Tuesday night I started to feel a little tickle in the back of my throat. I pushed it off, the week was already over committed with critical meetings and a ton of deliverables; I felt I didn’t have the luxury of slowing down. I woke up Wednesday feeling nauseous, but pushed through it because I had a training scheduled with a group that had traveled from across the country to get there, so I ate a bland piece of toast and got in my car. I made it through, but felt much worse after and, afraid I might lose my lunch around my colleagues, I drove home and took my last meeting from the chaise in my library.
Thursday, I wasn’t much better but I pushed it again. Same drill, except this time I found myself light-headed in my boss’ office with him looking at me like I was a lovable but misguided fool. “Go home,” he admonished. I took another meeting from my library that afternoon and after a sleepless night due to a throat on fire, I went to the doctor on Friday morning. No, I didn’t have strep. I just needed to drink fluids, rest and ride it out.
Those were not the words I wanted to hear.
When you’re a Type-A, always on personality, being told that you need to slow down and just rest is the ultimate punishment. Mentally, you can feel your to-do list growing longer and longer and you are powerless to take anything off it. For me it is like the I Love Lucy episode where the girls have to wrap chocolates on the conveyor belt, except in my “rest and fluids” version they have their hands tied behind their backs. The conveyer speeds up, the chocolates pile up, but there is nothing to do but sit idly by and watch the candy fly by, unwrapped.
I suspect that is why I have a tendency to ignore the tell-tale signs of being sick under the misguided hope that if I fail to acknowledge it I might somehow avoid it. Forty-four years of experience in this world and I still persist in believing that I can will myself to be well. It might be a hereditary issue, my grandfather subscribed to the idea of mind over matter. If you told yourself you didn’t have a headache, you wouldn’t have a headache he told me disappointedly when I asked whether he had Tylenol.
He didn’t like to slow down either.
We’re both wrong, of course. The germs won and I spent all day yesterday wrapped in blankets on the couch, shivering and miserable. I missed a concert my husband and I had been planning to attend for months, my teenage son went instead. I expect to spend today and tomorrow doing the same thing, sitting as I am with my iPad, and the cold essentials: a box of tissues, a glass of water and a bag of cough drops. It isn’t any fun, but I’m trying to remind myself that it isn’t as bad as the time I had to spend five weeks on bed rest when I was pregnant with my first child. That was before tablets and streaming video and I watched hour after hour of Law and Order and Murder She Wrote on A&E, unable to get up to do anything but go to the bathroom. I only pulled it off because the doctor told me my daughter’s health was at stake — I’m not sure any other rationale would have kept my butt on the sofa.
My husband, saddened to see me in this condition, pointed out that he can see a pattern. Once a year or so, I’ll push myself too hard and end up so run down that any little germ can find its way past my body’s normal defenses. It’s like my border patrol has been working too many double shifts and, asleep at post, they let the bad guys can just waltz right in and take over. I get it, I probably do this to myself. But I also believe it’s probably worth it. 360 days of super Mel might be worth five days of this.
Maybe, maybe not.
But, there’s always an upside. For the first time in the 27 days of 2018, I took the time to write. Being stuck flat on my keister has allowed me to focus my thoughts and put words on the digital page. And while I’m not sure it’s worth being sick, it’s better than nothing.