This week I have attempted to write a post on a few occasions but couldn’t quite motivate myself to follow through with the ideas that now lie dormant in my draft box. I am suffering from Adenovirus aka, the virus responsible for the common cold. In my case, it is a mild cold, even though I still feel like someone has shoved a bucket of slime up my nose and down my throat. At its worst, Adenovirus can cause more serious issues such as croup, bronchitis, and pneumonia. So I suppose I am lucky that my 5-day cold has resulted in a minor inconvenience this week and will pass quickly. And while I was still able to experience some pleasure during my week, I can look back now and see how many ways in which it has slowed me down and caused me angst. Here are a few of the more irritating symptoms:
Feelings of achiness and malaise – This made it very difficult to sit through the multitude of meetings without intermittently dozing off to sleep or shaking my leg uncontrollably from all of the Sudafed and caffeine I was hopped up on.
Disruption of normal routine – I wanted to stay on my training schedule for the upcoming triathlon and started off great this week running and swimming like I’d never done before. By the end of the week, I opted for lying on the couch in a crumpled heap of sweat and exhaustion.
Labile mood – It has been a challenging week at work, with auditors here from two separate companies, each reminding me of the many ways in which I should be thinking about a career that requires less attention to detail. My ability to remain assertive and composed vacillated greatly. I have never been known for my ability to conceal my emotions, as my face involuntarily outs me whenever possible, and this week it betrayed me on several occasions. I hate it when someone asks me if I am okay, and especially when it is an auditor!!
Decline in appearance – This is the one that really gets to me – being told I look awful. Yes, I heard that from a few people yesterday. By the end of the week I lacked the energy and cosmetic skill to conceal the outward signs that my cold had inflicted upon me – the red nose, puffy eyes, flared up eczema, not to mention I didn’t have time to wash or blow dry my hair which wildly strayed from the pony tail I’d assembled earlier that morning.
Erratic eating habits – some people starve their cold, I prefer to continue shoving a variety of unhealthy foods into my mouth futily attempting to see if I can prompt my taste buds to wake up and start doing their job.
All of my symptoms elicited people’s empathetic responses – and I heard over and over, “why don’t you go home and rest”, “why are you here, you need to take care of yourself”, “what can I do for you?”
I think you get the picture, but put that picture in a different frame and the reaction my be very different. Let’s say instead of adenovirus, it is depression, an eating disorder, bipolar, anxiety disorder or any other mental health issue that has caused this litany of symptoms. Then how do we react to ourselves, and how do others react to us? Let’s say instead of a few days of minor disruptions, it stretches into weeks, months, or years. Society is much more tolerant of an illness it perceives to be out of our control than the ones that we are supposedly responsible for. Perhaps I had some hand in getting a cold, a few too many late nights, a few too many sweaty jogs in the cold, and not taking care of myself. Yet nobody told me I shouldn’t feel that way or that I should put mind over matter and cheer up. In reality, we don’t have as much say in our health as we would like to, and we may have conditions that make us more susceptible to certain kinds of illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, etc. Does having a mental illness make us any less worthy of care?
Let’s stop blaming ourselves and others when faced with a mental illness. Let’s offer the same support, encouragement, and love that would lead anyone with an illness to seek the help needed to begin the healing process. Nobody wishes to feel bad whether it is because of a common cold or a mood disorder.