Stage One: Denial
Become vaguely aware that something is awry, but fail to connect this to any of the other 127 times something has felt awry right before you got sick.
There you are, sitting in work, or traffic, or jury duty, or hour three of Wolves of Wall Street, and you think to yourself, “Hrm. Usually I am completely unaware of my eyeballs, and yet right now, they are throbbing? Weird.”
Fifteen minutes goes by, and another body part that should be quietly doing its job makes itself known.
“Why can I feel three separate parts of my nose? Why does my throat itch? Why does my mouth taste like Brazil nuts?
In a vain attempt at positive self-reinforcement, chalk all this up to maybe having worked out too hard last week. Continue wondering to yourself for the next three hours WHAT THIS MEANS, until…
Stage Two: Anger
Chaos reigns. Things have come undone. Picture the elevator scene from The Shining, except instead of blood, it’s snot.
Put every blanket you own on your bed, just to get warm, just for a moment. Throw off the covers, strip naked, put ice on your stomach, which feels good for 0.25 seconds. Come to hate your body—which is easy, because you can feel each and every region of it, none of which feel the way it is supposed to. Wonder if you are now made entirely of mucus.
This is also a great stage to try to figure out what terrible, terrible person inflicted this on you. Was it Receptionist Karen, who comes into work no matter how ill she is, wearing her swollen eyes and constant hacking cough as a badge of superiority? That sad, sneezy man with a weak chin in front of you at CVS? Maybe even your significant other? Whoever did this is out there, and you will find them, and you will have them brought to justice! Or at least explain to them the gravity of what they have done, at which point, in this fantasy, they fall to their knees and beg forgiveness.
Step Three: Bargaining
Think about going to the doctor. Remember every other time you’ve ever gone to the doctor—have they ever, even once, told you what is actually wrong and given you a way to make it better? No, they have not.
Make a deal with the universe: If you take three packets of EmergenC, suck down four of those awful zinc lozenges, drink water nonstop, and stay motionless in bed for the next 12 hours, you will wake up well. It’s only fair! Come on. Deal? Deal.
Step Four: Depression
Reluctantly admit to yourself that you are actually very sick—probably fatally so.
Google “Flu Deaths 2014.” Set up a Google News alert for this. Surf on over to WebMD and put in a checklist of your symptoms. Note with a mixture of dread and grim vindication that “pancreatic cancer” is listed as a possibility.
Long for death. Don’t actually long for death, but voice this wish aloud or via telephone, text or GChat to anyone who will listen.
When whomever you have told that you long for death asks whether you’re maybe being a little dramatic and that your flu probably isn’t the kind that kills people, let your head slump to the side of the pillow mound that has become your only solace. Whisper quietly, “I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.” Let a little tear trickle down your cheek.
Stage Five: Acceptance
Admit to yourself that this is just how things are now. This illness and its effects are now another inherent feature—you are 5-foot-8, you have brown eyes, you have a nose that produces a pint of fine, clear snot each day.
It will be difficult, this new life of yours, you think as you try, and fail, not to spill chicken soup on the bedclothes. Yes. It certainly will be hard, but you can do it. Look at how far you’ve come! Why, just an hour ago, you managed to get up and walk to the bathroom and only stopped once to rest!
You will be stoic and brave, the platonic ideal of perseverance no matter what life throws at you. You will go back in to work.
Just as you have come up with a really powerful title for the Lifetime Original Movie based on your struggle, realize that you can no longer feel your eyeballs. Walking across the living room is just a normal thing that normal people, like yourself, can do. Inhale deeply, and realize there is nothing vibrating in your chest but cool, clean air… and strength.
Call up whomever you have been talking to about your suffering. They will surely want to be the first to hear this amazing news.
“It’s a miracle!” you say, and then wait for them to ask what the miracle is.
You. You are the miracle.