I went viral, and not in the fame-whoring way

Tissue Box

I recommend that you never get sick if 1) you are a freelancer or 2) single. It sucks. And blows. And does all sorts of things you don’t want to know the details of, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

Earlier this month I spent an entire week being sick. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a full-blown, lie-on-the-couch-all-day, illness and I’d forgotten how miserable it can be. Friday night my throat was a little sore when I swallowed, then I went online and learned that a few of the friends I’d recently visited in Wisconsin were ill too, so we were basically tracking disease vectors on Facebook. (Does the CDC do that? I bet they do.) I was soooooo close to getting through the winter without getting ill, but not even regular hand washing could save me at this point.

Twenty-four hours later I was sleeping with my mouth open because my nose was so stuffy, though I don’t know if it’s technically sleep when you keep waking up each hour in a half-conscious daze. It was more like a night of serial napping. My mouth was painfully dry and my tongue felt like sandpaper. The taste alone was bad enough, but I was most fixated on the fact that saliva protects your teeth from decay, so my mouth was turning into a cavity factory with every breath. In the five months since my last dental visit I’ve been practicing the best dental hygiene of my life. I’ve been flossing every day. EVERY DAY! My goal is to go to my cleaning next month and not need a single filling or crown. So the idea that my stuffy nose might be subverting my oral hygiene goals was worse than the dry mouth itself.

It was easier to breathe when I was trying to sleep if I was propped up on a lot of pillows. It didn’t feel very natural though, and I found myself wishing I had one of those beds the Minbari used on Babylon 5 that are tilted at 45 degrees, because I am a total dork and only three of you will have any idea what I’m talking about (if I’m lucky).

Eventually my throat became so sore that it hurt to swallow, which made me fixate on trying not to swallow, which just made me swallow more. The same thing happened to me when I tried Botox as a headache treatment a few years ago. They make you sign a disclaimer acknowledging that in rare cases the Botox can migrate and paralyze the muscles that allow you to swallow, so on the ride home I couldn’t keep myself from swallowing over and over again to be sure I still could.

I didn’t have much energy, so I spent most of my time on the couch watching a marathon of The Americans on my DVR. (Excellent show! I don’t think that’s just the cough medicine talking!) I focused most of my energy and will on making a trip to the grocery store every other day for cough drops or orange juice or another box of tissues. (Tissues suddenly become the most important commodity in my life, right after orange juice and Mucinex.) It took serious effort to get myself to the store and back without falling over, which is why being sick and single sucks. If I had a significant other I could just send him to fetch me supplies and spoon mint-chocolate chip ice cream into my mouth. But alas, it all fell upon me.

On the fourth day I made it to the doctor to see if it was strep throat. It wasn’t. So I had to let the illness run its course. This involved napping until 4pm on Wednesday, and by the time I woke up they’d elected a new pope! How could they?! I was really miffed about this. I didn’t get to see the white smoke or feel the hour of anticipation as we waited to see who appeared at the window. I woke up and it was a done deal. No seagulls on chimneys for me! This event has happened a total of two times in my life, and I’ve now slept through half of them.

When I was actually conscious and watching TV I became hypersensitive to the word “viral.” They kept talking about viral videos on Good Morning America or stories that had gone viral. Viral this, viral that. Do you know what has gone viral? I have! And it sucks! So please stop using the word “viral” in such a flippant manner. Thank you. Signed, Angry Sick Girl.

Eventually my congestion went away and was replaced with a hacking cough that lasted for several days. The skin under my nose was red and peeling from all the tissues. Finally it stopped hurting to swallow, and I was not sick anymore. However, my sleep schedule was completely screwed up. A month earlier I’d finally gotten into a somewhat normal routine which involved getting up a decent hour, something I have literally been trying to do for years with no success. Then I got hit with this bug and couldn’t fall asleep until 4am because I’d been napping so much. Grrrrrr.

This is the first time I can remember getting this sick since I started working for myself almost four years ago. Since I’m self-employed I don’t get any paid sick leave. I just get an inbox that fills up with emails from clients that I was too stuffy-headed to reply to in coherent English. There was one project that I absolutely, had to finish that week because of a non-negotiable deadline, so I somehow managed to drag myself to my computer and code CSS for 90 minutes a day before crawling back to my lair of pillows and blankets. But otherwise my business was CLOSED. I spent most of the next week trying to respond to all my emails and nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to prioritize everything and rejigger my schedule. By Thursday evening I felt like weeping, or changing my name, moving to Costa Rica and never checking my email again. (Though God only knows what tropical viruses I could catch there.)

