. She is such a breath of fresh air with videos on the craft and the realistic life/goals of a writer. I love her because she is so generous to her fans – always creating work books for free – and not being constantly all about the hustle, hustle, hustle. She is real and talks about the real struggles of writing when you have other commitments – a job, family, school, chronic health issues.

She has a system called HB90. You plan your writing goals for 90 days at a time and be laser focused for those 3 months.

I could do this. It would give me structure and 90 days was a good period of time.

So I planned. I planned my 3 monthly goals.

  1. Increase sales and engagement
  2. Finish and release the first book in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy
  3. Plot and write first 3 chapters of a Mills & Boon Dare submission

Easy. Sustainable.

Err…not. I failed. Oh, for the first month I wrote, I promoted and then I got lazy. Life happened. I got sick. Mom got sicker. Work got crazy. Life got in the way and I didn’t make writing a priority. It came way down my list of commitments.

Lets skip to June. I did some editing and started that Mills & Boon story while I was soaking up the sun in Santorini with Mister Scarlett (who wouldn’t want to write in such a beautiful setting?!), but it never got past 1,000 words.

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Fast forward to August. I’m writing here and there. Book 1 in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy, Sinful, is complete (first draft only though). I made the decision not to release it until the other two were finished. I did add some words here and there, but nothing substantial. All the while the sales on my old titles have dwindled to nothing.

In September, I release an old story with Totally Bound.

By the time November rolls around I’m determined to get my ass in gear and do NaNoWriMo. As I explained in my other post, due to numerous things, I couldn’t commit to 50000 words. It just seemed too…insurmountable. So I made my own goal – 30000. 1000 words per day. Again, I charted my progression in another post (but I’m happy to say I hit it!).

One thing NaNo did for me was create a manageable, sustainable goal. I had to commit to just 30-45 minutes per day to getting the words down. That’s it. Just 30 minutes.

And you know what? It worked! By the end of NaNo, I had 36000 words. I’m happy to say as of Saturday just gone, I completed the first draft of the Mills & Boon submission I’ve been wanting to write for so long. Whoop, whoop.

Compared to this time last year, I feel in such a good place. I’m not doing 1000 words per day now, but I’m aiming for 750 a day. Mister Scarlett asked me how I was going to be accountable to myself now that NaNo is over and that’s a good question. After all, it’s easy to slip back into old habits. I’m a known slipper. Always have been. There is always something else I can find to do – binge Netflix, read, scroll through Instagram, watch YouTube videos, nap.

So for the end of the year and first few months of 2020 I have a manageable, sustainable (you seeing a theme with the buzzwords here?) plan.

From now until 31st December – I’m working on an erotic Christmas romance that I started in 2018. 750 per day, and I want to try and hit 10000 words by the end of the month. That’s with taking the holidays off. I started on Monday and I’m already 4063 words in.

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January 2020 – I’m going to finish the Knights of Hell MC trilogy. 750 words per day. 20000 word target.

February – editing the Mills & Boon submission, working on the synopsis and putting together a trilogy proposal.

See? A plan. Manageable. Sustainable.

One of the things I have found in 2019 is the joy of writing again. It sounds like a cliche, but I lost that for so long.

Some days it’s still hard, but there are the days when it flows and the words fly onto the page, and there is such a joyous feeling inside me when that happens that I can’t explain it to people. The consistency helps the words fly. If there is one thing I’ve learnt over the past year it’s consistency is the key to the words. The more I do it, the easier it gets (not always, but mostly). The writing has also been helping me, mentally, deal with a lot of stuff. It’s an outlet. A sorely needed one.

As 2019 draws to a close, there have been ups and downs, I haven’t published anything new, but I have lots of things coming together. The best thing about 2019 is I’ve rediscovered why I write. I’ve rediscovered the joy and that makes 2019 worth it!

I hope your 2019 has been everything you imagined. Let me know if you have any plans for 2020. I’d love to hear them!

 

Writer Wednesday – #Nanowrimo update

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It’s time for another Writer Wednesday post. This time it’s an update on how #NaNoWriMo is going.

I’ve been really quiet on my blog and on social media for the past few weeks because I’ve been writing. And *gasp, shock horror, blow me down with a god damn feather* I have been sticking to my word count and writing every day.

Remember the post I wrote back at the beginning of November? If you can’t, I’ll link it here . I set a goal of writing 1,000 words per day for the whole of November, with the aim of reaching 30,000 by the end of the month.

I’m happy to say as of 25th November I reached 30, 117 and I’m still going. Woohoo.

There has only been one day in the month so far that I haven’t written. That was due to being sick so I gave myself the day off – and didn’t feel guilty about it! All the other days, even on work days where I only had 15 minutes to write, I managed to get words down. Most days I reached 1,000. Some days only half that. Other days It hit 1,200.

