A woman under a convulsive attack caused by 'hysteria', George J Preston (1897) | Wikimedia Commons
A woman under a convulsive attack caused by 'hysteria', George J Preston (1897) | Wikimedia Commons

"It's all in your head": Long Covid raises nightmarish questions about medical gaslighting of women

Long Covid has sparked a culture war between survivors and medical experts over what constitutes 'trustworthy' scientific evidence. This is the story of how it could be disproportionately affecting women, seen through the eyes of a two-time Covid survivor.

Tanmoy Goswami

July 2020. Two months after recovering from Covid, the illness still an exotic news item for many, you go on a grocery run, pass out, and hit your head on the road. People, too scared to touch you, call your husband, who rushes you to the hospital, where you are told it's nothing.

"She's okay. It's just a one-off episode. Go home. Rest. Eat. Sleep. Don't worry."

So you try. You try not to worry. You've had so much to worry about. You are exhausted from all the worrying. For once, you want to believe you have no reason to worry.

But the crashes, they keep coming in waves. That fall might've been a freak accident, but your heart feels permanently out of control. You are resting. Eating. Sleeping. Moving measuredly. Meanwhile your chest is exploding like you are running from the Apocalypse.

You fish out the oximeter-cum-heart rate monitor you bought two months ago. It reads 130. Then, 150. And then there's the fatigue. And the insomnia. And the brain fog. Brain fog. Which twisted bastard gave it such a poetic name.

You go back to the hospital. You tell them it's getting hard for you to not worry. They strap your heart to a machine for an entire day. They find 163 spikes.

"Go home. Rest. Eat. Sleep. Don't worry." Then, some additions to the script: "Be confident. It's nothing, just anxiety. Oh and here, take these vitamin supplements."

Aha. That it's then. Just anxiety. Nonchalantly wedged between prescriptions of 'be confident' and 'take vitamin supplements'. Justanxiety, the slayer of mysteries, the illness to explain all illnesses.

The thing is, you know anxiety. You have anxiety. This isn't anxiety. This is different. By now, research is trickling in from around the world, and you are starting to wonder if all this is somehow connected with your bout of Covid.

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