Accumulating evidence indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic carries risks to psychological health and represents a collective traumatic experience with consequences at the social, economic, and health levels. The primary aim of this study was to collect ongoing COVID-19 survivors’ pandemic-related experiences as expressed through the use of metaphors; the secondary aim was to explore socio-demographic variables associated with the metaphor orientation as negative, positive or neutral. An observational follow-up survey was conducted and reported according to the STROBE guidelines. Patients ≥ 18 years, who were treated for COVID-19 during the first wave (March/April 2020) and who were willing to participate in a telephone interview were involved and asked to summarize their COVID-19 experience as lived up to 6 and 12 months in a metaphor. A total of 339 patients participated in the first (6 months) and second (12 months) data collection. Patients were mainly female (51.9%), with an average age of 52.9 years (confidence interval, CI 95% 51.2−54.6). At 6 months, most participants (214; 63.1%) used a negative-oriented metaphor, further increasing at 12 months (266; 78.5%), when they used fewer neutral-/positive-oriented metaphors (p < 0.001). At the 6-month follow-up, only three individual variables (female gender, education, and experiencing symptoms at the COVID-19 onset) were significantly different across the possible metaphor orientation; at 12 months, no individual variables were significantly associated. This study suggests increasingly negative lived experiences over time and the need for personalized healthcare pathways to face the long-term traumatic consequences of COVID-19.