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01/28/2003 Entry: "Fighting the Sickness"

It's like 1:30 am in the wee early morning, and I am fighting the flu. I have my moments where I am feeling great, then the aches start, then they go away, then my temperature rises, then it falls... I am taking Echinacea and the other anti-flu medicine, and I can only imagine the fight that must be going on in there. I took Tylenol PM but I still am not sleepy.

I never used to get sick. As a kid, I got sick maybe 2-3 times a year. One would be some huge Ear/Nose/Throat infection that required antibiotics (every winter!), and the others would be mild colds. Nothing special. When I was a teen, though, I started having "hay fever." It was always diagnosed as "hay fever" because my father refused to believe even THAT was real. My father never got any medical advice, in fact, only twice did I ever see him take off sick from work: when he got a massive stomach flu, and when he got a hernia. I guess that meant he was either really healthy or just used denial for the rest. Both of them left him in bed, and very, very cranky. So we had a rule in my house: in order to stay home from school, my temperature had to be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Or I had to actually have a "witnessed" vomiting spell (I am not sure where my mother thought I could have fake vomit stored, but that was her reason for "proof of vomit"). Diarrhea? Ha ha... the school has bathrooms, don't they? Snot running out my nose like a faucet? Here's a dish towel. The pattern usually was I'd go to school sick, go see the nurse, and she'd send me home. Since my mother was not allowed to drive, a neighbor usually had to pick me up, and I'd get hell for that. "Mrs. Wickland doesn't have time in her day to ferry my child around because he has the sniffles..." my mother would say in a "I'm warning you..." tone. Sadly, if I was sick and my mother was drunk, that was a big problem. First off, you couldn't call yourself in sick as a student. Second, if I went to the school nurse, she'd call home, and if my mother answered the phone, my nurse got an earful from a depressed drunk who would go on and on about how she should be happy, but isn't. Or my mother would not answer the phone... and they'd call my father. I only had that happen once, and I learned my lesson. The hard way. So with all this going on, it was a good thing I rarely got sick. And every spring, my nose would run and run and run... I'd go through two or three dish towels in one school day... but that was "hay fever" described with the same tone of voice as if there was really no such thing.

Turns out this "hay fever" went undiagnosed for so long, it turned into "asthma," when I got older. One day, around age 21, I stopped breathing. Well, okay, my breathing was not working effectively. I was rushed to the hospital, blue in the face, and put on a respirator. "You have asthma," they said when I came around. "No I don't," I said. "Oh yes you do," they said, "that medicine you have been breathing in is a bronchial dilator. You are responding to it like any other asthmatic. Here's a brochure." They also gave me something called "Seldane," which later changed to "Allegra," and is currently "Zyrtec." The first day I was on Seldane, I noticed this annoying ability to smell things. I mean, I was able to smell strong odors before, but never like this. Food tasted better, flowers smelled like perfume instead of weak cut grass, and... wow. Of course, now I could smell sweat, urine in the alleys, and body odor. It was very distracting, and to this day, scent is still a rather new sensation that distracts me. Later, I started taking Allegra on a daily dose, and I no longer used my Venolin (now Atrovent) inhaler as much. In fact, I use it... maybe once every two months. More in spring and fall, almost none in summer and winter.

I still didn't get sick much, but as I got older, I started getting sick 4 times a year, then 5... and now it's like 8-10, and some of them are BRUTAL, like my double-pneumonia last year, and my gastro-interitus last month. It really increased after I did a year and a half as the International Help Desk. The combination of lack of sleep, job stress, and hours really kicked me to the ground and beat me mercilessly. My blood pressure soared, my asthma got worse, I started to have long periods of sluggishness and malaise. The lead guy at our desk told me he got addicted to Nyquil, because it was the only way he could sleep anymore. Well, I got promoted out of that job in late 1999, but I think I am still trying to make up for sleep, and I definitely get a lot sicker more often than I used to. And when you are too weak to fight off illness, you get depressed, which is kind of why I write. But I didn't have time to write. So my depression would creep in, and try and cover me like a soft, warm blanket. A warm blanket given to you almost out of love... then it smothers you.

I feel a little better, and finally a little sleepy. If I don't feel well in 4 hours (when I have to get up), I am calling in sick.

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