By Michael Grey
This weekend, I jumped into bed early, tired, feeling gross.
Sooner than later, the tiredness did not diminish, but the grossness accelerated. No need to go into specifics, but needless to say, I slept little that night, and it felt like everything left my body.
I remember when I was a kid I would often puke and feel great afterwards, an endorphin rush I presume. This did not occur. Not even close and I could keep nothing down to assist in the trouble. Eventually my wife found an old Zofran and I dissolved it under my tongue. The raw being of discomfort like this reminds you that shit can go to hell quickly, and eventually will. I could do nothing to stop this; even activated charcoal was powerless.
As the new day started, depleted and dehydrated, I started on a 36 plus hour experience of being bedridden.
I was amazed that when my body was in a true need of healing, the racing mind parked its own car and went into hibernation. The electrolyte water my wife bought at the store, felt so good going down my throat without the urge to come back up. The breeze from the window, the turning of fans made feel the relief of a little wind across a warm body can provide.
A damp towel across my bald scalp provided the extra cooling that the body failing homeostasis cannot provide. My body kept telling me to not walk more than 10 feet at a time. It kept on telling me to get into bed. I don’t ever remember sleeping out almost the entire day, but I did, with little restlessness that next night. Honestly, I am glad I listened to my body; it was not betraying me here. It usually doesn’t, but I often doubt its intentions.
Usually when I am ill, the urge to crawl under a rock and be unseen presents itself. But an occasional visit from my wife and son felt out of compassion and not obligation. A touch on the shoulder, a kiss on the forehead make other daily desires seem pointless. Love is right there at that point.
Small things like salt and Tylenol seem like tiny miracles they can be. A period of unintentional rest was not what I wanted, but what I needed, and having heard a clear message in life, however elemental was welcome.
This experience taught me many things.
The mind can be quiet. Gratitude can come in very simple pleasures, or even relief. Change will always come, and your resilience and mindset will be challenged. When faced with this, I had to let go of any expectations of myself, for an unknown period of time. When things got worse or better, I acknowledged it and felt it.
I deeply believe now that my meditation practice and mindfulness studies led to a better outcome of this illness. I did not rush to conclude what was wrong with me; I did not try to force any feelings away. I simply let this experience run through me. I was surprised by some of the above observations of stillness, gratitude and lack of reacting.
I know that in times like this, it is possible to suffer less, and that is something I feel good about.
Michael Grey is a middle aged husband and father living in New England. He enjoys dystopian science fiction, gardening and sunsets. He as worked over 20 years as a customer service representative. He is an advocate for climate justice and open discussions about mental health.
Editor: Dana Gornall