Brace Yourself

I’m writing this in honor of start of flu season, during which the stakes are a little higher for all of us with compromised immune systems.

I’ve mentioned in other posts that sometimes I feel like my body has a mind of its own, especially when my veins disappear as soon as I go in for a blood test. All of a sudden, a routine procedure I have had done literally over a hundred times becomes a hassle and I end up with matching bruises for my trouble.

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Lately, I’ve been noticing it and recognizing past instances more and more. It’s like my body waits for the time to be right before it acts up, especially when I am getting a cold or the flu. The right time is usually when it’s slightly more convenient get sick. It doesn’t happen that way all the time. It’s like my body is analyzing what time would be optimal for recovery before I get the worst of it, and I have to brace myself for what’s coming.

The problem is that I don’t actually know what’s coming, so some seasons it feels like I am constantly bracing myself. A faulty immune system is not dependable. I always expect to get sick if I am exposed, but sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I don’t and then I do, as if my body has exhausted itself protecting me and, seeing that the weekend is coming, has no choice but to wave the flag of surrender.

I really started thinking about it last week. I got a sore throat. It started out as just a dry throat and stayed that way for about a week. During that week, there was a family event. It wasn’t until a few days after that an ear got involved. I saw my doctor the day I noticed that, and as soon as he said “virus”, all the other common symptoms of a cold suddenly dropped on me. I recovered just in time for the next family event a week later.

Then I remembered all the times that I got sick just in time for college vacations. There’s just not time to be sick during finals. When you get home and your parents can take care of you, that’s the time to have to be in bed for a week.

It happened after college, too. I always get sick when I visit the family babies. I accept that if someone has the sniffles, I am going to get it ten times worse. But I usually don’t feel it until I have finished the four hour drive home. That way I (usually) don’t miss any play time. Once, I thought I had gotten away clean. When I got out of the car, the voice in my head said, “Well, that’s not right,” and when I checked, I had a fever of 102. Another time, I went to my dad’s after and ended up spending twice the time I had planned to visit getting better. You know, just in time for him to take care of me like he hadn’t in 20 years.

All of these incidents just reinforce that feeling that, as much as I know about how my body works, I can’t hope to know everything.  Maybe our bodies know what’s coming before our consciouses do, that they wait for optimal conditions before they have to collapse. It’s hard to relax that way. Every time I am within five feet of someone with the sniffles, I have to prepare to get sick. Even if I don’t end up getting sick, I spend the next several days jacked up on vitamins and making sure my secret stashes of sugary lozenges are topped off. If you’re like me, you know it’s coming – brace yourself.

(Or is it just me?)