Sick Day 101

"Sit still," mom used to say. "Relax."

American Red Cross Text Book on HOME HYGIENE AND CARE OF THE SICK

Sick day 101

 Don’t get me wrong. I like people, but recently I haven’t had too many moments alone. Everywhere I turn there are people. Little ones. Big ones. Everything feels like a crisis. There’s too much pressure. It wears on me.

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I woke up at 2:00 a.m. this morning, climbed out of bed and declared, “I feel so sick.” I think I was talking to my husband... but of course he was sound asleep. I needed encouragement to ‘get over myself’ or maybe wanted him to give me sympathy but he grunted and didn’t answer. I can’t say I blame him, it being the middle of the night and all.

I’m a big baby.

“Cough cough… Breathe… Cough,” I managed. “It’s ‘Picture Day’ tomorrow. I can’t miss it. That would be really unfair to put a sub through that.”

He didn’t answer so I went upstairs to take a shower so I could relax again and fall asleep for a few hours. Perhaps then I could feel well enough to go to school.

It’s “Picture Day.” I reminded myself.

It’s just a cold, but it’s a bad one. I don’t get sick often, but it has hit me and it has hit me hard. It could be worse… but I am forcing myself to heal. As a teacher, it usually takes until February for me to get sick. Nope. Not this year.

It’s October and I’m laid up already. This is not a good sign. Not at all. Not only am I sick… I’m worried about the fact that I’m sick.

My husband brought me coffee and medicine, felt my head, and told me to get better. He didn’t kiss me. I think we bumped elbows or something. I slept for most of the morning. The morning routine with teenagers was a blur as he rest of my family left and I remained tucked into bed.

It rained for most of the day. I didn’t look but could hear the drops hitting tin so I knew it was grey and miserable outside. Nine used tissues had piled up next to me on my husband’s side of the bed. Not his tissues… mine.

I know. Gross.

I told myself I should to muster the strength to throw the disgusting tissues away and change the sheets.

Or not.

Beyond the tissue pile sat a box of Hannaford’s unscented facial tissue with one tissue remaining and beyond that sat one of my bookshelves. It called to me.

“I should read,” I thought from within my cloud of self-pity. But what? I have started (not finished) five books since school started. This is so different from my summer reading habits. In the summer, I read over a dozen books cover-to-cover.

I pulled the covers up to my chin and felt a wave of shame wash over me.

I don’t even have the strength to log on to the internet. It’s so depressing these days. Everyone is fighting over everything it seems I needed to block out the yelling.

When my family moved into this house roughly 4 years ago, the attic was filled with boxes of stuff. In one of the boxes, I found a book entitled “American Red Cross Text Book on HOME HYGIENE and CARE OF THE SICK. Fourth Edition” Coughing and sneezing, I dragged myself out of bed to find it. I needed to read this book. Cover-to-cover… or at least from under the covers.

Published in 1933, it’s a gem of a book. I would bet it was still used as a text book when my mom went to nursing school in the 1950's. Maybe another edition, but the same advice, nonetheless.

The first edition of this book had been published over one hundred years ago, in 1913. And you know what? Aside from the threat of diphtheria in schools, very little has changed since then. It’s a textbook, but with a voice I can lose myself in:

“The problem of health is one of deep concern to everybody, for health is nature’s greatest boon. Without it, life can hold little reward except the performance of duty, however tenaciously humanity may cling to it. Health has it’s laws, which are for the most part, the laws of proper living, of maintenance of bodily vigor and mental balance, and of adjustment to circumstances —varying conditions and different people. But health is affected by outside influences such as one’s heredity and one’s home surroundings and one’s community environment.”

That’s the truth.

I made myself a big bowl chicken soup, added hot sauce, brought it to bed, ate the soup, and allowed myself to sweat.

Next, I took three baths and three naps. A pattern. Bath. Sleep. Bath. Sleep. Bath. Sleep. Why not?

“Bathing is necessary in sickness no less than in health. It stimulates and equalizes the circulation, soothes feverish conditions, refreshes most people, and by affording a certain amount of exercise, it lessens the fatigue of lying in bed.” American Red Cross

Being alone is glorious. I’m glad I’m sick. Reading is something I can only do when I am alone. Me and a book. A quiet companion. A book is the best companion to an ill person.

You know what? No one at school needs me to get through the day. How arrogant to think they would have a hard time! This thought is what made me stretched too thin and sick in the first place. I have put too much pressure on myself.

The best thing I could do is crawl into bed and read. If I am out of balance, everything else in my life is out of balance, too. I would have been impatient with my class and I could have gotten some of them sick. It would have been selfish and wrong to show up at school.

Reading is the best well to find balance again. To find wellness.

I’m looking for it in the covers of my bed and the covers of a book. I will find it… one page at a time and I will emerge when I am well again.

But only when I am well again.

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