What sounds like Darth Vader and looks like a half-melted wax sculpture from Madame Toussaud’s? Me with pneumonia! That is what my winter break looked like, home with the kids and being the sickest I have ever been in my adult life. Thank god for grandparents and a doting partner, or I would be dead. Like, actually. Now that I have convalesced, and thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and soup, I sound fine and I look like an approximation of health. But while I was really good and sick, I learned some things:
- I learned I love air! Like, especially when it rushes into my lungs without getting all bubbly and making me feel like I’m drowning. Air is the best. And breathing is the best. I will never take breathing for granted again. I feel for all my friends and family who have asthma and other breathing issues; it’s no joke. It felt scary and out of control when I couldn’t breathe and I leaned heavily on my yoga practice (which has a whole new depth of meaning now) to measure and work with what little air I had.
- I learned to ask for help. I remember the moment on the Tuesday night, the day before I finally took my pathetically wheezy ass to see a doctor, when I finally said to myself “Jenny, you are not winning this one alone.” It helped that my husband was saying pretty much the same thing. He was ready to knock me unconscious and call an ambulance if I didn’t agree to get seen. And so I went. I hear myself tell this to expectant parents all the time but when it was me who needed the help, I seriously hesitated. Why? Probably because asking for help means in some way you don’t have it all together (duh, total immune-system fail is a symptom of not having it all together) and I do not like to admit weakness. I know, I know, asking for help is not weak, it takes strength to reach out blah blah blah. Point is, I learned my lesson. I will be taking better care of myself and asking for help when I’m in over my head. Or at least I’ll try.
- I learned what it feels like to have people fear you. When I did go to the clinic the next morning I was immediately told to put on a mask. So I was wearing a surgical mask and sweating a fever out in the waiting room and I looked like Immortan Joe with SARS (actually, more like Pam Poovey dressed up as Immortan Joe. That may be too geeky for some. If so, I’m sorry, we maybe can’t be friends).
So people left me a lot of room. A lot. Of room. When I had my chest x-rayed it really did feel like I was the super villain. They triple disinfected everything I touched and all wore masks too, just to make extra super sure we didn’t share air. And when they asked me to take a deep breath and hold it, I laughed and laughed, a wheezing, hacking, crackling sort of insane laugh-turned-desperate gasping that was very bad-guy-esque. Then I did my pathetic best, and was finally allowed to go back to the waiting room to scare more people.
- I learned to be careful what I wish for. Not really. It’s only when the wish comes true that there is a problem. Sometimes when you get what you wish for it is not at all the way you imagined. In this case, my fantasy for the last six years has been uninterrupted bedrest and ample sleep. It was not pleasurable in the least when I was literally too ill to get up, and when going for a pee or a shower meant I needed a nap after. Well, let me tell you, it got old fast! Two solid weeks of that was quite enough thankyouverymuch. Though now that I’m well again, I am already romanticizing those long days I spent in bed. I can’t win.
Since I have resigned from my volunteer position as a health room mom at my kids’ school (maybe being the first line of defence for all sick and injured children at a large elementary school is not an ideal placement for my now slightly crappier lungs) I will focus on building myself back up to be better and stronger than before. Armed with my new appreciation for breathing and my weakened bod (except for my abs, coughing is actually a fierce core workout) I will go into 2016 with my health as a priority, not because of a New Year’s resolution but because, in the words of Joni Mitchell, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” And that, my friends, is what I learned from having pneumonia.
That and also, don’t Google when you think you’re dying. Just don’t. It doesn’t lead to a good place.