What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Last week, I engendered equal parts sympathy and rage among the xoJane commentariat by writing a call for compassion for folks who have to fly while sick. It was inspired by my recent trip to Chicago, where I headlined a Hurricane Sandy benefit at the Laugh Factory and then immediately came down with some sort of plague.
At this juncture, I feel it's important to note that I'm talking about a shittier-than-usual-but-not-life-threatening strain of the flu. I'm not about to wax humorous about a potentially fatal illness. I'm talking about the awful but manageable version of sickness that many folks get around this type of year.
Anyway, back to the comedy club in Chicago. I could feel the sickness washing over me as I stood there onstage, slowly moving through my jokes, wondering why I was having trouble remembering words I've said dozens of times before. It is a unique experience to feel oneself falling asleep while onstage in front of a hundred people, but that's what happened to me. Unsurprisingly, I didn't exactly kill.
What I should have made clear in my flying-while-sick article is that, prior to traveling back to Los Angeles, I did everything I could to ensure that I didn't spread my particular case of the grossness. I was scheduled to fly home the day after the show -- New Year's Eve, a Monday. Instead, I stayed an extra three nights in my nice hotel room in a place that politely declined to assist me in obtaining NyQuil ("It's our policy not to dispense medication of any kind to guests."), living off pricey room service and changing my flight a whopping three times. Thankfully, the organization that brought me to Chicago paid for one of the extra nights.
I also ambled my sick ass into the CVS Minute Clinic, where a wonderful nurse practitioner immediately got to the bottom of the situation, sympathetically called me "one sick puppy," and gave me Tamiflu and a cough medicine. I don't have insurance, so I ended up spending over $200 on the doc visit and the meds, but, hey, a hospital visit would've cost a lot more. I got lucky.
While it was crappy to spend New Year's Eve alone in a city where I knew few people, shivering and shaking and working up a hearty fever, this bout with the medium-bad flu would prove to bear with it a few unexpected gifts. Here, in no particular order, are some of the positive aspects of a negative situation.
1. I shut the hell up.
I talk a lot. Like, a lot. My career is built on words –- writing them and saying them. My sore throat, nasty cough, fatigue, and relative isolation meant that I spent a few days being quiet. To be honest, it was kind of a relief to just shut up and realize that I still exist as a whole, valid human being even when I'm not flapping my trap about one thing or another.
2. I relaxed.
As has been pointed out to me by a number of friends, family members and lovahs, I'm not so great with the calming down. Once I got too sick to worry about being sick, the flu wrung all the tension right out of me. I found myself napping for hours at a stretch without feeling unproductive upon waking. I found myself lying around, staring at the ceiling and feeling perfectly entertained. I found myself singing old Destiny's Child jams and giggling inanely as I almost –- but not quite! –- hallucinated.
3. I went on a vision quest without having to pay for peyote.
You really sweat some stuff out when you're sick with the flu, and I'm not just talking about germs. There's something about the act of being confined to a small space and wrapped up in blankets that just promotes -– I don't know –- release. And realizations like, "Hey, maybe I don't need to record my every waking thought on Twitter," and, "You know, my Facebook friends don't really need to see photographic documentation every single time I make a funny face."
4. I stopped caring so much about my appearance.
Makeup was out of the question. No way was I going to leave my sickbed to get my eyebrows waxed. And caring about caloric intake? I don't think so. Being sick gave me a nice break from being so image-focused. And I didn't wear a bra all week. For a gal with almost-triple-Ds, that's no small feat.
I took to Twitter and Facebook to ask, "What's the best thing about being temporarily sick?" See if you relate to any of the answers below. And feel free to share your own stories in the comments!
"Catching up on all your TV shows. Even daytime television you never would admit to watching in public. Those 'I fell asleep and when I woke up it was on' kinda shows." – Heather, 37, Dallas
“No one judges you for still being in your pajamas at 6 p.m.” – Adam, 29, Dublin
"Two words: Robitussin martini." – Jennifer, 46, Chicago
"It's a great excuse to lay around all day watching reality TV!" – Briana, 32, New Orleans
"You can add vodka to your OJ and still claim that you're 'healing.'" – Rachael, 31, Milwaukee
"As miserable as I am going through it, the gym-free weight loss does put a smile on my face." – Holly, 34, Richmond, VA
"People can't get mad at you when you ask them to pick stuff up for you at the store." – Victoria, 27, Seattle
"It's ok to spend the day in bed doing absolutely nothing." – Julie, 50, Morgan Hill, CA
"You have an excuse to avoid lame social functions." – Antonella, 32, Montreal
"Getting mono in college was fantastic for me -– nothing else could have made me stop micromanaging my time and pushing myself to the breaking point. Mono gave me a 3-hour battery life so I had to lie down and rest. A lot. I learned most of what I know about self-care and basic needs during those exhausted days. It also showed me which of my friends were worth keeping -– some brought me groceries, others didn't even come visit from 2 buildings away." – Miranda, 27, Brooklyn