Everything is at a point now where it seems manageable, if not actually finished. And I’m more grateful to be healthy than I’ve ever been, even if “healthy” for me involves things like chronic headaches. At least I can breathe through my nose! Yay, nose breathing! So underrated. But I still feel like a week of my life was sucked into a vortex and I’ll never get it back. I only have so many days in my life, and I’d like to enjoy them as much as I can, not stuck on my couch mouth-breathing and sucking on cough drops, even if menthol tastes like magic.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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Natalie • March 27, 2013 at 8:02 am

Having a significant other doesn’t always help. Mine always insists on being just that little bit sicker than I am, so I still have to do all the caring. Bastard.

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Sarah Fowler • March 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

I FEEL YOUR PAIN. It sounds like I got the exact same bug last week (I’m in central Florida!). I’m a single freelancer, too. I’m not sure whether having to drag myself to the store for more Kleenex (seriously SO. MUCH. KLEENEX.) or completely missing and having to catch up on 4 days of work was the worst part. It all sucked in general. And like you, no strep, so no meds.

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Katharine • March 27, 2013 at 10:12 am

I’m sorry you felt so miserable. Having been self-employed for 18 years now, I completely understand what it’s like when there’s no one around to fill in for you at work.

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Cheryl • March 27, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I spent weeks at the beginning of January being sick in one way or another. I feel for you. Also I am SO. HAPPY. to see someone else mention The Americans. I love this show and if it gets cancelled due to lack of interest I’m going to be so upset.

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JenFul • March 28, 2013 at 11:53 am

@Cheryl – No worries, The Americans got renewed for a second season several weeks ago: http://tvline.com/2013/02/21/fx-renews-americans-season-2/ They didn’t air a new episode this week because production got delayed on account of Superstorm Sandy. We should have all new eps from here on out though.

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Kathy W. • March 30, 2013 at 3:32 am

Glad you’re better–been there (freelancer) done that (sick). ugh.

BUT–The Americans!! So fun. Some of the anachronisms grate–they occasionally slip into 90s/2000s slang. But I like both Keri Russell & whatshisname Rhys much better than in their former incarnations (Felicity & the gay Bro). And there’s nothing like hearing The Cure & other 80s bands on a show set in the 80s!

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Debbi • March 30, 2013 at 7:28 am

Glad you’re up and at ‘em again. I’m sorry you had to be so, so sick on your own. I’m trying to figure out where you could stash an extra multi-pack of Kleenex in the event of a future viral attack.

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Debby • March 30, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I’m sick every day (yep, it’s chronic), so I get really peckish when I get sick on top of being sick. (I know you understand what I’m saying even if no one else does.) So I’m glad you’re feeling better and I hope you make it through the rest of the year without any more colds or cruds. :-)

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tess • March 31, 2013 at 12:38 am

Great descriptive languge, oh the aches and fevered dreams, how wonderful to get back to baseline.

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Kathy W. • March 31, 2013 at 2:48 am

(still, Rhys’s character, Kevin, was the least obnoxious of the siblings on the very annoying “Brothers & SIsters.”)

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Kathy W. • March 31, 2013 at 2:49 am

@Kathy W. – gah, that was supposed to have been an addendum to my comment, not a new comment.

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Jessica • March 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm

I have to pop in to say 1) glad you’re feeling better, and 2) I know the exact Minbari beds you’re picturing, and yes, I too have wished for one when I’m sick.

Jessica

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Alecia • April 1, 2013 at 5:52 pm

I am still trying to get over this I have been sick since Friday before last and it seems to last forever. Glad you are feeling better

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Jo • April 3, 2013 at 6:43 pm

so it appears I am person 2 of 3 that understands the B5 bed reference. Glad you are better.

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Sheryl • April 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Yeah, I had that same crud in January — apparently this year’s flu vaccine was not targeted all that well and a lot of people who got the shot still got the flu. I also am single, and while I guess I could have called someone, I didn’t want any of my friends to catch it, so, luckily I have a lot in my basement storage and ate a lot of soup and stuff I had down there. Glad you are better now.

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Lydia • July 3, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Rhys was in a good movie I saw recently (Netflix) — if you like him you might want to check it out. Julianne Moore starred with him in “6 Souls.”

I’m sorry you were so sick and hope you are having a good summer.

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Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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