72 Hours of Pain, Elves, and Time-Travel

Three days ago I pulled my blinds, blacking out the last bit of light that had been streaming into my apartment.

My intention was to ease the pain I was feeling in my head, but cutting off the light did little in the way of curing my ailment, and led to more stumbling around in the dark than anything.

It did, however, set the stage for a really crappy 72 hours.

If I had to describe the pain, I’d say it was like some miniature person was behind my eyes, slowly tightening screws into the orbs, while a few of his miniature friends took jackhammers to the back of my skull. There were other miniature people pulling on every hair follicle on my body, while still others poured concrete into my joints.

I’m not a doctor, but I think the medical community has been focusing their energy in the wrong direction for too long: what we really need is a cure for elves.

Because of the darkness and the fact that I would sleep for 20 minutes then wake up for an hour and then sleep for 3 hours and then wake up for 10 minutes and so on, I lost track of day and night.

The pain in my head lead to an intense nausea, and my bowels could be best described as ‘gurgly, like a bog.’ My normal circadian habits, like eating, then, were out of the question. I had no real anchor to latch onto, and though I was getting emails and Twitter updates through my phone, I had to check and recheck to make sure I wasn’t dreaming some of the conversations I was having.

I had feverish dreams of Twitter conversations with dead US Presidents. I’m not making this up.

Reality was distorted by the pain, and all I could focus on was alleviating that pain. I drank lots of water, tried getting a massage (a big mistake, it turns out, when you’re suffering from chills and your hair follicles hurt), got some pain killers, and tried to eat something, but nothing stayed down. This was something I would just have to deal with.

So I did what I do in times of personal adversity: I locked the moment in my mind. Everything I was feeling, everything going on around me, my thoughts, concerns, are stored into a snapshot ‘mental moment-in-time’ and sealed off like a time capsule. I tell myself I’ll come back and revisit it when everything’s over.

It’s a silly exercise, but one that works. It helps me to remember that time is not one long stretch, but a series of moments, some good and some bad. I’ve been through enough bad moments to know that they pass, and when they do, I’m always able to look back and say ‘well that sucked, but it wasn’t the end of the world.’

It’s like time-travel, but cheaper.

Creating mental milestones makes it easier to hunker down and cope with the time in between, rather than fighting the idea of something bad happening, potentially missing out on something valuable you can take away from the situation, or at the very least allowing yourself to just get better. Sometimes your energy is more ideally spent on your immune system than your logical concerns.

I’m not completely in the clear yet, but this morning I woke up feeling better than I have in days. The headache is gone, my stomach is more stable, and I have an appetite. Most, if not all, of the elves have left their stations and the world seems full of possibilities again.

I had my milestone moment, allowing myself to think beyond that capsule of time, as I raised the blinds and let the light back in. Looking out the window, there were storm clouds along the horizon, but it looked to be a beautiful day in Bangkok.

Update: January 27, 2017

I was later told that I had likely contracted Dengue Fever, which was going around in Bangkok at the time, and which matched my symptoms almost perfectly.

I haven’t had any reoccurrences since, so it may be that it was something else, or perhaps I’m just one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have an active strain of the disease.

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