Sick and Tired

I’ve been in Seattle, visiting family and pet-sitting for a week.

I’ve been sick for nearly the same duration.

I had a few days of relative normalcy and then—immediately after driving back from the dock where I dropped my sister, brother-in-law, baby nephew, and parents off to board a sideways skyscraper-scale ship for a seven-day cruise—WHAM, I nearly collapsed with exhaustion.

My brain was cloudy, my focus nonexistent.

I was congested, it hurt to swallow. I could barely grunt, much less speak. Breathing was possible, but seemed increasingly inadvisable.

The next several days were a bit of a (painful) blur.

I only really got out of bed because the cats I’m pet-sitting harass me if I fail to feed them on time (which in some cases, by their reckoning, is 4am), and the dog, who’s blind, deaf, can’t smell very well, and also my responsibility requires eyedrops throughout the day. So while she isn’t capable of climbing the stairs to push me out of bed (aided by the cats), I knew she needed those meds, so my (foggy) sense of dog-duty nudged my clogged and frazzled body through my fur-baby-related daily tasks and (sluggishly, achingly) through my more standard, work-oriented weekly rhythms, as well.

The first morning I woke up without pain and with a relatively well-functioning brain was borderline magical, despite the persistent tiredness and congestion, and my increasingly runny nose.

I’m now on day five of full-on sickness, and I still feel like I’ve been hit by a small train, but the worst of the overt symptoms have passed.

I’m still not sure what I’ve been suffering through (two negative Covid tests suggest it’s an early winter flu or cold, but Omicron-era Covid is supposedly better at dodging those at-home tests, so the big C remains a possibility) but I’m hopeful my contagious period will be behind me by the time my family returns from their voyage.

As far as I know I’ve dodged Covid thus far. Mostly, I suspect, because I’m able to work from home and have been careful with the social risks I’ve taken.

I’ve been lucky most of my life though, too, illness-wise.

I’ve had bad allergies as far back as I can remember, but I’ve got meds (which work okay) for those, and I’ve never broken a bone, haven’t suffered from any chronic conditions, and though I’ve recently had some jaw issues and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune disorder), I’m learning to manage the former, and the lowest possible dose of synthetic thyroid hormone (a cheap and widely available medication) seems to be keeping the latter in check.

All of which is to say, I’m still thrown off a bit any time I get well and truly sick because I’m generally pretty fortunate in that regard: I’m not knocked-flat by disease with any real frequency or intensity, and I’ve been in a position to handle or learn to manage the stuff that has cropped up.

Consequently, I try to use these moments of real-deal sickness to gain perspective, both in the moment—taking stock of how I function (or fail to) when in near-constant pain and packed to the brim with uncomfortable and brain-clouding fluids—and afterward: appreciating what it’s like to feel “normal” again, in the sense that I’m not in pain and my brain is working like it usually does.

I’m not heightened in any way, but because that previous baseline (which I failed to appreciate) feels so elevated compared to where I’ve been for about week, everything even close to my normal functionality seems shinier and latently happiness-inducing.

This sense of perspective also reminds me of the struggle so many people face on a daily basis because of chronic conditions they’re unable to shake for one reason or another.

I imagine anything can become normal with time, as we humans are good at adjusting our sense of what’s tolerable and expected when we have to.

But it does seem like a significant number of people are managing to dance roughly the same choreography as everyone else despite having to perform with weights around their ankles, blindfolds over their eyes, and headphones blasting different music duct-taped over their ears.

Which is impressive, but also unfortunate.

And this is something that, for me at least, is easy to understand intellectually but not necessarily feel, intuitively and persistently, until these moments in which I attempt to do the same, with great difficulty, for even just a matter of days.

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