Sunday. Woke up. Sick. Properly sick.
I tried to sip water. Nope. My throat was tighty-rolled sandpaper and the pathetic dribble of water felt like a very large brick.
My ears ached too, but on the inside. How can ears hurt? It seems illogical. But they throbbed, and I felt like I could hear a very distant concert inside my brain. I pictured tiny insects inside my head, screaming “ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?” They all held guitars and one played on my eardrums with tiny sticks. Yes, it was sort of adorable, and in my sickness haze I was kinda proud of my eardrum pun, but still, I hated these tiny bastards. Throbthrobthrob.
I lay very still and sighed. Why did this have to happen to ME? Why was I the one to be tormented?
I tried to sip more water. Nope, swallowing was out. I tried filling my mouth with liquid and just lying very still, hoping it’d drip down the back of my throat due to gravity. It almost worked. Then my stupid in-built crappy instincts kicked in. Swallow, whimper, ow.
I reached for my iPhone and swiftly diagnosed myself with throat cancer, downgrading it after a moment to tonsillitis, because it seemed slightly more reasonable. Sigh. Tonsillitis? To me? On a Sunday? WHY, lord, WHY ARE YOU PUNISHING ME?
It seems to be the Kiwi Attitude that we just power on through. Get your leg gashed open by some number 8 wire and you say, nah mate, it’s all good, just chuck me some L&P bro, she’ll be right. Not I. I embrace a more hypochondriac-ky sense of doom, a – dare I say it – American approach. Obviously, I was going to have to take my tonsillitis to the doctor for an IV drip and several months off work.
The internet had warned of some side effects to tonsillitis, including dehydration, inability to eat, and imminent death. I was probably only ten minutes away from having my throat close up entirely. But my doctor’s office was closed – apparently people don’t get sick on the weekends – so I called Healthline for advice, hoping they would just skip all the preliminaries and send an ambulance.
I’m going to take a wild leap and say that the woman on the end of the phone did not start her speaking life with the Queen’s English. To widen our language barrier, my voice sounded scratchy and husky—it would have been sexy, if it didn’t also sound like I was speaking past a golf ball. Obviously, communication was awkward. Giving her my name, address and age took longer than it should have, and I started feeling even more sorry for myself.
She asked me to look inside my mouth, and I wrenched my jaw open as far as possible to inspect it in my hand mirror.
“Umm, it’s all red. The bits at the side, in the back, I mean. Also that red bit in the middle, that dangly bit, it’s huge.”
Obviously, in choosing to not enter the medical profession, I made a big mistake.
“Were you drinking last night, Kate?” she asked.
Why is it that a question with your name added at the end feels so much more judgemental? “Would you like a plastic bag?” means “are you ok to carry all this stuff?”, but “Would you like a plastic bag, Kate?” means “why not add some more destruction to the planet with this item that will never decompose, maybe just set fire to the world’s forests and overfish all the salmon while you’re at it?”
“Yes, I had a few” I meekly replied, not wanting to say “I have been drunk for the past four nights in a row, because I love people and bars, have no self control, and also recently discovered how great wheat beer is.”
“Well, you need to drink water, Kate”, she said, “especially as you drank alcohol last night.”
I felt like she was cross with me. I felt sad and small and alone. It was the first time since I kicked my boyfriend out – five months ago – that I missed him. If he were here he could be doing this for me, maybe while giving me a neck rub. Then I remembered that he was scared of making phone calls, especially to strangers, and that neck rubs required negotiation.
I paused my self-pity for just a moment to consider that no, life could be worse.
Of course, optimism and logic at a time like this is no fun, so I switched tack, and decided to start missing my mum. If mum lived in Wellington instead of Brisbane, she’d bring me soup and give me hugs. WHY, geography? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?
The woman on the phone gave me a long list of instructions of what to do. Take ibuprofen. Gargle warm water. Sleep. Drink water. And if you find that you can’t breathe, call an ambulance.
Ok, that’s more like it. A big noisy proper ambulance? For little ol’ me? I let the wave of melancholy wash over me, my eyes stinging with tears and my voice catching in my already-choked throat.
“Ok thank you” I managed to squeak out before hanging up the phone and weeping, thoroughly enjoying my complete self-absorption and cathartic tantrum. I’d sob, and think about how sad I must look right now with my gloomy bloodshot eyes, and I’d sob harder.
Surely this is the height of dismal narcissism, thinking of yourself being sad, to make yourself sadder, on purpose? Actors say that when they need to cry they access a terrible memory, but I now doubt this is true, as (hopefully) they are far more narcissistic than I am.
After I was over my emotional outburst, I trudged downstairs to make soggy Weetbix. Eating it turned out to be less of a challenge than I’d been ready for, as was taking the nurofen and sipping a cup of water. I felt slightly affronted that I already felt better.
I slept for an hour and woke up feeling like I’d be able to participate in the world, even if it would be in a limited capacity. My life-threatening tonsillitis was apparently just a life-irritating cold. Despite this, I was not ready to give up my pity party just yet, and went to social media with sad-face emoticons in tow, practically begging for likes and aww nos and for people to offer to bring me things.
Today, I’m in the worst part of the sickness window. I’m well enough to get out of bed, but too sick to taste anything. Well enough to go to work, but too sick to socialise. I want to just trudge around in trackpants and get sympathy hugs, but I’ve exhausted the opportunities for sympathy given that all I’m afflicted with is an average cold, exacerbated by my own lifestyle choices.
Still, I’m cheered by the thought of James Van Der Beek, crying. Not because I want him to be sad, but because now I feel somewhat confident that as he weeps, he’ll be imagining himself weeping back.