I knew I was screwed when I opened my mouth to say something, and my four year old friend sneezed directly into it. He had already been hacking up a mucus-y storm and despite his outward cuteness, it was clear he was a creature on viral overload. It was at work and I ran to the bathroom in a delusional attempt to evade sickness by washing my hands and swishing water around my mouth. It’s one of those things you do to perhaps convince yourself that what just happened was not a deal breaker, that you are in fact well and totally fine. When actually you are completely and totally fucked.
Stage one of illness: Denial. Have you ever swallowed a thousand times to try and figure out if you actually have a sore throat? A couple days later, this is what I was doing. Telling myself I wasn’t sick. Dosing myself with Vitamin C, too much yoga and googling “immunity.” Having plans with friends I didn’t want to miss, I was doubly anxious about the oncoming plague. I didn’t want them to get sick or worse yet, tell me to stay home. I just wanted to feel better. Laughing and hanging out definitely helped and I almost convinced myself I was okay. Almost.
Stage two: Acceptance. Okay, the red eyes, scratchy voice, phlegm-y vocalizations, pale face, sweaty brow and pink nose are all dead giveaways. You are sick, dammit. And you had better well face it. You are doing no one any favors by trying to be a martyr and get through it. You are tormented by thoughts of people who have climbed mountains, won gold medals and braved war all while nursing a 102 fever. The couch beckons. The whole world feels gray. You won’t be a hero today.
Stage three: “Lean In” to the couch. While 20 straight episodes of “Girls” may sound fun, let me tell you, it totally isn’t. I mean, not only did I feel like crap, I was utterly and completely aware of how old I was and that those 20 something days were long gone. Having girls who are swiftly approaching adolescence made this viewing all the more complicated, given the, you-know, anal sex and near constant nudity. I switched to PBS.
Stage four: Calling out sick. I hate calling out sick from work. Not only does it make more work for other people, it puts you way behind on all the things that are due, like, now. When there are people counting on me, it makes me feel terrible to let them down. Plus I missed volunteering at the school, swim practice, etc, etc. Calling out sick on your family is not fun either. From my bed I could hear them making their own meals, coordinating rides and attempting to find their favorite pair of jeans. They’re in the blue laundry basket, I croaked. They didn’t hear me. (Wait, can they really manage without me?) Rest, they say. It’s the best thing for you. But all this rest can’t be good, can it?
Stage Five: Human blob. Being a fairly regular exerciser, it’s tough to just sit and rest. My body was yelling at me, “Lie down immediately!” and my brain was forming pictures of global muscle atrophy, lung collapse and overall deconditioning consistent with a figure resembling Jabba the Hut. When I mention this to my husband, he smirks and says “uh huh” and walks away. One day, I tried to jump rope. Seriously. And then I started laughing at myself which began a coughing fit. No more exercise. For now.
Stage Six: Isolation. It was when I was in the car headed to pick up my daughter from school that I realized I hadn’t been to any of my usual spots in an entire week: yoga studio, work, kid’s schools, writing at my computer, friend’s houses or just out in the neighborhood for a run with the dog. Wow. I really missed all those things. But I was feeling better, antibiotics on board, and things were looking up. Maybe my husband wouldn’t be forced to sleep in the guest bedroom tonight because my hacking/nose blowing were keeping him up.
Stage Seven: Reintegration. Looking back now, I am sure I engaged in a fair amount of self pity over the last couple weeks. It’s really embarrassing given how my kids act when they are sick; they generally rebound fairly quickly and tend to be much more resilient in their recovery. And now is the time for me to get back to life and the things that make up life, good and bad, which I have been away from for awhile.
Recovery. Doubling my Omega 3’s and getting more sleep aside, things are about back to usual. Getting kicked in the ass like that naturally helps you to discover what is good and right with our lives. No, I’m not a CEO or a celebrity or anything like that. But like you, I am important to my people and I didn’t like being away from them even for that little bit. I am grateful that I am, in general, a super healthy person. I was sick, not sick after all. Maybe next time I’ll shake it off quicker. Or maybe not. Either way, it’s good to be well.