I’ve gone viral, in the literal sense. As I write this, it is Day 19 of a prolonged winter cold I’ve had since around the middle of last month. 2010, it seems, wasn’t completely ready to loosen its grip on me just yet, even if I was through with it. It began with a wicked sore throat, which for me is about the worst symptom I can have. Everyone has a different threshold for tolerance of pain, whether physical or emotional, but something about the discomfort of a sore throat has always set me on edge. There’s nothing that seems to soothe the misery, either. There is no effective over-the-counter product I’ve been able to find. Home remedies like a hot cup of tea with honey or gargling with salt water are short-lived. It’s just something you have to wait out, let run its course and hope that it is over soon.
From there the symptoms progressed to an earache, but then that subsided, and nasal congestion settled in my upper respiratory tract. By now, all I’m left with is a lingering cough and hoarseness when I try to speak. When I’m on the phone, the person on the other end of the line is apt to ask, “What’s wrong?” or “Did you just wake up?”
I’m a mopey sick person, too. Not a good patient. I don’t suffer in silence. When I don’t feel well, those around me tend to know it. Come to think of it, I’m not sure “suffering in silence” should define being a good patient, or a good client. Anyway, those friends and family unfortunate enough to be around when I’m sick are no doubt looking forward to the return of better health for me.
This blog was going to be about valuing wellness. About how sometimes a short spate of bad health, no matter how minor, can make you better appreciate good mental, physical and emotional health when you have it. Germs and illness have been on my mind for another reason lately, though, and one just as salient.
My younger sister, an urban sophisticate and resident of trendy Brooklyn, always locates the most apropos gifts in New York. One of her best recent finds was a plush toy in the shape of a much-larger-than-life Mad Cow Disease microbe at a shop in the Cobble Hill neighborhood. She presented this present to my husband, telling us, “I always associate Mad Cow Disease with you.” Um, thanks – I think.
The stuffed animal (can I even call it that?), is a friendly looking little fellow from a company that makes all sorts of these toys, accompanied by real images of what the particular microbe in question looks like under magnification. Not all are as exotic as Mad Cow Disease; there’s a flu bug, too. You get the idea.
The threat of acquiring Mad Cow Disease, known scientifically as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people), was briefly a popular media topic in the last decade. I like to err on the quirky side of caution, so I’ve discouraged my husband from eating red meat since the last major outbreak of frenzied news reports on the subject some years back. (A long-time vegetarian/pescetarian myself for other reasons, I haven’t eaten beef since I was a teenager.) Whew. I should be in the clear. But because of me, my husband, who loves pepperoni, has long had to sate himself with turkey pepperoni instead.
My sister’s gift, a nod to what she perceived as idiosyncrasy on my part, led me to thinking about the nature of risk, and how we – whether as individuals, or as counselors – are to go about separating the unreasonable fears from those not unreasonable, in ourselves and in others. In this era of fear we are living in (terrorism and flying, etc.) how do we define the reasonable? After the deep economic recession of the past several years, some commentators began to refer to the “new normal.” I think we could just as well start a conversation about the “new reasonable.”
Hope Yancey is a counselor and freelance writer living in Charlotte, North Carolina