The Art of Being Sick
What do you do when you're sick?
Are You Really Sick?
All it takes is the overpowering seduction of sleep. That’s the beginning.
There is an intimate relationship we have with our own body. We understand the natural ebbs and flows of our specific biorhythms. Sometimes we need to take a bit of a break from reality and shut down. When I say that people think I’m talking about the need to go on a vacation. No, what I’m talking about is a bit more urgent and immediate than that.
I’m talking about the necessary “time out” that comes from being sick. The attack will happen in either one of two different ways: The obvious way and the subtle way. When your body wants to give you an open obvious clue to its ill health, it will “tell” you through nausea or an immediate need to evacuate everything in your lower digestive tract – and we all know what that means. We become very intimate with our own bathroom décor.
If we’re suffering from nausea, many of us will come to note the coolness of the ceramic toilet seat or finally appreciate the foresight we had in purchasing a fluffy throw rug for the floor. I remember one particular bout with food poisoning that kept me bound to the porcelain throne for an entire night while I pondered the necessity of chewing my food more as well as the humiliation of a “Sunny Von Bülow” scenario of being found unconscious in my underwear.
Of course, when the attack comes from the lower digestive tract, we’re in the same place but in a different position. We’ll rise and sit for what seems like an eternity, taking stock of what available reading material we’ve left in what we consider our most commonly used reading room and wonder why we don’t rotate the magazines or books more frequently – or at least keep a larger selection.
That’s when you know you’re sick.
Then there are the subtle signs you’re unwell. Something is off. It’s just the inklings and early stages to what will be a lingering malady. I find that the initial “tightness” of the throat combined with chills and bits of dizziness is tantamount to an English valet clearing his throat and politely suggesting that preparations should be made to the probability of not going to work tomorrow.
There is also the overwhelming weariness that comes from nowhere. While weariness in itself does not suggest ill health, the addition of it to chills, fever, or general pains and aches could be indicative of something viral. Whenever I feel like that and wake up feeling crappy the next day, I ask myself the acid test question of, “Would I survive a commute to the city like this?” If the answer is “no”, then I’ll stay home and call in. If the answer is “yes”, I’ll work it like an answer from my Magic Eight Ball and say, “Answer hazy. Ask again later.”
But whether the indicator is obvious or subtle, you will be staying home. What do you do after that?
Rule #1: Rest
Not that you’ll really be debating this in your condition, but you’re gonna wanna rest.
Your body is going to hijack your brain. You will find that the thick heavy blankets on your bed will be like the warm hug of a guardian angel. That meeting that you needed to lead? Well, that’s gonna have to wait. If you’re really feeling responsible and ambitious, you’ll call someone to either cancel it or do it for you. Then, you’re going to put your phone down or power down your portable laptop and say good-bye to the world for a while as your eyeballs inspect the insides of your eyelids.
Lay in bed. Stay in bed. Sleep in bed. And make a careful assessment on whether or not you really want to make the trip to the bathroom. Your own body will tell you when you’ve had enough sleep.
But rest isn’t just sleep. “Rest” means that you don’t do anything. You know those DVD’s you’ve been putting off watching? It’s time. Don’t read. The eyestrain alone could make you go mad – if you don’t get a headache first.
My mother is the worst patient in the world. She’ll get sick… really sick… and she’ll go about her business of the day until her body puts her out of commission. She will run errands. She will go to meetings. She will drive through all of creation doing what most people do on any given work day. When her body crashes, and it does crash, she finds herself unable to do anything – spending even more time in bed than if she’d just stayed home and rested for one day.
The body needs time to rest, heal, and recuperate. Don’t interrupt the process.
Rule #2: Eat
When I get sick, I obey my body. If my body says fried chicken from KFC, that’s what I’ll go for. Chicken fat apparently has therapeutic value. That’s why grandma always made chicken soup when we weren’t feeling well. If my body says hamburgers or ice cream, that’s what I’ll have. They’re the same rules I’ll follow if I’m hung over. If I need Doritos, then Doritos it is.
My wife is a vegan.
My name for her is “She-Who-Can’t-Be-Fed”. What’s more – she’s a health coach. When she has a client, she has an extensive questionnaire to find out the client’s eating history from childhood. This survey will include current eating habits and what goals the client has for life, physicality, and mental well-being.
When she gets sick, I’m at a loss. Everything is a debate. Each conversation begins with, “What do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know.”
“What is your body craving?”
“Do you want me to get you pizza?”
“No, I don’t want pizza. It has cheese. I don’t want cheese.”
“What do you want?”
“I don’t know.”
This cycle will go on until I start throwing apples at her. Or make tea. It all depends on the level of insane frustration I’m driven to.
The point is the body needs something to build on. It needs calories. It needs the nutrients given in a healthy meal. I think the body has a natural ability to tell you what it really needs. My wife’s first impulse for pizza was probably the right one. While there was cheese on the pizza, there was also tomato sauce and warm carbs (within the white flour) that would have given her body something substantial to work with.
If your body is craving food, forget your current diet – it will continue after you’re well.
Rule #3: Take Your Medicine
My wife is a firm believer in natural health remedies. Many of them work. She even makes her own home made cough medicine. There are lots of things in it including honey, bee pollen, and dryer lint.
I am grateful for each and every one of her remedies. Yes, the tea with valerian tastes terrible – and after I wake up I tell her. She has a million concoctions for a whole bunch of things. I’m really happy that she goes to the trouble.
My faith is in modern day pharmaceuticals.
If I have a headache, I’ll take ibuprofen. If I have a stomach ache, I’ll take an antacid.
I make what I call a Robitussin™/Theraflu™ cocktail that conveniently removes those pesky daylight hours from your day. One bit of advice, find a chair and drink this in your crappiest pajamas. When you finish be sure to pass out immediately for a few hours. I like to put on a long movie like Gettysburg (running time 4 ½ hours) to assess how many hours of my day I’ve lost. Not many people can make it through the Col. Joshua Chamberlain (played by Jeff Daniels) battle at Little Round Top after taking a dose.
Taking these types of pharma medicines help you detox this viral crap out of you and helps you relax at the same time.
Sick on Amazon
I’m getting that feeling again.
It’s that low level achiness followed by flash chills and a runny nose. I’m a consultant, I don’t get paid days off. I get to work from home when I’m not feeling well. If it really gets bad, I need to make the decision if I can lose out on $320 (before taxes) for a day’s loss of work. That’s how much being sick costs me.
So, if I have to take off, I’m gonna get my money’s worth. I won’t do a scrap of work. I won’t even think of work or answer an email. I’m going to do exactly what I want to do and not care at all about it. If they want me to care, give me a day off and, at least, I know I’m sort of on the clock. I’ll, at least, make the effort.
Your health is literally the MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU HAVE.
However, if you only have one day off – that’s on you – the question is “Do you go to the doctor?” Is that where we are? I remember when I was at my first real job and used to get paid for days off and if I wasn’t feeling well, I rested. Now, I have to justify the cost of getting well. I may need to go to the doctor to be sure I’m not dying. Chances are, he’ll tell me that I should go home and get some rest.
Which is what I was going to do to begin with – if he’d told me to have fried chicken, I would have thanked the man when I paid the bill. If you’re going to spend money by taking off of work, I think you have every right to do what you please.
© 2013 Christopher Peruzzi