“There are years that ask questions, and years that have answers.”- Zora Neale Hurston
“How can you possibly still be sick?”
It’s a question that many ask more times than I’d like to count.
It’s a question that hurts each time it’s asked.
It’s a question that I’ve tried answering.
It’s a question that never has an answer.
Imagine the last time you were really sick. I’m talking terrible body aches, head pounding, fever, sweats, chills, nausea, diarrhea, uncontrollable vomiting, sore throat, sinus infection, whatever it was that stopped you from being able to function in your daily routine. Got it? Now hold on to it.
Remember how for a couple of days you might have started to say that you felt “off”, that you didn’t feel “right”, that you were worried you were about to be sick. Remember how you might have started to sleep more, you might have had to cancel social events, you might have had to change your diet, or you might have had to start to take some medications until the sickness suddenly hit you. Now remember the amount of days you just felt like plain old crap. Some of you might have been able to find your way into work (though others probably wish you would have stayed home). Some of you might have been knocked out on your back in bed for a week. Think of all the things you started to do when you were sick. You might have had to ask a loved one to make you soup, to run an errand for you, or to take your kids to their after school activities. You might have tried to become a FBI agent to figure out how you got this sickness. You might have gone through every person you currently know is sick and questioned whether you were recently in contact with them. You might have then started to critique your own routine. Did I wash my hands before I ate? Was I exercising enough? Did I consume enough Vitamin C? How much was I sleeping?
For the first day of your sickness, there might have been some perks. You might have gotten to catch up on a tv series you hadn’t had time for recently, you might have had some alone time from your kids, you might have been able to read a book for the first time in a year, or you might have had a loved one shower you with love in ways you forgot existed. Then the next day came.
You might have started to bargain with your own idea of God (or really anyone who would listen) that you’ll change this, or you’ll do that, if only you weren’t sick any longer. You might have committed to changing your daily living habits. You might have sworn to yourself that you wouldn’t push yourself so hard anymore. You might have promised to never be out past midnight any longer, to never have alcohol, to never do this, or to never do that if you were just released of this utterly terrible feeling. Then the next day came after that.
Your tv series was over. You finished your book. Your alone time had become so quiet you were focused on any small, irritating noise you could find. Worst of all, you were actually alone. People weren’t there anymore. People had to go back to work. People couldn’t keep taking care of you. People expected for you to take care of yourself and make your own soup at this point. So you did this until you suddenly felt better enough to go back to work. Then the next couple of days came after that.
You still felt exhausted. You still had a bit of a headache. You were able to eat without throwing up, but could only consume saltines or buttered noodles. When people asked how you were, you stated that you were better, but still just felt off (though reality is that your boss didn’t care you still felt run down). You were still expected to perform the same duties. You were still expected to pick the kids up from school. You were still expected to go to your best friend’s birthday party she’d been planning for months. You were still expected to function in your normal capacity because to everyone else, you weren’t visibly sick any more.
Now imagine that happening for a year.
An entire year.
Imagine that you didn’t have any days in between that last day of sickness and the first day of a new one.
Imagine that you have spent over an entire year repeating this cycle, with new sicknesses or symptoms almost daily. Imagine going to the doctor to describe your symptoms and being told it was all in your head. Imagine going to the doctor to have them say they couldn’t help you. Imagine going to the doctor to have them give you a diagnosis, medication that would help, then tell you a month later after you’re still sick that you must have had something else. Imagine going to the doctor to have them tell you your sickness is too much for them to handle.
Imagine going to the doctor to have them tell you you’re an enigma.
You have become an enigma.
You have done everything every of the 10 doctors has ever told you to do. You have taken every medication as prescribed. You have altered your eating habits. You have changed your exercise routines. You have implemented a bajillion new coping skills to manage your stress and anxiety. You have relied on every person you could find to bring you the soup, to take care of an errand for you, or to help in any way possible. You have found yourself back a year later in the same exact place you were 365 days previously, except maybe even a bit more tired, a bit more nauseous, with a bit more of a headache, and a whole lot of new symptoms with a whole lot of unanswered questions.
Now imagine what it must be like to have someone ask you something so silly as, “How can you possibly still be sick?”
As if there was an obvious way to just magically feel better.