The Plague

It’s not hypochondria if you really do get sick all the time. Isn’t that what all hypochondriacs say? But it’s true! Argue with me all you like but I will not be swayed. My position is firm. My feet are grounded. I am not a hypochondriac! 

Yeah, I run out of a room when someone sneezes. So what? Maybe the high-pitched scream was unnecessary. Flailing my arms was a little over the top. Sure, I didn’t need to scream, “The plague! The Plague!” 

One could argue that it was a public service announcement but whatever.

If you have the sniffles, cough, or a slight itch in the back of your throat don’t come near me. Stay far away. Another galaxy perhaps? Fine! That’s, “Too Far.” How about a hazmat suit? They look comfortable, and it’s only for the remainder of the incubation period.

It’s not an overreaction! I’m not trying to be dramatic. No, still not a hypochondriac. Why? I really get sick all the time.

After my kidney transplant, I was put on anti-rejection medications. Our immune systems can’t tell the difference between an infection and a life-saving transplant. If it’s not weakened, it will attack the new organ and the body will reject the transplant. Anti-rejection medications lower the immune system and protect the kidney. 

I take my medication twice a day and my immune system becomes a weak, little, puny, useless, piece of… Wow, that’s aggressive!

My immune system doesn’t have the strength to fight off infections, so I get sick a lot. If something’s floating around, I’m going to catch it.

Mm, yeah, that’s a nicer way of saying it.

Hypochondria is a fear of having a serious, life-threatening, illness. I already have a life-threatening illness so being afraid of the thing that’s inside of me isn’t unreasonable. I really do catch every contagious disease known and unknown. Being afraid of getting sick is understandable. Sure, every time something twinges, I assume I’ll be dead by noon but who doesn’t? 

Maybe I’m a little gun shy. I’ve gotten sick so often that I automatically expect the worst. Colds, the flu, childhood diseases that pay a second visit. Swine flu? Yep, had that too and I’m a vegetarian.

But was I surprised? No!

It can’t surprise me because I’m all ready planning ahead. I know it’s out there. I can feel it stalking me like the Yeti tracking Santa. I heard a twig snap, and I’m ready to run.

I hate running and there’s only so many hazmat suits available to the public. It will get me but at least I’m ready for it. If it can’t surprise me then it can’t hurt me as much as it did last time.

How’s that working out?

Great. Superb. I’m an all-round hot mess. Turns out bracing for impact doesn’t help. We can stock up on supplies, buy a suit off of a sketchy website, but when it hits, it hurts.

It could be a cold that lasts six weeks. It could be a phone call saying the blood tests are a little off. Big or small. Life-changing or just something that puts our lives on pause. We’re always ready.

Having a chronic illness becomes a master’s degree in crisis management. Every trauma creates a hard shell around our hearts and minds. It raises our defenses until we’ve convinced ourselves that next time will be different. The next flare-up or the next set back won’t hit us as hard. We’ll be ready. 

Except, living in a constant state of emergency preparedness doesn’t make it hurt less. We still feel the pain and we miss out on the good days. The special days, when twinges stay quiet, become meaningless. Those moments, when we can forget that we have a monster living inside of us, become hollow. These precious hours when we’re free to be happy, come and go without notice.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just enjoy days like that? Live inside that moment without getting ready for the next. How about just being content with the next five minutes without worrying about the next five days? 

If preparing for the impact doesn’t help then maybe it’s okay to ease up a bit. Put the hazmat suit in the closet. Don’t banish our disease-riddled loved ones to another galaxy. Walk out of a room instead of running away screaming. 

Maybe it’s okay to let go of the worry for a few minutes. 

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