At any rate, because of this skill the first thing that come to mind when I think about the past few days of my life is an old Calvin and Hobbes strip (from 1988! I'm a genius!), in which Calvin has come down with the flu in the middle of the night, and is sitting up frightened in bed.
"It's scary being sick..." he said (and yes, I'm assigning agency to a technically fictitious character here. I write ficiton, ok? This is my world!) "Especially at night. What if something is REALLY wrong with me, and I have to go to the hospital?? What if they stick me full of tubes and hoses? What if they have to operate? What if the operation fails? What if this is my... my... last night... ALIVE??"
This past weekend I developed a fierce set of hives all over my body (as well as a charming rash on my posterior), apparently as the result of an allergy to an antibiotic I had been taking. I've had outbreaks of hives at various points in my life, so this shouldn't necessarily have been the scariest thing in the world: usually, I assume that my body is healthy enough to heal most anything, because I am young and invincible. However, last year at about this time I had a similar allergic reaction, complete with hives in my throat, the cause of which was never determined. I was not on the same antibiotics at the time.
Because of the air of mystery surrounding my condition, I couldn't help but be nervous, and every new symptom made me go a little bit more crazy. The appearance of each hive caused me to hyperventilate in Dave's general direction (note: playing Scrabble while stressed out due to illness will not calm you down), and the swelling up of my hands like link sausages made me miss work 2 days in a row. When my breathing turned wheezy (wheezy sounding: it was still not hard to breathe, my throat was not closing up, and the doctor didn't find any hives in my throat this time) I laid awake in bed until 4:30 in the morning, wondering if I should go stab my EpiPen into my thigh.
Luckily, the antihistamine that I was prescribed seemed to do away with most of my visible symptoms (Dave is still calling me by my new Indian name, Fat Paws), but didn't help at all with the sudden pain in the joints of my hands, wrists, and feet. This reached the point, yesterday, where I could barely carry home a bag of groceries without dropping them everywhere and suffering for it later. This seems to have gone away more or less on its own, though flexing my hands still feels...weird. Not painful, just not right.
When I was a child I didn't really relate to Calvin's fear of illness, perhaps because I so trusted in the wisdom of my parents to get me well again. But now, with a not-really-life-threatening, but-incredibly-annoying condition on my hands, I suddenly knew just what he was talking about. What if I don't know what my throat closing up feels like, and I just ignore it? I worried. What if this is the first sign that my body no longer intends to fight disease?
This all made me realize what it feels like to have an invader in your body, something steadily, stealthily doing you harm from the vantage point of your own bones and sinews. Whatever I was allergic to, it was in my blood. By now, I'm really just fine. But this experience really shook me up, and I'm curious how many other people have become a bit more wary of their illnesses as they've emerged from childhood.
*** Image Credit: 'From my sick bed' by angusf on Flickr.com