The Feverish Brain

Flu season is upon us, and in New England, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a reminder to “get your flu vaccine FOR FREE!” What they don’t tell you on the sign, is that the medicine you’ll have to buy when you do get sick (and you will) is definitely not free.

I’ve never been the type of person to get sick, and managed to get through most of my childhood and adolescence without throwing up at all. Iron stomach, diesel immune system, and a colon that could beat up your dad. I was as healthy as a malnutritioned middle child who was good at absolutely nothing could be. No sports to keep me fit, and my dad didn’t exactly stress the importance of getting your heart rate up, much less any real physical activity to speak of*, so I developed very little muscle tone. However, my brain was always sharp, and I could probably successfully run away from most people if I had to. What is “healthy” anyway?

*My dad, like most dads in the 1980s, was pretty big on the whole martial arts craze that came along to make every man in the Western world feel like he could do anything! He considered his interest in this subject to be the extent of his exercise, and forced us into it briefly as well. So in that way, I guess you could say that he did encourage us to be somewhat active, until his car accident gave way to a pill addiction (which he was able to overcome with the help of cannabis) and he stopped being able to force us into his dreams of being a black belt.

As an adult, when I get sick, I feel like the world is ending. I never had to deal with such pain and suffering, growing up (I guess jumping off the roof of a burnt house, into a pile of dried horse shit isn’t without its benefits) and it took me by surprise that I wasn’t dying the first time I got pneumonia. I stayed up all night, because I thought I was going to stop breathing in my sleep.

I didn’t die, by the way. I’m still here. And I still get sick, and it still sucks. That’s why I am so empathetic to others, when they’re sick: because I know what it feels like, and it’s not always obvious to the outside world that you feel like a walking zombie. When I’m sick, I don’t want to be expected to do a fuckin thing. I just want someone to say “Aw man, why don’t you sit down, so you can fixate on how shitty you feel, and I’ll make dinner.” Matt is really good for this. The kids try to ask me what they can do for me, but that just ends up looking like this:

Sonny: “Mom, what can I do for you?”
Me: “Nothing, just hang out and be good.”
Dot: “Can I get you anything?”
Me: “No, I just want to lay here.”
Sonny: “Well do you want a cold rag?”
Me: “No, I just want to lay here.”
Dot: “Do you want an ibuprofen?”
Me: “I took one already. I just want to relax, please, thank you, you don’t have to do anything for me.”
Sonny: “Want us to turn the TV down?”
Me: “No, it’s not bothering me.”
Dot: “Do you want me to make dinner?”
Me: “NO! Please don’t, I can’t even think about that right now.”
Peter Jennings Sonny: “Does your head hurt?”
Me: “Yes.”
Dot: “Have you been coughing?”
Me: “I have been up all night, coughing, with a fever, and haven’t slept in days.”
Sonny: “Do you think you have a cold?”

And that’s how I relax, when I’m sick. The sickest part of the whole thing, is that both of them were sick with separate illnesses the week before, and I fuckin got both of them. I think they saved up every question they weren’t able to ask when they were sick, and piled them on all at once. I’m no stranger to fever thoughts myself. I had a fever for almost 5 days last week, and I not only had some strange thoughts, but I apparently committed a few of them to a Google search.

“Can a human live off just broth alone?” – the answer is no. Depending on what your broth is made of, that is. If it’s made with proteins and stuff, I’m sure you could probably be alright, but I don’t think that’s the kind of broth I was drinking.

“Is lava the same temperature as my face?” – again, the answer is no. Turns out, lava is anywhere from 1,100- 1,600F, and hot snot averages around 102F. I’ve sat in hot tubs that were 115F, and that’s not that much hotter than what was stuffing up my entire face. There was steam coming off that water. Might as well be lava, when it’s that close to my brain.

“Can I overdose on Ricolas?” – this would be difficult. The closest you’d probably come to overdosing on any cough drop, would be severe nausea, caused by too much menthol. I always thought minty shit was supposed to alleviate nausea, but that wasn’t even close to being my problem.

“Nobody cares that I’m sick” – I stand by this statement.

“How can you poop if you can’t eat?” – oh, believe me… you can poop. It’s just not going to be food. Not gonna be food, because you didn’t eat, and you didn’t eat because your face was full of lava. And if you can’t even eat a baked potato, you need to get used to pooping out broth.

“Flu vs Cold” – I think I’m going to wait until I finish medical school, to lend my expertise on this one. From what the internet tells me (the internet is a doctor) there is minimal difference between the two, other than the fact that one comes complete with the Triumvirate of Suffering: fever/chills/headache. Remember when I said nausea wasn’t my problem? The Triumvirate of Suffering was the star of that show.

“Can a cold last forever?” – besides the fact that I didn’t have a cold this time, I would have to say that, historically, 100% of the time, my colds have not lasted forever. Could be a fluke.

“My pee is too cloudy” – lack of fluids, probably caused by too much broth and not enough water. Luckily, it wasn’t indicative of a bladder infection – or worse, kidney stones – because that may have very well sent me over the edge. When I’m sick, I have very little energy to do anything other than whine and complain, so driving myself to the doctor, and subsequently the pharmacy for antibiotics, wasn’t happening.

“Is it today, or yesterday?” – this was something I typed into my phone’s search function, so I didn’t get an answer. Is there an answer? I don’t think so.

Having a fever can also affect your judgment, such as your concept of time. I showed up to pick up my daughter from school, and ended up crying in the car, because I was 15 minutes early. I legitimately wondered – aloud – why she wasn’t coming outside.  When my son had a last minute practice, I could have jumped out the window of my car. That didn’t happen, mostly because I couldn’t move.

The worst part about being sick, at least this time, was the idea that I couldn’t sleep, which meant the sickness was going to either get stronger, or at least maintain its stronghold on me. When I tried to sleep, the lava mucus in my face threatened me with brain boil (just an FYI, brain boil isn’t real, unless you were in the Vesuvius disaster). If you can’t sleep, and your face is on fire, you don’t necessarily wake up with hope that things are improving. Maybe you do, but I think you’re lying. Waking up with a fever and headache, then wrapping yourself in a blanket and cranking up the heat because you’re freezing, only to immediately realize you’re roasting… not a great morning routine. Especially when you know that you’re probably going to drag those symptoms around with you all day, and they’ll be accompanying you to bed.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, being sick is fuckin stupid. It kept me from writing, and made me feel like a turd for not being able to power through it. I would like to be one of those humans whose will is stronger when they’re sick, simply because they want to be the one behind the fight, and claim the recovery as their victory. Instead, I rag on myself until every ounce of self esteem has been flushed from my body, like three days’ worth of chicken broth. When I do feel better, it’s because the universe has finally decided it’s fucked with me enough for now, and it lets me go free so I can run home to my mommy to nurse my wounds… until next time it gets bored and decides my suffering is entertaining. Who would’ve known that sickness was my weakness?!

Now that I’m feeling better, I can get back to my life of no irrational fear or unreasonable judgment. It’s gonna be great.

-jg