The important thing for me has been consistency. I only had to write 1,000 words per day. That would take about 30 minutes or so. I broke it down into two 15 minute stints. Sometimes I’d write a little bit more – another 15 minutes or so, but never more than that.

For me, 30,000 words is nearly a whole novella. Although I haven’t finished my Mills & Boon Dare submission yet, I’m proud of the fact I CAN write a full novella in a short amount of time. This is the most productive I’ve ever been with my writing, but the most important thing is it has helped me remember the sheer joy I get from writing.

Yes, some days it’s been hard. Some days it’s like pulling teeth to get the words on the page, but I kept doing it. One word at a time. Other days it simply flowed. After each writing session I came away feeling elated. I love my characters. I love sitting down and creating imaginary worlds on a page. It allows me to lose myself and forget about whatever else is going on for little while.

Another important thing I’ve come to realise is how good a regular writing schedule is for my mental health. I’ve always found writing cathartic. Over the past 26 days I’ve found it’s had a positive effect on my mental health. With everything going on at the moment, the ‘side effect’ of writing has proven to be healing.

I need to write. I’d forgotten that.

With social media and keeping up an online presence (which is important, and I love each and every person whom I’ve met online), promoting my books, the admin side of the business, I’d forgotten the simple joy of sitting down to write. As J. R. Ward said “The work always comes first. Magic happens when you put the work first.” I’ve got this pinned on my board at home to remind myself that the writing, the stories, come first.

Although I set my own goal for NaNoWriMo, the month allowed me to find the joy in writing again. It gave me space and clarity to remember I can do this. I love doing this. I might not do 1,000 words per day from here on in, but I will set a regular word count for each week. After all, I know I can do it.

I just need to keep on doing it 🙂

Autumn update on what the heck I’ve been up to!

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Hi everyone,

I don’t really know where to start with this blog to be honest. It’s been a long few months since I posted back in…May. Gah. Sorry for the radio silence!

I was quite ill over the summer months. Finally went back to work to my day job as a librarian at the end of July, and then found out my Mom’s cancer has come back. The very sad news is she only has about 6 months to live, so I’ve been spending time with her. We have lots of stuff planned. The only blessing so far is she seems fairly ‘well’. It’s particularly hard as she is my best friend.

As for writing, I haven’t had much of a chance to do that over the summer, however I can tell you in September I set up a regular writing schedule that I have been keeping up with.

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it’s amazing to be writing again. It helps me process some of the my emotions, or just takes my mind off things. I’ve written 15,000 words in October so far, which is a big increase in my productivity!

What are you writing? I hear you cry!

Well, I have been working on a new series…

I can reveal the cover for the first book in my new trilogy, the Knights of Hell MC series:

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Sinful is book one in Zeke and Grace’s story. I cannot wait for you to meet Zeke. He’s a badass, MC President and sex on legs! Poor Zeke and Grace do get some shit thrown their way though *evil grin*

Meet the inspiration behind Zeke, Mr. Tom Hardy *swoons* Raise your hands if you love Tom Hardy!

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Sinful should be out Winter time, followed by Taken and Possession.

In other news, I’ve been reading soooo much lately. I’m tracking everything on Good Reads now (get me being all organized! haha)

If you want to know what I’m reading you can follow me on Good Reads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1661269.Scarlett_Sanderson. I also tend to hang out at some of the erotic romance groups on their, sharing my love (and fangirling) for the genre.

I just finished The Glue by K.Webster – wasn’t sure I was going to like it but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Other reading obsessions over the last few months include:

  • Redemption – the last book in the Vincent and Eve series by Jessica Reuben (OMG it was sooo awesome).
  • Stygian by Sherrilyn Kenyon – even though it’s book twenty-something, I still enjoyed it. Found it a bit too long though.
  • Wanting Mr Cane by Shanora Williams – again wasn’t sure I was going to like it as the main female character is only 18, but thoroughly enjoyed it. Have downloaded the next one!

On my TBR pile is Consumed by JR Ward, Blood Communion by Anne Rice (Lestat!) and tons of others.

I think that’s all the news I have to print right now 🙂 Look out for snippets of works in progress over the coming months and regular updates on what I’m reading/watching.

Until next time, take care.

Scarlett

Visual porn – art by Luis Royo

Luis Royo is a god…not really, but certainly in my eyes. He is probably my favorite artist (I said probably because I can’t decide between him and Caravaggio).

Royo’s art is full of sexuality. They are sexy, very edgy and dangerous. I cannot take my eyes off any of his work. I even have one his images as my desktop background.

It’s impossible to look at his images and not be inspired.

As soon as I get my new study I’m going to get a few prints to add to the wall.

Here are a few of my favorites:

For more of Luis’ creations, visit his website: http://www.luisroyo.com/en