i’m aware it’s been over two weeks since i’ve written anything here. I’m still alive, though often I feel like the walking dead. we’ve been sick, plus the usual life with three kids, plus me seriously toying with the idea of going completely offline and incognito. as many of you can probably relate, the world right now feels like a scary place where no one is safe and I find myself becoming increasingly agoraphobic. I find myself nervously glancing around when I’m in a public place, keeping tabs on where the exits are and bristling with nerves every time a new person walks in the door with purpose. I have a feeling I’m not alone. every one of us I’m convinced is dealing with a mild case of PTSD due to the haze of terror that seems to have settled on the everyday setting of our lives.
but I wanted to write a post just to keep the candle burning here on this little blog. all about a newfound trust I have for the human body.
you see, I grew up not trusting my body. (not liking it much, either. well, I’m a woman and of course I grew breasts too slowly, never had long legs or a waifish figure, was never one to be much of an object of anyone’s fantasies, so I was at least spared that little bit of ego). from a young age, I recall my mother warning me in ominous tones about certain prohibitions on the way I would handle my own body. “don’t touch that or it’ll get infected.” or, “if you don’t let me take this splinter out it’ll fester and eventually lead to amputation.” ok, maybe she never said that, but she talked about my body as though it was this flimsy, shoddily built car in need or so much repair, something always breaking down or about to. in her speech, there was an air of possession in the way she spoke about my body and I was going to break it with my clumsiness. “don’t jump on the couch, you’re going to break your neck!” she said angrily, as though my neck were an expensive piece of china she couldn’t afford to replace.
she was a big fan of Tylenol and antibiotics. her favorite doctor who (oddly?) “retired” a long time ago, was an older man that we had to drive into Detroit to see and who gave shots of penicillin straight into the bum at the first signs of illness and who my mother was convinced “saved” both my brothers and my lives at least once each. I have vivid memories of frantically hiding from this man behind the examining room table.
it’s no surprise, then, that I grew up with a deep mistrust of my body’s abilities to heal itself, not to mention COPIOUS hang ups surrounding childbirth. I am a religious hypochondriac. it would take deep, deep hypnotics to cure me of these subconscious beliefs.
maybe that’s why it was so hard for me to let ruth’s illness and subsequent fever run its course without interference from me.
I have been doing reading on the subject of childhood fevers and their theoretical benefit to the immune system. the thinking goes let the fever do its work and the immune system grows stronger. thwart it with Tylenol and you lose the benefits of illness and are more prone to illness later in life and chronic illness. so the idea goes.
well, that’s fine and my brain can accept the logic of letting the body do its work, especially after all of my experience with childbirth. but my intellectual brain has little influence on my deep gut reaction to fevers. fear. mistrust. and an almost compulsory response to reach for the Tylenol.
but I withheld. even though ruth was ill for days. even though her fever went to 102 and stayed there for a day and a half and she did nothing but sleep on the couch, I told myself to be strong. “this is what sickness SHOULD look like,” I reasoned. not a kid up and running about, fever suppressed and feeling fine. this is natural. this is good.
and, would you know, of course, her immune system did eventually suppress and overcome the virus. her fever reduced to nothing and she gradually but totally recovered. and I didn’t take her to the doctor and never gave so much as a drop of Tylenol. I didn’t even call a nurse in a panic to talk me off of my ledge of desperation when I felt like I HAD to do something to make my kid BETTER, NOW.
the effect of this can’t be understated. “greg,” I said, in a sort of haze after five straight days of dealing with sick kids with terrible sounding coughs and fevers, “I think this is the first time in my life that I’ve been through an illness with a high fever that I didn’t treat with Tylenol. I’m beginning to understand that I have a deep mistrust of the human body. that was really hard for me.”
and it was. I was shocked to find that I was actually deeply surprised that ruth was able to fight off the fever on her own. I felt it reverberate deep in my brain, a tiny wave corroding at something heavy and solid within me. just a tiny wave. but a wave nonetheless.
I feel…slightly transformed. and it feels like a sunrise on a new day. there may be hope for this misguided soul yet. maybe.