On Being “Sick”

 

It’s flu season again. Everyone has a sniffle or a cough. A chill has set in everyone’s chest. I got a flu shot despite probably not needing one. Historically, when I didn’t get a shot, I was still okay. I don’t get seasonally sick. I don’t develop a cold or the flu when it starts to get cold.

I see a lot of my friend develop these symptoms but I remain healthy for the most part. I always joke that I’m sick all the time, I have a headache all the time. Instead of feeling like absolute crap for a couple of weeks, I feel like crap for most of the year.

Except when I laugh at this joke, it’s that sick sardonic laugh that makes me realize how fucked up my situation is. I don’t even justify it as being sick. What does being sick mean? The connotative meaning of sick has a change of status from healthy to sick heavily embedded. That’s how you tell when someone is sick. They were healthy and now they’re not.

That’s where I’ve struggled with being “sick”. I think that’s where we trip up with chronic illness, the chronic part. There isn’t a change of status, it’s just a constant in our case. Before was so long ago that the people in our lives, the ones who judge healthy or sick, don’t remember or may not even know what healthy is suppose to look like. Other people can’t possibly know how we feel but they are the ones who judge, they drive the stigma. We are expected to be healthy when we’re not. Sick is our healthy to them.

I’m frustrated with the fact that I notice empty seats in class, and asking where they are when they’re home with a cold or the flu. I would love to be knocked off my feet with a cold or a flu and be allowed to stay home. If my migraines were contagious, would I be allowed to stay home? Maybe then everyone would be as scared as I am when I feel it coming on and expected to go to class or drive home.

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