Last Saturday I was at home sitting at dinner with my family when I felt an attack of my physical and emotional well being on a cellular level.
“I think I need to go lie down for a minute,” I said.
I didn’t get out of bed until Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, I sat in the doctor’s office—Urgent Care, of course, because non-urgent care doctors are busy.
“This isn’t going to hurt, but it is uncomfortable,” the doctor says, and then he stuck a q-tip so far up my nose, it violated my gray matter.
Fifteen minutes later, I didn’t have a bacterial infection AND I didn’t have the flu.
When you are sick and you go to the doctor, a bacterial infection is the thing you want, so 1) you can take an antibiotic and put an expiration date on your suffering, and 2) you can show your doctor’s note that says to the world you need to rest, at least until the drug kicks in.
The flu is the thing you need when you don’t have a bacterial infection, so you can go back home and put the “I have the flu” sign up in your life and continue to suffer in peace.
For as long as I can remember, a diagnosis of the flu was always the absence of a bacterial infection and the presence of the following symptoms: fever, chills, sore throat, cough, feeling like you are going to die and kinda wanting to, not laboring over your out of office email cause you don’t really care if you lose your job, the sound of your children setting off feelings of crippling fatigue and/or rage, the inability to imagine ever getting better or ever caring about anything again.
Then a few years ago something happened.
Someone took away the flu.
I imagine it probably happened inside the walls of some sad office building, a poorly lit room full of soulless, useless pharmaceutical salespeople, when some sorry corporate guy was like, “You know what we need? We need to remarket the flu.”
The vaccine for the flu actually started back in the 1930’s when no one was ever really sure how well it worked. The flu vaccine has since been used annually (in various forms) and still no one’s really sure how well it works (it was estimated 36% “effective” in 2017).
But it was only a few years ago, in like 2015, when suddenly:
– You have to get the flu shot, or you might die.
– The flu is worse than ever this year (every year).
– Yet, if you feel like you are dying and are certain you have the flu, guess what? There’s this nifty test that says you don’t have the flu.
– And even if you do test positive for the flu, there’s not much you can do about it. You can take Tamiflu, but it doesn’t really help. But it will make you puke.
Did I get the flu vaccine? Yes. Do I want to die of the flu? No.
But for centuries there was the elusive flu that we all depended on, and we didn’t realize how much we needed it until it was gone.
And now I am left with nothing to explain why I am doing nothing right now.
As I lay in bed a full week into my suffering, meetings missed, dates canceled, texts unanswered, I don’t have the energy to explain beyond the few words that used to work just fine.
So, I self-diagnosed.
I have the flu.
It may be the flu of the 90s, but I have it.
‘Cause it damn well isn’t just a cold.