I got sick this week. Properly bedridden, eyelid drooping, life sapping sick.
Alongside countless others returning from Splendour in the Grass, I contracted some strand of the flu.
I previously thought the flu was like a cold, just a bad one. I was so wrong. Tuesday night was sweats, fevers, short of breath, sleeplessness. With Wednesday came the body aches and a feeling that my energy had blacked out like a reverse snare drum. That night the headaches started up the drums and stuck around til Thursday evening. I spent more time waking up than sleeping.
I hadn’t had an illness like this for a long time. I wrote to my colleagues and apologised for missing work and assured them I’d be in the following day, or at worst work from home. Surely. Then the stomach started playing up, like it’d been hollowed out and the vital organs were in crisis talks with each other. I lay in bed listening to the back and forth of these weird deep sea creatures singing out from my belly. Girgle girgle, zoooooooooom, eeeeeeeeyyyoooooo, rummbble, szzzweeeng. I turned over again and again, wedged into the side of my bed as our three year old daughter sprawled her legs over my back.
The stomach thing hung around all Friday and I wasn’t going to work. I was about 70 hours in and while the symptoms changed, I was still as crook as ever. How long now?!
That night it just disappeared. All the cold symptoms (razor blade throat, congestion, sniffling, other gross stuff etc) were still kicking and screaming – but the virus that wrestled me to the ground had left. Suddenly all those cold symptoms seem quaint by comparison.
It made me think about people who have to deal with long term illness, or chronic pain. The strength of character that is required when the expectation of an illness ending doesn’t exist anymore. You go to sleep with it. You wake up with it. You enter into a contest with it. You do your job with it. You raise your kids with it. It’s life and it’s unfair. I got the tiniest of tiny window openings into that world and I was like a crying baby trying to close it.
I have a deeper level of respect for people who have no choice but to learn to live with it.