Spoiler alert: never.
Getting sick is a pretty fraught enterprise in my world.
There’s the feeling crap. My lungs and throat are my weak spots. And I have zero energy.
Then there’s the push-pull of when, where and how to ask for help. Not much point calling X, she’ll just be competitive about it. Not much point telling Y, he has no time for a squeaky wheel. Not much point asking Z or Z or Z, they have their hands full already so what are they going to do? Either way, I’ll come away feeling worse for having complained. And I already feel seriously craptastic… and have no idea how I am going to get through the day.
Then there’s the uncertainty of how to manage the medical situation. Not much point going to the doctor for something viral, they’ll just advise me to let it run its course. I’m certainly keen to stay away from antibiotics wherever possible. But isn’t there anything I can take that will help?
I used to live on pseudoephedrine in these situations. I learnt the hard way that the crash afterwards just wasn’t worth it. So I’m sticking to the slow burn of nourishing food, practitioner-prescribed supplements, steam and eucalyptus, and the occasional hot bath.
My Shiatsu therapist gave me a useful rule of thumb to work with: “If you are holding steady, then your immune system working hard to do what it’s meant to; you will likely start to feel better soon. But if you are feeling worse, then you aren’t winning. And should get help.”
I think I would find this easier to implement if it weren’t for all the STUFF that gets triggered whenever I feel unwell. For some reason, a tyrannical voice takes over, forcing me to see all the places where my house is not in order, forbidding me to rest until everything is sorted. And, of course, EVERYTHING IS NEVER SORTED. Which means that my adrenals go into hyperdrive and I do not sit down for a nanosecond.
I feel I should mention that there is a home truth here that if I do not look after myself, no one else is going to do it. I have two small kids and a husband whose immune system was severely compromised recently. It’s a no brainer that their needs take priority, even if I am struggling myself. My parents do not live close by and are increasingly vulnerable to viruses as they get older.
I spent yesterday ensuring the fridge was stocked with enough delicious home made chicken leek soup and immunity-boosting juice for the week. By the time I had cooked and liquefied everything, then tidied up, an entire afternoon had passed and my legs and back ached so much I was ready to pass out. And then it was school pick-up and there were snacks to be made and lunchboxes to be unpacked and restocked. Followed by dinner and baths and homework and bedtime stories.
Which, rather annoyingly, provided the perfect conditions for my tyrannical voice to step it up a notch, panicking/accusing that I had passed on the virus to my husband or children.
I can hear my therapist’s gentle enquiry: “And is there a hint of martyr in there?”
Anyway, all this to say that despite all valiant attempts, I have hardly written a thing these past two weeks. I’ve had this bizarre head cold which comes with a side serving of fatigue and aches and screwy body thermostat. Between that and trying to keep the family show on the road (including looking after my husband, who had a cold, and my little dude who has one now) there’s been very little space for me… and that’s even before you factor in the relentless self-criticism.
Which is not, generally, the most conducive environment for creativity.
I used to have a yoga teacher who welcomed these seasonal viruses. She used to say, “It’s good to have a good detox every now and again.” But she was smart: she’d look after herself. She’d give herself plenty of space to move through the illness, nourishing her body with good food, rest and yoga/meditation, and staying open to whatever the purge had to teach her.
It’s full moon in Taurus today and the dark, dank, earthy energy feels like an invitation to sink into the labyrinth. I do see a pattern in all this but it puzzles me no end. What is that mean voice all about? Why am I not allowed to rest when I am unwell, apart from the obvious? Why is it so hard to ask for help?
I wonder if I can live with never knowing the answer.
Or sit with the possibility that living with the mystery does not mean I couldn’t try something different next time…