Pride Cometh Before the Side Effects

Brianna Albers avatar

by Brianna Albers |

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It’s not that I didn’t think I’d have side effects.

I hoped. Just like I hoped that COVID-19 would wind down by late last summer; just like I hoped “The Rise of Skywalker” would be, like, tolerable. But I knew better. It was a vaccine, after all, and a gnarly one at that — I had no illusions as to how much I’d suffer.

The thing about vaccines is that everyone reacts differently. I know people who barely reacted at all; I know people who were down for the count for days on end. It is, like most things in life, a gamble, which means there’s just enough precedent to suggest that maybe, just maybe, you’ll be the lucky winner this time around.

Reader, I wasn’t lucky.

My second dose of the Moderna vaccine went off without a hitch. I got poked, grabbed my complimentary sticker, and played sudoku in the waiting room for a good 20 minutes. Things were fine. I was fine. I sent a selfie to the group chat, posted on Instagram, then settled in for my Friday ritual of “Critical Role” and life admin.

Later that evening, my caregiver asked me how I was feeling. She had gotten her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine that morning, so we were comrades in the vaccination trenches. “Nothing yet,” I texted back, with all the giddiness of someone who wondered if maybe, just maybe, she was out of the woods.

Reader, I had only just entered the forest.

I was sore when I went to bed, but nothing intense. I figured I’d fall asleep, like normal, and dream my silly little dreams of disability justice and New York Times bestsellers. But I just … couldn’t. Sleep, that is. I tossed and turned and finally blacked out around 5 a.m.

I woke the next morning to a spread of side effects. Aches and pains, fever and chills, nausea — I never get the flu, so I was woefully unprepared for how truly terrible I felt. Even the headaches took me by surprise. Someone I follow on Instagram had headaches after their second shot, but like an idiot, I dismissed it. I have headaches all the time; I thought I could handle whatever was thrown at me with grace and my patented sense of humor.

Reader, I was wrong.

I spent Saturday in a drugged-up haze, alternating between Tylenol and Advil every four hours. I shivered and sweated and sat at my desk with single-minded focus. Only one thing would get me through the next 48 hours, and it wasn’t my wounded pride.

I wanted to eat; I was hungry. But I could only stomach a few bites. So I moped, for the most part, and played video games until I was too tired to think, let alone wield a pixilated lightsaber.

Sunday was better. Ish. Still wiped, but I slept like a rock, which is always a victory. I had a splitting headache, and my arm was swollen to twice its normal size, but I felt a little more human. I announced to the world with startling naiveté that I was trending upward.

I recover a little more each day. As of this writing, my symptoms have more or less subsided. But my weekend of vaccinated mopery sent the rest of my body into chaos. Spring is in full swing, which means my allergies are at an all-time high. I pop Sudafed like Reese’s Pieces, desperate to breathe through my nose like a normal person. And I’m tired. Not fatigued — tired.

My body will adjust. It always does. And I know in my bones the vaccine was worth it. In a little over a week, I’ll be “fully vaccinated,” with a sticker to show for it. I don’t plan on traveling the globe, or even leaving the house more than I do now, but there’s something to be said for peace of mind.

Thanks to the vaccine, anything is possible.


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