Well, yesterday (Wednesday) was strange. I felt flu-ish and run-down and physically crappy all day, and yet emotionally I almost never felt better. Quite content. Happy, even. Wait, what? (I know! That’s what I thought!) I don’t mean to imply that I was happy about feeling barfy, that would be masochistic, wouldn’t it? It’s just that I was in a really good mood despite feeling yucky. It was such a bizarre mind-body contradiction.
By the way, I Googled “happy and nauseous” to see what kind of images popped up, and it was either pregnant people or people who had just finished marathons—go figure. For the record, when I was first-trimester pregnant, even though the nausea and exhaustion were “for a good cause,” my mood was never “content” or “happy.” I was generally pissed-off and depressed about having to feel so crappy for weeks on end and resented the fact that the doctors couldn’t simply knock me unconscious until the second trimester arrived and I felt human again. (Not a trooper!)
So, Wednesday, I woke up in the wee hours (3am or so) with bad stomach cramps, and with that distinct mouth-is-watering, oh-no-I’m-going-to-throw-up feeling. I have the occasional bouts of lower intestinal distress, which I promise I will not go into in any detail because, gross, nobody wants to hear about that, but I’m saying this only to make the point that normally I would have just assumed it was run of the mill “irritable bowel” type stuff (that was a little gross, but I promise that’s it), but the profuse mouth-watering is what made me suspect mild food poisoning or a little virus or Bird Flu or something.
I sometimes feel better, vindicated somehow, if it does turn out to be something more serious than mere run-of-the-mill gastro upset, on account of the self-blame thing I do. Well what do you expect when you eat donuts for breakfast and drink coffee all day and have grilled cheese sandwiches and French fries for lunch and cold cereal and red wine for dinner? No wonder you feel like crap. If you’d just eat more yogurt and wash your hands before lunch and disinfect the steering wheel of your car once in a while and all that, you’d be fine, so it’s your own damn fault.
Does this fit the definition of hypochondria? Having genuine physical symptoms, but wanting the etiology to be something viral and/or otherwise outside of your direct control, so you can garner legitimate sympathy? Or is hypochondria more about when you feel the need to complain extra loudly and exaggerate your symptoms, elevating it to something potentially dramatic and severe, as if you get extra credit (because yes your whining level is quite high, but then again so is the seriousness of your ailment)? Or is it something else entirely?
Anyway, I fell back asleep after the 3am ailing, and when I woke up in the real morning I had sort of the opposite of hypochondria happen. I still felt physically really crappy–stomach ache, run-down, body aches, fatigue–and pretty much stayed in that same unpleasant physical state all day, and yet I didn’t really feel any need to complain about it, garner extra sympathy from my husband, or take on a woe is me demeanor that usually accompanies even slight headaches. I had a really enjoyable day, and was in a great mood for most of it. (I had just this one small slip into the sympathy-garnering stance more typical of myself: Before my husband left for work I asked “Do I feel warm?” He placed his palm on my forehead. “Ooh, your hand feels really hot,” I said, a little excited. Extra points for a fever. He shook his head, no, and I realized I had it backwards. “You feel fine,” he said. I nodded. “Yeah, I actually feel more chilled, than feverish.” Never mind.)
I’m still a little stunned by the excellence of my mood. Usually when you are feeling physically unwell your mood is right there in the shitter along with the rest of you, right? Almost by definition, I’d say.
Happy mind, despite unhappy body? How is this even possible? Let’s think. Maybe because for one thing, I did not have a blinding headache, which makes it impossible to be kind to anyone or happy about anything. (And for those of you who suffer migraines, I am so sorry. I mean, seriously, nobody understands how bad it is. People who usually only have regular headaches, like myself, just clearly do not get it. You get so much extra credit for having migraines. I think you should get something special, like a certificate saying that you don’t ever have to dust. Maybe you could even get a note from your doctor saying that your dust allergy could trigger a migraine. I swear I have heard that somewhere?)
So yesterday gave me hope, because am I a little bit stoic? Maybe if I’m one of those people who has a real health problem or terminal disease one day, I will be fun and jokey throughout, instead of all “poor me!” and nobody will have to feel sorry for me, they will just be like, She was so strong and so brave! And funny! I should not even joke about that, it’s not funny at all, and the thought of having to leave this earth with my children behind, ever, is just awful. Awful. (And yet, probably inevitable, right? Ugh.)
So, no bad headache, that definitely helps, and maybe another reason my mood was so good was because I had my awesome friend swoop in to the rescue, and pick up the kids and take them to school, so I basically got to just wave goodbye to them from the front door (never happens), stay at home with no children, and sit on the couch all day with dirty hair and my robe on and finally sort the mail. (So many unpaid bills mixed in there with the ValuPak and Menards flyer and Toppers pizza ads. Crap! So not like me to let that stuff slide! Down-side of blogging!)
Wait. I think I just discovered that being genuinely sick and having no responsibility for caring for children and no guilt about not doing anything productive FEELS better, emotionally, than being physically well and raising kids as a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t really like many parts of that job description, and isn’t often self-motivated to cook or clean. Now that I see it all typed out like that, it’s just so obvious. Wow. I’m going to have to think about the implications of this discovery for awhile, and report back.
Plus, I got to watch a funny grown-up movie for the first time in forever. Coincidentally, I had checked out Bridesmaids from the library last week and it was due yesterday so I thought, I’ll pop it in and see if it’s even worth watching. Knew literally nothing about it. Nothing. So it was a weird, surreal experience to be mostly nauseous/feverish and laughing so deliriously hard I couldn’t breathe, especially, weirdly, at the food poisoning scene. Was it even more hilarious to me because I was experiencing the stomach cramping and nausea as I watched? I have no idea. But all I will say is that my empathy level was extremely high, sitting there all queasy on the couch with “the bucket” (empty Kemps gallon ice cream pail) next to me just in case, watching everyone dive for the bathroom, and the poor bride seriously pooping in the middle of the street, in traffic.
A couple of times I thought, ally, you are going to have an empathy throw up if nothing else. But I was fine. Exhausted in a weird, sweaty, dirty-hair, robe-wearing, please don’t let anyone stop by unannounced (but oh who cares because everything is so dang funny!) kind of way. So that was my yesterday. I hope that wasn’t too graphic. It was hallucinogenic, is the only word I can think of. But maybe next time you’re really sick you should rent some obscenely hilarious movie and see if it doesn’t help.