Being seriously ill happens to most of us one winter or another, but it seems to be a universal truth that getting the flu affects our minds far more than it affects our bodies. How else to explain the same delusional thought patterns that we fall into every single time?
1. You completely forget ever having been sick before.
When the flu first starts coming in, it invokes feelings of complete unprecedence (which is not a word but should be). You can easily remember what your elementary school looked like or quote lines from your favorite show ad nauseam, but for some reason recalling any significant details of your previous bout with the flu will forever elude you. You can’t remember how you dealt with it other than the fact that it sucked really bad.
2. Maybe you’re not sick.
Sure you feel off, but that doesn’t mean you’ve actually caught anything. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep last night—though you did—or maybe you didn’t get REM sleep because of some prolonged dream you had but don’t remember. Maybe you ate something that didn’t agree with you or you’re stressed out over work. Whatever is happening, it’s not an actual illness. That’s how hypochondriacs think, and they’re crazy.
3. Maybe it’s not the flu.
OK, now there’s no denying that you’re not just “off” but you’re actually sick. Fine. People get sick all the time. Just because you have a cough and/or congestion and/or a stuffed nose and/or a headache and/or a fever doesn’t have to mean it’s the flu. Maybe you just have a really bad cold, which sounds a lot better than having the flu for some reason. Besides, you’ve got too much to do to deal with having the flu.
4. Maybe you’re dying.
Now you’re bedridden, drifting in and out of sleep, and every part of you aches in a different way and is both hot and cold at the same time. Your body is going against forces of both biology and physics. Those are pretty tough opponents! But hold up: You underestimated how sick you were before. You thought it was just a cold and now it’s undeniably the flu. What if you misjudged things again? What if it’s not just the flu but whatever boss-level comes after that? After all, you’ve never felt this awful before in your life. And people die from the flu all the time, even in America! You’ll muse about writing a will before accepting you don’t have the will to write.
5. You have no idea how much to eat.
You know that you’re supposed to “starve a cold and feed a fever,” but your appetite has completely gone to hell. Worse, your body might be at the point where swallowing hurts. Let’s not even discuss the fact that going out to get food is a Herculean task. You have to force yourself to eat, though the thought of food disgusts you. Still, you’re left wondering if you’re eating enough—or enough of the “right” thing, whatever that secret is.
6. You have no idea how much to drink.
You know that you’re supposed to “consume lots of liquids” but have no idea what that actually means. So you decide to judge if you’re drinking enough by the color of your pee. Supposedly, clear pee means you’re hydrated. On the other hand, dark pee means your body is expelling all the disease and gross stuff inside of you. This is when you realize that you’re not an old-timey piss prophet and should probably get back to bed.
7. You revert to the miasma theory of disease.
Thoroughly disproven and discredited, and never believed by you personally—except the last time you had the flu, of which you recall little—the miasma theory of disease posits that illness is caused by “bad air.” Now you become like Howard Hughes, convinced that the virus or bacteria or whatever is causing your flu has suffused the very air around you in your apartment. You can’t very well open a window, given the cold weather. All you can do is imagine that you are basically in an invisible soup of disease that will never clear away.
8. You completely forget ever having been well before.
As your symptoms fade in and out, as days lose meaning due to irregular and yet constant periods of sleep, you start to realize that you’ve gone several days without waking up as a well human being. The dreaded question increasingly begins to assert itself: Is this the new normal? Old people are constantly complaining of aches and pains, and you are constantly aching. Maybe you’re not sick but this is simply how things are now. After all, this is the oldest you’ve ever been.
9. You imagine that first shower is holy water.
When your fever is gone and you’re almost well, that first shower you take is one of the best you’ll ever have in your life. You can feel the sickness being washed away, almost literally, in a catharsis akin to being dunked in a river by John the Baptist himself. Yes, you’ll still have a cough for a week, or the sniffles for a couple of days or so. But you can also hold your head high, having basically conquered a biblical plague singlehandedly.