This will not be what kills me.
That’s what I told myself last week, quite possibly after a coughing fit, when I was at the worst of this illness. I’m not 100% sure what I’ve got, but I’m pretty sure it’s just some kind of viral chest infection. It’s been almost two weeks now.
It started with a sore throat, as these things usually do, and my first instinct was to blame it on one of the disinfectants I was using at work that day, as it’s a known irritant. I’m quite lucky in the sense that, despite being around sick people a lot, I don’t get sick very often, so when I got this sore throat, I didn’t think much of it. I had some oatmeal the next morning (it’s my go-to quick-fix for sore throats because it’s worked for me many times before) and carried on with my day.
Unfortunately, the oatmeal did not work this time, and my throat got worse. Hot water was just about the only thing I could swallow without causing pain, so I drank copious amounts of tea in those first few days. But then the cough started, and I knew this was going to be serious. I don’t think I need to share further details of that except that on some days my cough was so bad that my eyes got teary from all the coughing.
Another indication of how bad this has been is that I used sick leave for the first time in almost nine years of working for this company. (I actually used to joke to my colleagues that if I ever use my sick leave, I’m probably dying.) That was last Thursday, and it was my boss who suggested I should go home. I assented because I felt quite unproductive, and was also worried about getting other people sick.
This, I’m sure, is the worst chest infection and worst cough I’ve ever had. But I just kept thinking, this will not be what kills me, and I carried on with the things I had to do (and put off whatever I didn’t have to do).
I did feel pretty miserable though, especially last week-end, when I had to cancel so many plans because I felt it was better for everyone (including myself) to stay quarantined at home. I spent most of that week-end lying on the couch, listening to classical music, and drinking tea and coffee. There were moments when I thought I was getting better, but it all seemed to be one step forward, one step back, so overall there was no discernible progress, and I felt like I was going to be sick forever.
But, ever the optimist, I was determined to not let this get the better of me, and I tried thinking instead about what this experience could teach me. I figured if I was going to suffer, I might as well get something out of it.
I thought about people I know with chronic illnesses, and just about chronic illness in general. In uni, they teach us that people with chronic illnesses are also at risk of developing depression. This has always made sense to me — I never doubted that having a chronic illness could be a miserable experience — but now I really understand it. My mind kept speculating about potential diseases and long-term conditions I could have, and I had to keep reminding myself that this was (most probably) just a simple, self-limiting chest infection.
Still, in the last two weeks I’ve taken four different cough medicines (two different lozenges, a tablet and a syrup), an analgesic, sore throat lozenges, and a natural remedy (which our retail manager recommended to me this week). Going from taking no medicines to taking something every few hours was a bit rough, but I really just wanted something to alleviate all these symptoms. And as I purchased each one, I felt grateful that I could afford to buy these without worrying about the cost, so I suppose there’s that too…
But even with this perspective and gratitude and paid sick leave, I was frustrated that I got sick after two weeks of trying to fix my sleep habits. In all my years of poor sleep, I’ve never been this sick. Ironically, I need sleep to get better but it’s harder to sleep when your throat hurts every time you even swallow your own saliva, or you need to cough up phlegm at random times during the night. It’s also a bit harder to sleep if you’ve been drinking tea and coffee all day in an attempt to be functional.
But I have to end on a positive note.
I am getting better now. I haven’t taken any medication today, and haven’t even had any caffeine. Still a bit of phlegm hanging around, but it’s definitely better than this time last week. And I really appreciate the well-wishes I’ve received, and the friends checking up on me, and the way parents never really stop being parents when their children need them.