It’s Not Like I’m Dying or Anything

I make a terrible sick person. I’m not demanding or too complaining, at least that’s never been revealed to me. When I don’t feel well, I try to be chipper and make light of it.

So how does this make me terrible? Well, terrible in the sense that it takes a lot of mental gymnastics to get me to not go to work. Not that I’m such an ardent warrior about my work, believe me. I’m not Mrs. Career Woman who has something to prove that I can’t bear to be away from my work for a day. What I mean is that when I start getting sick, I ask myself, “am I sick enough to take a day off?”

I rarely get sick. I just told someone this the other day and boom, the next day, I had a sore throat. But honestly, I can go an entire year without a cold or stomach virus or whatever. My running joke, “thank God for immune systems” is due to the fact that I don’t use hand sanitizer, I’m not a germaphobe, and I have no problem being around sick people. I think I’ve just built up a tolerance. Even in years I worked in hospital and medical settings, the only time I had what may have been the dreaded flu, it was during an outbreak that was so widespread that the hospital I worked in was temporarily closed. That was twelve years ago. Oh, and the only time I’ve had a flu shot was during pregnancy.

My father had also never been sick. Sure, he had a sniffle here or there and that was pretty much it. I don’t know if they still make it, but periodically he’d take a Dristan for “sinus”, as people of a certain age say. He worked at the same office for nearly thirty-five years and didn’t need to call out sick until he was in his mid-sixties. I vaguely remember some sort of inner ear infection that caused him dizziness once, but it was probably over forty years ago by now. Even while my father was in assisted living and in a nursing home, he never picked up any sort of ailment that was going around.

Now that I’m a parent, I’m told, that will change, and I will be sick all the time. Which is what led me to get a cold of sorts this week. While I was singing at a funeral on Friday morning, I had gotten a cough toward the end of Mass, but thought nothing of it. Late that night, my friend asked me to sing for her at a Saturday Mass as they were stranded in another state due to inclement weather that messed up all the flights. It felt like I was getting a sore throat, but I denied it.

Oh, it’s just a tickle in my throat, I said, which is how these things always begin with me. It’s never, holy cow, my throat is on fire [which it was], let me ask my friend to find someone else to sing on Saturday. It’s always I’M FINE I’M FINE I’M FINE. And yes, to prove that I was fine, I went to the gym and ran for an hour because it’s the beginning of the year and I have resolutions and all. By the end of the Mass on Saturday evening, my throat felt like I had swallowed broken glass and I’m quite certain my voice sounded like Weezy Jefferson. The lady who told me my singing was “lovely” after Mass was just being polite. I’m sure of it.

Driving home, en route to pick up something for dinner at the store, I sneezed at least twenty times in a row. Denial. But what was I going to do? I had to play a Mass on Sunday morning and it’s not like I can just “call off” like people with normal jobs do. So I did something uncharacteristic of me: I went to bed and woke up and took some generic Day-quil. I think so little of my ability to get sick, I don’t even buy the brand-name stuff. Add to that, it must have been in our closet for a number of years because it’s just about to expire.

I felt good enough to get through it and then went home. After a few hours, I went back out to do grocery shopping for the week, and I forget what else I did. I was having a lot of symptoms that people get when they have colds: runny nose, congestion, feelings of maybe a fever, cough. All that fun stuff.

But even when I got up this morning, feeling worse than I did yesterday, I had to go to work in the afternoon. I’m also moving into a new office space and needed to make some phone calls. Coughing into the phone didn’t convince me that I’m sick. I’m still not super convinced, but I’m getting there. I had a number of clients scheduled, but because I canceled some due to the weather last week, I couldn’t not see them again this week. So I powered through and did two sessions and canceled everyone else.

And I feel incredibly guilty. I convince myself most of the time that being sick is in my head. I can appreciate when other people are sick and give others the benefit of the doubt when they are not feeling well. But I am my own worst enemy. Did I earn the right to stay home today? Even while I was seeing the two clients, I was conversing with myself, wait, could I have probably been fine enough to see the people I canceled? What’s wrong with me that I can’t sit here just because I have a cold? Rather than acknowledge that maybe staying home and watching TV might be something that could help me heal, I’d rather beat myself up and say maybe I’m just lazy.

I’m pretty self-aware and have processed a great deal of how my upbringing has influenced the adult I’ve become. I don’t have many recollections of being made to feel guilty for being sick. Was my sickness underestimated by people at times, yeah maybe. And perhaps that’s why I have a very strong denial system in place when I’m not feeling well. I can’t admit to myself that I’m sick because, on the grand scheme of things, it’s not like I’m dying or anything. I hope that when I am dying, I can maintain the same attitude.

So, this didn’t need to be as long as it was. And maybe it should just be in my journal. But heck, I guess it’s better that I’m home, putting my germy fingers all over my computer instead of coughing germs into my clients’ faces.

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