We had a home inspection scheduled for the same weekend I ended up in the hospital. We told my parents that we were bringing in a structural engineer to look at some issues that came up during the inspection, but between coughing and not having a voice and the general craziness of rapidly declining health, I hadn’t mentioned this development to anyone else. A well-meaning family member called my mother to see what was new with me. My mother replied,
“Well, the structural damage isn’t quite as bad as it could have been.”
Confused, the other family member was left to ponder if she was referring to me or to the house. I was the obvious choice, and he felt confident in his selection.
“No, no, I’m just as structurally defective as ever,” I said when he relayed this to me.
“But it’s okay. I would have picked me, too.”
As I told my editor this week, I think I got my end-of-semester illness out of the way early this year. Ok, it’s still lingering, but I remain optimistic. For as long as I can remember, (we’re talking nursery school here) November and December have always been plague-ridden months in my world. When I was in grade school I always had surgeries right around this time—a few times on Christmas Eve day, even—and throughout college I always wound up in the hospital near or during finals.
In the dark days of misdiagnosis, when my doctors were scrambling to figure out why my lungs got worse no matter what they did or how many steroids I took, they were wont to ply me with this: “Are you sure you’re not stressed out? Maybe stress is causing all these exacerbations.” Because we can’t figure out the real problem, we’ll put it back on you.
As calmly as I could, I explained time and again that being stressed did not make me sick. Being sick and knowing I was then going to fall behind in studying for finals and miss all the end-of-semester festivities? Now that made me stressed. They had it backwards.
Know what I mean? I'm not foolish enough to say that stress doesn't make health conditions and situations worse. Of course it does, and of course it has for me. But it's a cop out for someone to say stress is the cause of illness simply because he or she can't find an obvious answer and isn't willing to dig deeper to find the correct one.
I never backed down from this assertion that they had it in reverse, even when I missed both Thanksgiving and Christmas one year because I was in the hospital. Luckily, I now have doctors who know that the reason my lungs don’t respond to asthmatic protocol is because my problems are not caused by asthma. (Cue resounding duh here). But I have been thinking a lot about this time of year, and why it’s usually such a disastrous period of time.
It’s really not that complicated. It’s cold and flu season. More people are clustered indoors because it’s colder out. There are more social engagements to keep us out late, and more errands and cleaning and cooking to do on weekends when we would normally have some downtime. There’s a crunch to get big work projects finished before year’s end, so even though we’re out later and more often, we find ourselves getting up earlier. And no matter how healthy we are otherwise, the more run down we are, the more susceptible we are to the many infections that travel around this time of year.
Somehow, this seems like a much more plausible explanation. And it is one more reason why I have never backed down.