4 Jan 2018

On being sick

The illness starts small. A familiar aching in my bones and joints, the heavy, uneasy movements, the itchy scratchy feeling in my throat, a numbness in my ears and nose.

My temperature rises, the perpetual sneezing is so powerful, every sneeze shakes my whole body violently. My brain slowly turns into goo. I can’t focus on anything, my sight is hazy, as if I’m looking through several thick unwashed windows

Every step is a swaying clumsy effort. I throw myself in bed and surrender. This is exactly where the virus wants me to be. Here, it can attack me, fully, with zero resistance, it can take over me entirely. Rid me from all my energy, and vitality. And brutally, savagely torture me. I take two paracetamols at a time, hoping for some. kind. of. relief, any relief, temporary relief, but in vain.

An earsplitting alarm has gone off in my mind, screaming shrilly SHUT DOWN, COMPLETE SHUT DOWN, ALL SIGNALS AND FUNCTIONS OFF. My joints and bones turn into stone, there’s a vicious creature gnawing at my skin. I can’t feel comfortable no matter what position I’m in; I lie down, and feel like I’m being choked to death. I sit up, and crumble into pieces from the effort of trying to keep my head up. I try the fetal position, but there’s a rusty hand saw cutting through my back. The small of my back is being sawn-off my torso.

Under the cover everything in me is burning, a suffocating, oppressive heat. I pull the cover off, and I’m shivering, with cold sweat dripping off my forehead. I say something like please, my voice tiny and pathetic, and with two hundred rhinos pounding from my left ear, through my head, to my right ear. I can barely hear myself howl with pain.

My mind reels, unstoppable, vomiting images, like a poisoned stomach needing to empty itself clean. Painful memory, after lashing painful memory; remember this awful thing? Look at this dreaded memory. Oh! remember that? That was the worst. All I needed was for my mind to stop. To just be quiet, and stop remembering the most painful, most horrible things. But no! the fucker kept going! Picking at badly sewn wounds, throwing salt on throbbing cuts and bruises. I wondered why it hadn’t run out of fuel yet? Shouldn’t it be tired by now? Shouldn’t lack of food, and plenty of sedatives bring it to a halt?

The pain, almost a separate living thing now. Slithering like a fat snake inside my body, too big to crawl smoothly, it pushes my bones apart, destroying me on the inside, breaking everything in its way. My heart is a massive overworked, overheated machine, pulsing so fast, trying to keep up with the unimaginable damage. I want to hold on to some small hope, that the worst is over, but there’s no end in sight.

At this point breathing is an overwhelming effort. My eyelids will not stay open, but closing my eyes means seeing the most chaotic, most disturbing, most unbelievable (and yet believable) images, sounds, and scenes, my sick brain can conjure. I never knew how creative my mind can be, when churning-up so many different scenarios in which I die in the end. The classic falling off a cliff, the horrendous car accidents, the cobra bites, the dying of thirst in the wilderness of an endless desert.

On the third day, emptying a fourth box of tissues, I’m convinced that this is not simply a runny nose. No, it can’t be. A runny nose would have run dry by now. This incessant stream of nasal mucus, I became convinced, is my brain. It has deteriorated into this disgusting liquid, and is now coming out of my nose. Which also explains why I still don’t have any of my cognitive skills.

A final roar grips me. Like the ferocious arms of a Greek God, shaking me; Enough! Have you had enough? And throws my body, lifeless, like a slab of unformed clay, on the cold marble top of a pottery maker’s table. Neglected, and piled up.

My arms and legs are huge sleeping animals. Tired, and hardly breathing, as if after a long, and wild thrashing. I don’t want to move them, I don’t want to wake them. They will want me to do things, drink water, get out of bed, go to the toilet. And I just can’t.

I lie there, unmoving. Knowing that if I was by a seashore, I would let the waves take me, drag me away, into sea. Silently, gently be taken, and swallowed up entirely by the ocean. This is what I imagine the ocean to be. A God. A great God. When tranquil, and calm, the ocean is the most magnificent, most breathtaking vision. Unfathomable, mysterious and all knowing. But when angry and provoked, the dark, furious, rising waves, hurl a strong, healthy body against the black jagged rocks, break the skull, shatter the spine, and regurgitate tattered flesh, as flimsy as wet, torn up tissue paper, letting it silently wash up to shore, without apology, or regret.

I open my irritable, red rimmed eyes. Even the faintest light of dawn, coming through my bedroom curtain hurts them. I sigh. This new year feels so old.