I’ve been sick for a week and a half. Physically sick. A really nasty cold. It’s tailing off now, but I still have the damn thing. Colds are too often underestimated as a cause of misery. You know the old joke about colds? If you treat them, they last two weeks. If you don’t treat them, they last 14 days. I believe that. And let me just say that being sick absolutely sucks. And if you’re prone to chronic illness, that makes it even worse.
Remember this little monster with the club, like he’s Alley-Oop? From the 1940s and 1950s, a character named Peter Pain. He was the advertising “front” for a menthol rub-on called Ben-Gay. You’d see him in magazines and also in display ads in the bus and subway.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve been double-dating with Sean Hannity. Nightmare, anyone?
In plain English: since a week ago last Sunday, I’ve felt like shit. In fact, I still feel a lot like shit. My walking, which is bad at the best of times because of neuropathy, is awful now. You would never mistake me for someone in a circus trapeze act. Initially, I had a vestigial form of appetite even though I knew a heavy meal of the type I craved would probably come right back up, or would just tease me for an hour before making a loud and chunky exit via my nose and mouth. Is that a TMI? Not sorry about that. So I assuaged the hunger with various kinds of soup. Wahoo and whoopee. I want a rib eye steak, steak fries, a green salad with crutons and blue cheese dressing. Well, I’m not nearly getting that.
I’ve had a non-stop cough that indeed has something to do with smoking (“bad Ken, bad boy!”) but more to do with the cold having made itself at home in my chest. If I were a singer I’d be cancelling performances and losing income left and right. I’d wear out doctors all over the map. I have heard singers try to sing “above” a cold, and I’ve never heard it done very effectively. “We paid $300 a ticket to hear this?”
All of the above, none of the above. I’d go on a coughing siege and even the cat became alarmed. He came out from beneath the bed (his usual daytime hang-out) and just stared at me, very hard. “I’m sorry, baby” I’d croak, “Daddy’s not feeling too good. Don’t worry, I’m here for you. I’ll always take care of you.” Did that calm him down? <shrug> Remains to be seen. Did it calm me down? For certain.
What Dreams May Come
Generally, I do not remember my dreams. I don’t even remember having had dreams. Ordinarily, I wake up feeling somehow refreshed, even if I’ve slept for only five or six hours. It’s not impossible for me to get up, make some coffee, and watch MSNBC. I may go back for a nap later in the day. I’m the only person I know (I’m sure there are others) who can really stoke up on coffee and then take a two-hour nap. I have less than no idea why I run that way. Caffeine as a sleeping potion? If it works, bring it on.
People get moralistic about physical illness. Even physical illness. Someone I knew on Facebook “yelled” at me because I mentioned being ill and having gone to the emergency room. “You’re a fuckin’ pussy! Man up! I struggle with suicidal urges every day of my life.” Well, I was not feeling suicidal, just way physically ill. “Please,” he “shouts,” “Unfriend me!” “Done!” I replied, and did. So Facebook as a totally one-dimensional medium. See below. Woof, woof. We really don’t know the identity of our counterparties unless we sleep with them.
I can get myself into negative enough space. If this poor bastard wants to go off himself, I hope he has a Crisis Line number to use before he reaches for the pistol, knife, or Valium. I know this from a few years before I gave it some serious thought.
With dreams, I have had some doozies the last two weeks: vivid, technicolor. I don’t remember the content. I am certain they are not sex-driven. Take it from me, 70 is not too old for a juicy sex dream. At the same time, the dreams are not about death or monsters hiding in my anxiety closet (I’ve still got one of those). I gather opera singers have dreams in which they can’t remember their words or cues. I’m sure they’re medication-induced. Invariably, I can wake up while it’s still dark, go to the bathroom, and go back to sleep for anywhere between one or two hours.
The hardest part of all this is the spatial disorientation. Like the terrible name of the Native American tribe and their question when they’re lost: “Where the fugawee?” Damned if I know, ladies and gents. Damned if I know.
The Difference Between “Normal” Sick and Chronic Sick
I’m not sure I know what the differences are, but I’m almost 100% certain there are differences between feeling physically ill when you’re just normally ill, and feeling ill when there are chronic illnesses underneath. It’s very hard for a someone in my state of mind to admit he’s sick, and to ask for help. Initially, I did not want to call for help. I’ll just brazen it out. And then I could barely walk across the room. I had to call 911 and get transported to the North Adams Regional Hospital emergency room. EMS people, by the way, are absolutely wonderful. They don’t get paid nearly enough. They are the first line. If bad stuff will happen to you, it will happen to them first.
But neither the EMTs or the emergency room people could not do much. This illness has been viral. It needs to work itself out. They were concerned that I’d come back from a trip to West Africa. Uh…no…. That I hadn’t been exposed to anyone who had. NARH is a nice hospital, but it’s not exactly equipped to handle a guy who might have picked up Ebola.
Thank God my friend Elizabeth showed up and drove me first to the pharmacy, then home. I felt horrible, and I stayed that way for days. Those heebie-jeebie nightmares and dreams really resolved nothing.
People underestimate the power of a cold to make you feel like freeze-dried dog poo. Or cat poo; take your choice of favorite companion animals.
There is a spatial and temporal disorientation that all of us may endure. It’s not fun. I’d lay in bed as long as I could, force myself up, shower by the third day. Then go back to bed. Thank God there was a lot of soup in the house, and that there was food for the cat.
There are more meds here. My outgoing primary care doctor figures I’m doctor-shopping to get opioids. I will, if the clown refuses to prescribe adequate pain meds. I really do know ‘hoods in Pittsfield where I can get some pretty nasty stuff. I don’t want to do that. I really don’t. Please do not force my hand, sir.