I have COVID-19.

I’m sharing my story in the hopes that those within my community will take pause and think about the choices they are making.

If I’m being completely honest, I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. I barely leave my home. I interact with very few people. When I’m in public, I always wear my mask and maintain social distancing.

Unfortunately, I live in a community where, up until recently, precautions weren’t being enforced and many people were taking advantage of the lax atmosphere.

One day I felt perfectly fine and the next day I didn’t. I experienced feeling feverish without an actual fever, painful body aches, fatigue, and trouble breathing. At first, I brushed it off as another one of my sinus infections. Two emergency room visits later I was diagnosed with COVID.

People keep asking me if I know how I got COVID. I don’t. To me, at this point it doesn’t really matter.

My symptoms progressed. In addition to what I was already struggling with, I began to have trouble eating and drinking without nausea. Ironically my medications required me to eat and drink. What I could eat was extremely limited.

Living on my own meant I was the only one to get things done around my home. Even the most menial tasks required what seemed like an insurmountable effort. The benefit of living on my own was my minimal exposure to others. The downside was the depth of loneliness I felt most of the time.

COVID does something to you mentally I can’t quite explain.

I was thrilled when my quarantine period was officially over. Then I wasn’t. Being in public filled me with a paralyzing fear and anxiety.

At this time, I don’t feel safe outside of my home. There’s still so much about COVID we don’t know: the long term effects, how long symptoms last, and reinfection possibilities.

Another question people keep asking me is if I’m “healed” or “better.” The simple answer is “no.”

My recovery has progressed. I’d like to believe the worst is behind me, but I just don’t know. I’m still struggling with certain symptoms. I have good days, bad days, and mixed days. I never know what to expect.

Mentally, I might never be the person I was before I got COVID.

What I can tell you is this virus is very real, painful and traumatic. Just one person making unsafe choices can create a detrimental impact on so many.

I’m taking my recovery one day at a time the best that I can.

Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate and social media blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. #LauraKaponeris1in5 (as 1 in 5 Americans have a mental illness).