I worry that what has happened to me will eventually happen to everybody else. I worry that everyone is going to get COVID-19, and that a significant chunk those of us who didn’t die will just feel cruddy forever.
At least it feels that way. I first got sick four months ago, and as I write this I’m still sitting listlessly bundled up in blankets. Woke up twice from chills last night. Still on an inhaler, still planning my days around the latest alarm to take my pills.
What if this is all there is?
There’s this saying: ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ I used to puzzle over it when I was a kid and try to figure out what it meant.
Basically it means, enough stuff happens every day to worry about. No reason to worry about the past or the future. The problems of today will always be enough to keep us busy.
There’s a balancing effect there, sort of like dollar-cost averaging. On the days when things are truly terrible, we can make a memory that will help to remind us why we can appreciate the easier days a little more. Taking a decent day for granted is a sad mistake.
In one sense, I can remind myself how fortunate I am in almost every respect. At least it’s something to do to occupy my time... I lived, I can call my family, I have health insurance, my doctor is responsive, there is currently a little robot mopping my floor. All pretty great stuff.
I have to keep going through these exercises because the rest of me is getting pretty fed up.
What did I even do to bring this on myself.
I don’t mean getting COVID, because to be fair I was duly warned. I actively debated whether I should go out that day with both my husband and QT. I took an informed risk that blew up my entire life, but it wasn’t like I had no idea it could happen.
What I want to know is where the bacterial pneumonia came from. The antibiotics seem to have done a reasonable job on it. Now I just feel like I have a bad cold, which is a huge improvement over feeling like someone kicked me in the chest several times with a steel-toed boot.
I’ve spent eight weeks so far this year being ill. Now it feels like my rational course of action is to just plan for this to be my default mode.
Get up. Hit inhaler. Get dressed, eat breakfast, take pills. Start work. Clock out and lie down on couch. Drink NyQuil and go to bed. Repeat.
* This is the location of the pivot *
See, I know I can go on like this if I have to. If I don’t get better but if I also don’t get very much worse.
I wouldn’t be able to do it if we had to go in to the facility. I don’t know if I’m contagious. I also think it would be too much for me to get up an hour earlier every day and get myself across town. But for now, it’s possible.
The alternative would be to lie around feeling cruddy every day and watching my husband work.
Whenever I think about that, which is daily, I think of how boring and depressing it would be to feel this way and also to have nothing to do.
Then I think of all the famous historical figures I can remember who fought chronic illnesses. It turns out there are a LOT.
Carson McCullers had lupus and died at age 50. (I have a friend who has lupus who has outlived this sad milestone).
Proust, he... what the actual heck was wrong with him?... he was considered to be a hypochondriac but it turns out he actually had a rare genetic disorder and died aged 51.
Frida Kahlo was in a horrible bus accident as a teenager, suffered chronic pain the rest of her life, and died at 47.
Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis aged 30, although she wasn’t sick yet when she wrote Wuthering Heights so that’s sort of a different point...
(Which is to make the most of the time we have, because we know not the day nor the hour)
Anyway there have been all sorts of artists who made their art in spite of their physical state, level of pain, or mood. Probably about as many as those who had substance abuse challenges. Someone could do a statistical comparison; it might be comforting. Or a PhD topic, or both.
This is exactly what is annoying me so much right now. I had this bright idea that I was going to apply for grad school and get a PhD, but now I feel so low that it seems like it would probably be a fantastic waste of money.
What can I manage on a daily basis, what can I do simply by putting one foot in front of the other and making it through the hours, one hour by one hour by one hour by one hour?
Living, I suppose
I hope that thinking about my state of breathlessness and exhaustion helps someone else. I hope it can help uplift someone who at least feels capable of breathing cleanly. Of course I also hope it helps someone to deal with the boredom of self-isolation, knowing you are saving yourself from something yet more boring and depressing, which is to just be ill all the time. But I hope it helps some of you to feel that you can go on, cook a nice dinner or put fresh clean sheets on your bed or something.
I’ll learn to pace myself, like we all do. Eventually I’ll figure out how much I can expect of myself. Eventually I may find a way to get up to my old hijinks. For now, it’s worth remembering that there are only five months left of this stupid year.
Others have dealt with worse (cite: 536 AD) and made something of it. This is my hope, that I’ll find a way to dab my own drop of paint or scribble my own smear of ink. You as well. Let us all get through this together, breathe our way out of it and try to make it into something worthwhile.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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