Where Have I Been? Oh, Just Dying.
I wasn't sure how to categorize this. It's a story, kind of. But it's also a personal experience with health, but not any kind of advice for dealing with it. This is my personal story of the worst bout of illness I've ever had.
I started to write this on April 25th, but was still out of it pretty hard. I got down some of the details while they were still fresh and finished filling in the gaps today.
For those wondering where I've been:
I've spent three weeks deeply ill. In which time, I had very little contact with the outside world. Over the course of events I nearly died a dozen times. I also discovered there is an alternate universe consisting almost entirely of phlegm. Either a portion of this universe was being transferred via dimensional portal into my sinuses, or my sinuses themselves were actually removed from my body and went on an excursion in said dimension. I cannot be sure which.
It started on the 21st of April and on the 25th I was finally able to get out of bed. “But,” you may be saying to yourself, “The 21st to the 25th Four days does not equal three weeks, Cole.” And you would be quite right. I'll get to that.
In the Beginning, there was Illness...
At four am on April 21st, my five year old daughter woke up wailing with an earache. Fortunately, my deep slumber was penetrated by the sounds of sadness emanating from across the hall. I went in and asked her what was wrong.
She explained about her ear, and very sweetly added that her throat hurt too. I told her I was feeling the same way and asked her if she would like to go downstairs with me and watch a movie while we cuddle. She smiled at the idea and expressed delight. As we set up our bed of blankets, I had olive oil with garlic warming on the stove. The same earache remedy my mother used on me as a kid. She very sweetly accepted the crazy new idea and found it immediately made the pain bearable. We also had tea, water, and Spirited Away to keep us company. We cuddled until we fell asleep.
When I woke up, it was to find everyone else had already started their day and I was sleeping through the typical commotion. The kids were great, everyone was very sweet to each other and all on their best behavior. The rest of the day, while tiring, wasn't bad. I felt mostly okay, figured we were both coming out of it and everyone else felt fine. It was a really good day.
Then it Started
After a day of business and fun, April 23rd rolled around. Some measure of aching muscles are normal for me, but when I woke up on the 23rd it was extra hard to do anything. Focusing on a computer screen hurt my head immediately. I felt cold despite a pile of blankets and I turned on the heat. Knowing I must have a fever, I decided to burn it off. Trying to form words was a comical task involving too much effort. Still, I tried to talk to a few people, and keep up with life. It was a minimal effort morning laying on my office floor with plenty of blankets to keep me company. After sending a few messages, I promptly dosed off unintentionally.
I awoke in strange, dark surroundings, wrapped in my blankets. I could hear water dripping somewhere nearby and had the vague idea I was in a cave. My body still ached and my eyes blurry with pain and weariness despite the long hours of sleep. One thing was sure, I had not yet recovered. I lay there for several minutes assessing how hurt I was. My leg may have been broken, and probably some ribs. My entire body ached and the fever that had taken me had a firm grip. I tried to remember how I got in this cave and why I was here, until I finally drifted off to sleep.
Waking again, I looked around the room and couldn't tell what time of day it was. I looked at my computer clock and saw it was 11 something, but I couldn't tell if it said am or pm. Sure that it must have been a full sleep cycle because of the lengthy dreams I had, I lay a few minutes deciding if I was ready to get up or needed more sleep. Sleep decided for me.
The next thing I knew, I was floating through space.
My orbit around the sun was steady and strong. My senses reached out and found the little life forms sharing my physical space. I could feel the hearts of these creatures whom shared my life force. I didn't need vision, hearing, or sense of smell. These things were not part of my existence. I experienced life through the hearts of my companions.
They were born, lived, grew, evolved and died in a matter of hours. Each life gave a part of itself to the next generation, to their children. Each new generation was a copy of it's predecessor, but with something new. With growth, knowledge, understanding, and a new push forward for the species. Each new generation was a step forward for all of us.
I learned when they learned. My life was enriched by their lives being enriched. My understanding of life, love, and spirit grew with them. There were a small number at first. It seemed there was limitless space for them to live. Slowly, they procreated and that space grew smaller and smaller. They grew more abundant, and as they did, they forgot themselves. Generations went by and they seemed to forget how to be connected with their home. With me. In time, they stopped caring about treating me with love and respect.
They started to create waste that didn't break down naturally. Their pollution started to cause problems for all life. Eventually, they started just throwing their trash out without regard to the mess it made. At first, they didn't seem to notice the problems this behavior caused. Then the pollution started causing bigger and bigger problems. The pollution caused illness in themselves and other animals. And when it got thick enough, it started to hurt me.
As more time passed, they multiplied and the problems became bigger problems. They were still multiplying faster and faster, but their health was showing signs of wear. New diseases caused by contamination caused more and more damage. Their medicine tried to keep up, but it was a losing battle. Eventually, medications were less and less effective and they had to take more and more for any gain. Every medication had side effects and they were taking medication to make up for the problems medication caused. The short term solutions were causing more long term problems.
We were all connected far deeper than they realized and we were all dying. I felt weak and in pain. The little lives living on my surface were hurting. Their actions were causing sickness and decay to themselves and to me. I realized they were starting to understand what they had been doing to us all. Their hearts were increasingly feeling the pain they were causing to their bodies, and mine. I was dying. We were dying. Hope seemed lost with their insistence on remaining separate from our connection, and from each other. They continued to rely on a new enemy to fight, new problems to solve, rather than seeing how connected we all were. I sent love and compassion to them all knowing that if they just felt how much I loved each one of them, they would never want for emotional support. If they just understood that much, they could let go of the need to fight and work together for all our health. I could feel my life slipping away, and I didn't know if my cohabitants would wake up in time.
I started to understand I lay on my office floor. I was semi aware that what I just experienced was dream like, but I was awake too. That's when it occurred to me that this was a hallucination. I checked the time, it was only a few minutes after the last time I looked. Or was it 24 hours? It felt longer. The cycle of life as a planet had been a lengthy experience. It seemed decades passed in the span of a day. Time clearly had lost meaning.
As a teen, I talked to a lot of people who had previously, and were currently, taking drugs to alter their state of mind. After many questions and patient teachers, I knew academically why they did. I now understand, with deepest certainty, why people value hallucinogenic effects on a very personal level. Ironically, I did it drug free.
I had around a dozen of these hallucinations, and each time it felt like a day had passed.
I woke up in the morning and felt well enough to get up. I walked downstairs and greeted my wife and kids with hugs, then promptly sat on the floor. As it turned out, only a day had passed. This was April 24th. My stupor that felt like nearly two weeks had been in the course of a single day.
After a day spent on the living room floor, we set up an air mattress. The next week was spent in a giant blur of cuddle puddle and movies. With parents and children all feeling terrible, we didn't have much energy for anything else.
The worst part was the taste of food. I couldn't taste anything properly and nothing tasted good. In fact, the taste of everything was so terrible I couldn't choke anything down. When my five year old reached this point, the poor thing had asked for a bowl of granola. She took a bite of her favorite cereal, looked at me and said, “Daddy. I can't remember how it tastes. This cereal is yucky!”
Finally, after weeks of being ill, and nearly a week of trying to catch up to myself, here I am. Sharing the crazy of the worst illness of my life.
It was difficult, but I learned much from the time out of my head. The time spent ill with the kids was some great bonding time. I feel fortunate to be able to make the most of the down times.