My Life on the Post Road: Sick of It

I cannot get a normal cold. Ever since I was 16 years old and had to sit down in the street on my way to school because I was coughing so hard that I shredded something in my lower back (creating, I’m certain, another lifelong Achilles’ heel), a normal cold for me turns immediately into pretty debilitating bronchitis. So I strive to avoid getting colds, well, like the plague.

I wash my hands and bathe in Purell during cold season. I have apple cider vinegar, cayenne, turmeric, raw honey, and a full lemon in my morning smoothie. At the first hint of a thought of a tickle in the back of my throat, I take every naturopathic and homeopathic remedy known to man. Including Emergen-C, propolis, ColdCalm, Sambucol, and Umcka. I let the original Ricola and raw honey drip down my throat to chase the germs away. I use my Dulera inhaler to keep my lungs clear. Often, if I catch it right away, it works, and I just feel sort of crappy for a day or two and then all is well.

But if the microbes take hold, I have no choice but to surrender. And although I know this, I repeat the same cycle of rumination and anxiety every time (this would qualify me as insane by Einstein’s definition). I worry about whether the cold will take hold. Whether it’ll turn to bronchitis (it will). When I should go to the doctor (sooner than I do). What I’ll have to miss or reschedule (who cares?). If I’ll need to be on prednisone and antibiotics (yes). My family and good friends urge me to go right away and to rest. They know that when it hits, it takes me down hard. Basically, I cannot breathe, and that makes everything else very difficult.

Others ask, almost irritatedly, “Why do you always get bronchitis?” As if it’s intentional. As if I could avoid it as if I just tried harder.

This most recent time was particularly infuriating because it was accompanied by strep, which I have never had in my life, and came courtesy of a friend’s child who, during our visit last weekend, touched every single chip, cracker, and bowl of guacamole and hummus with his own strep-covered little fingers, while his earth-parents watched in beaming admiration. “We try not to restrict him too much – he is his own person.”

My throat didn’t hurt so much as feel like I had several small pebbles lodged in it, making swallowing increasingly difficult and raising the anxiety stakes to a new level.

When I caved and went to visit the doctor I’ve been seeing for the 22 years that I’ve lived here, he was actually glad to see me. “How long have you been back?” He asked. “Why did you wait until you were sick to come say hello?” We caught up on my year and our families, and I went away with two prescriptions.

The prednisone makes me shaky (as if I weren’t anxious enough already) and challenges the sleep that is so precious to healing. And the antibiotics upset my stomach, but not quite enough to prevent me from eating too much to assuage said anxiety. And as much as I resist pharmaceuticals, they work quickly and efficiently.

These are minor, minor problems in comparison to the fires raging in the West and Washington DC. I realize that, and I’m very appreciative that they are so inconsequential and remediable. Thanks to the meds, I’m venturing out to take a gently yoga class today to quell my anxiety over all of it.

Photo by Diane Lowman


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