A big part of what I do around here is make lemons into lemonade. If I have a programming problem, I write about programming. If I have a problem with a videogame, I write an article about the videogame. If I have a problem with Uplay, then it’s Tuesday.
So maybe it would be more accurate to say that I take lemons and make them into long complaints about lemons. Whatever. It seems to be working out well enough for us so far.
The point is that I’m not sure my usual technique can work here. I’m just finishing up my worst week in years and I’m way behind on my writing. I haven’t been on this site in days, even to read the comments. I don’t know if I’ll have any content for you this coming week and so I’m trying to do the lemons-to-lemonade thing to fill the gap. Also, having a really good bitch-and-moan can be kind of therapeutic.
On the other hand, I’m not sure if I have anything insightful to say about the mundane experience of getting sick. It happens. To all of us. It’s stupid and miserable and we’ve sort of come to accept it as part of being alive on this planet. It’s like if we just accepted that once every six to eighteen months, you have to take a totally random baseball bat to the face for no reason. Ken comes into work on Tuesday with the left side of his face swollen shut and everyone is like, “Dude! Looks like the baseball bat really got you this year.” And Ken just nods his head like, “Mffgh gh mxxxlt.”
The baseball bat this year was a vicious, hateful, pernicious son of a bitch. I really hate this thing, and it’s frustrating that there’s no way to get revenge on something with no sense of identity, memory, or intelligence. I’d love to go all Liam Neeson on this bastard for what it just did to my family.
Heather got it first. It’s the sickest I’ve seen her since 2001. It was so bad she couldn’t stand, so it was up to the rest of the family to try and keep her hydrated and sneak some calories into her when she was feeling brave.
This is why I missed the anniversary episode of the Diecast last week. I didn’t want Heather to text me from the other room saying she needed help getting to the bathroom, and I’d have to reply with, “Sorry babe! Gotta do the internet show!”
Then it hit the rest of us in the household – Esther (17), Issac (15), and myself (1,000) – on Tuesday. This happened one day before Heather had fully recovered. So there was one day last week where there were no healthy people left to care for the sickOn Valentines Day, no less..
You know those big-budget Bollywood movies where the movie is like 4 hours long, and it’s got dark sci-fi, slapstick comedy, a kinda sappy romance with a pop star, a prolonged musical number, and a seemingly unrelated side-plot where a couple of down-on-their-luck buddies go on a road trip together? And halfway through you can’t even remember who these people are or what their goals are because it feels like you’re watching like six different movies spliced together? That’s what this flu was like. It was long, confusing, and it wouldn’t even constrain itself to a particular genre of symptoms. Every time you thought it was building up to some kind of conclusion it just changed gears and added a bunch of new crap to the mix.
I think we should name the flu the way we name hurricanes, because then we’ll have a name to curse when talking about it. It’s much more memorable to talk about “Hurricane Gonzalo” as opposed to “that time it rained really hard in Bermuda in 2014”. With this in mind – and in honor of the flu’s genre-bending nature – I’ve named this flu Bollypox. I apologize to fans of Bollywood. I suppose it’s not fair to fans of Bollywood to name this savage bastard of an illness after their cinema, but in my defense “Bollypox” was devised under intense fever conditions and it was literally the only creative thing I accomplished in the last week.
Check out these symptoms:
- Chest congestion.
- Nasal congestion.
- Aches and pains.
Okay, pretty standard stuff. That’s about what I’d expect from your average misery virus. Except, that’s just the first day. After that…
- Stomach pain, vomiting.
- Sore throat.
- A constant cough that accomplishes nothing except to generate pain and wake you up if you manage to fall asleep.
Okay, this is clearly overboard. You could get like two and a half flu seasons out of those symptoms. But no. That’s just the stuff that gets added around day three. And then you get into the weird shit…
- A mind-destroying headache. Have you never had a migraine before? No? Well buckle up, because this will be a new experience for you. My wife basically couldn’t open her eyes for about 36 hours while this was going on. You thought that cough hurt yesterday? You have no idea.
- Kidney pain.
Every day or so your fever will stop and you’ll start sweating. “Oh good,” you foolishly think, “This insufferable jackass is finally done with me and I can go back to living my life!” And then six hours later the fever shoots up again.
We’ve always referred to the sweating phase as “sweating it out”. I have no idea if there’s any medical basis to that description or if it’s a bit of Edwardian medical folklore that’s hung around into the modern times. But I’ve always heard people say things like, “Oh good. Your fever broke and you’re sweating it out. Get all those nasty germs out of your system. You’ll be able to go to school tomorrow!”
But maybe the sweat is just there to cool you down so you don’t roast your brain, and it’s not actually a means of expelling invaders. I have no idea. Every time I try to look up medical things on Wikipedia it turns out everyone is wrong and then I have to spend the rest of my life resisting the urge to correct people.
The point is that “false hope, followed by cruel disappointment” is part of the process, to the point where maybe I should have just listed it as a symptom.
At any rate, we’re not done yet. There’s one symptom left:
- Eye pain.
This is a new one. I’m 46 years old and I’ve never had the flu attack my eyes like this before. Moving them hurts. Adjusting to light hurts. And just in case you still had some sanity left, that stupid useless lingering cough makes them really hurt. I’m supposedly “better” now in the sense that I’m back in my computer chair and typing again, but my eyes still get a little twinge of pain if I move them too quickly.
And those are just the core symptoms that everyone gets. There’s a bunch of extra nonsense that varies from person to person. I had bad itching. My wife got a bloody nose. My kids each had a unique twist added to their particular version of Bollypox.
I Can’t Even
It was kind of interesting to note my changing behaviors as the unpleasantness intensified. At first I just lost the ability to be creative. I couldn’t work, so I switched to playing videogames. But then even playing a game was a little too challenging. So I downloaded a save-game editor for Borderlands 2 and created a new character that was level 51, with accompanying stats and gear. From there I just held down the W key and made all the bad guys explode in one hit. There was no challenge and no threat. I didn’t need to think. I could just follow the map markers and make psychos explode. Somehow, that level of empty sensory gratification was really working for me.
But then as things progressed, even holding W and aiming was asking too much. So I closed the game and started browsing Imgur. That worked for another day or so, but then I sort of lost the ability to engage with the material. If there was text, I wouldn’t read it. If you were supposed to scroll down, I wouldn’t. I never laughed at the jokes and I forgot an image the moment I hit the “Next” button. I just mindlessly clicked to continue the drip-feed of visual stimulus.
Eventually even that was asking too much, and I ended up laying in the dark, doing nothing. When I recovered, I worked backwards through the layers, eventually returning to LOL-mode Borderlands 2. I guess since I’m writing this, I’ve come out the other side.
My kids went through the same thing. First games. Then watching murder mysteries on the couch. Then watching Kipper. Then the TV screensaver. Then back to Kipper, murder mysteries, games, and then (I’m hoping eventually) off the couch again.
When people try to cheer you up during an illness, they sometimes say things like, “Just be glad you don’t have cancer!” This is possibly the most terrifying and un-comforting thing you could say to me. Getting the flu really bad doesn’t give me a magic get-out-of-cancer-for-free card. When a sickness pushes you to the limit of your ability to endure suffering and hardship, the LAST thing you want is to be reminded that someday you could face something ten times worse. If you really wanted to cheer me up you’d say something like, “Don’t worry. This is as bad as it will ever get.”
So anyway. That sucked. 0/10. Would not contract again.
No, I didn’t read your comment. I didn’t see your email. I haven’t done that thing you’re waiting for.
Topic of conversation: What do you do for comfort and stimulus when sick?
 On Valentines Day, no less.
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