Today is the first day in almost a week that I’ve actually gotten out of bed. I’ve been sick with a cold. Just not any cold. The worst cold in the history of colds. The Black Death, Tuberculosis, the Spanish Flu, those had NOTHING on my suffering. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t stay awake, I was hot, I was cold, I was hungry but couldn’t eat, the antibiotics tasted gross, I didn’t want any more water, I was thirsty, my arm injury hurt more, I had crazy nightmares, I wanted ice cream but not that ice cream. Over a week and I’m still not healthy yet.
So today, I am semi-functional. Still on antibiotics and still can’t eat anything that is crunchy (so of course, all I want is crunchy food). I’m more tired than usual, in that I tried to go for a walk and managed about three blocks before I was exhausted. So, tea and honey. Blankets. Soup for dinner again. I’ll probably watch a movie and fall asleep around 7:00 tonight.
Guess what? That’s what being sick is like.
I’m generally a healthy person. I’m active, I eat decently (enough), I am aware of injuries and making sure that I am getting enough sleep. All that stuff that makes a healthy person healthy. I don’t get sick often but still, healthy people get colds. Or the flu. Tonsillitis. Food poisoning. Allergic reactions. Hangovers. Those things can happen to anyone.
Sometimes, it’s really easy to focus on epilepsy and only epilepsy. Sometimes it’s really easy to forget that as a human being, I am as susceptible to getting sick as any other human being. As if somehow, because I am epileptic that I am immune to other ailments and illnesses. That my epilepsy prevents me from ever catching a cold.
What’s my point? Epilepsy doesn’t do that. I am still a human being who is prone to getting sick.
Why is this a point? It goes back to focusing on only epilepsy. Whether we are the actual individual with epilepsy, family, a friend or partner, an employer, whomever, we need to keep this in mind: it’s frustrating to hear that “at least it wasn’t a seizure”. As if I should be completely stoic in the face of all illness because it’s not related to my epilepsy. As if I should somehow manage to keep functioning in every way possible despite being sick, because it wasn’t a seizure.
I write this yet though I say it to myself. I’ve had lots of jobs where I would save my sick days at work for days when I have a seizure (so heaven forbid I get a cold, or a migraine, or cramps). I could have the worst cramps in the world and I would still show up for work because I could still do my job. I might not have been able to eat for four days because I had food poisoning but I needed to keep those 10 sick days “just in case”.
Theoretically, if a person who has a cold comes into an office, they would be sent home to avoid getting the entire office sick (or wouldn’t have come in at all). I know someone who uses their sick days for mental health days when the weather is nice. I cannot even imagine being able to do that.
I spend a lot of time trying to encourage people to be active, to make goals, to defy expectations. When I am sick and I can see that it’s sunny out but there is absolutely no energy in me to go for a run, it’s heartbreaking to me. I try to encourage people to push themselves to their limits when it comes to running (I know I do) but that doesn’t apply all the time.
It has taken me many many years to get to a place where I am willing to acknowledge that I am not actually invincible all of the time. I do get colds. I do need to take sick days. I do need to take antibiotics. Even though yes, I have epilepsy, at this moment I also have a cold. We are willing to take the time to heal after a seizure, why are we unwilling to take the appropriate time to heal from other things? If it’s a workplace, have that conversation about the differences in sick leave. If it’s a family/partner, have that conversation about care. We should all make sure we have support for the times when we are under the weather, even if it’s not for a major medical condition.
Tonight I will be having soup for dinner…again. But it’s part of the process of being a human being. And this is a photo of warm milk with a teeeeeeensy bit of coffee in it, because I can’t go get lattes and I have a caffeine addiction (meaning a crazy headache if I don’t have any). This latte is the bright light in my suffering.