THE EVOLUTION OF SELF: ON THE PATH TO RECOVERY FROM LONG-TERM COVID

In her twenty years as a radiology technician, Annalisa had little contact with patients suffering from severe illness, grave health conditions and death. Performing X-rays took just minutes and consisted mainly of broken bones and fractures. COVID-19 changed all of that.

When Covid struck northern Italy in 2020, Annalisa’s role at San Matteo Policlinico in Pavia completely shifted. From hospital bed to hospital bed, patient after patient, she performed diagnostic lung examinations for COVID-19 pneumonia. Daily, she witnessed the suffering of many people.

Eventually, Annalisa fell ill with Covid herself. Following a two-month recovery she returned to work, but her cough persisted and she often felt short of breath. She also experienced short-term memory lapses and struggled to find words during everyday conversation.

After months of neurological symptoms associated with long-term Covid, Annalisa sought treatment at the Long Covid outpatient clinic at San Matteo. Because of the stress and psychological trauma caused by the pandemic, she was referred to our partner, Soleterre, for psychological support. Through the project for medical staff, patients and relatives affected by COVID-19, Annalisa finally talked to someone about her experience in the Covid wards.

“When Annalisa first approached me, her non-verbal language revealed a story: slouched shoulders, a hesitant walk and evasive eyes embodied a repository of fears and insecurities.

As a psychologist, my role was to gently communicate these observations to Annalisa without judgment, guiding her to become aware of her unspoken emotions and retracing the pivotal moments that shaped her unique way of relating to the world. Early in our journey, we addressed a traumatic episode using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), focusing on processing memories. Later, we tackled anxiety through relaxation techniques and guided breathing.

Throughout our conversations, a space for reflection opened up, allowing Annalisa to explore the events that disrupted her personal and professional balance. This process has given meaning to what she has gone through, helping her accept the past as part of her new ‘self’ rather than fight it. Today, this personal evolution has brought Annalisa to a mental and emotional place capable of accommodating painful memories, setting her on a path towards greater awareness and growth.”