Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Virus in Anxietyland

Hello Friends:

Well, it has been several weeks since I’ve posted, mostly due to back-to-back flu viruses. Yeehaw. First a week with the coughing kind, then almost two weeks of the achy-congested kind. It always catches me off guard – every year I get to March or so and think "Ah hah! I managed to get through the winter without getting sick". Then I get hammered.

Speaking of the flu – right now we have the kind of thing in the news that makes me totally freak out. In this case, the big name plague of the first decade of the twenty first century appears to be a new variant of the Swine Flu. I thought it was going to be Bird Flu, but no, they changed the animal on us. But only time will tell which one gets the honors for most scary.

When any virus or other illness is highlighted in the news, I get it. That is to say, I get so worried about contracting it that I actually start to get the symptoms. I ‘got’ Lime disease, West Nile Virus and Hauntavirus. Although I haven’t actually ‘gotten’ the Black Plague yet, which is saying something since there is still Plague out in the southwest in places I’ve spent plenty of time. My penchant for getting sick from diseases I haven’t actually contracted is one of the reasons my husband and I have eliminated my intentional exposure to the news. I don’t watch TV, read papers, or check any internet news sites. Ever. And for the most part it works to keep me from ‘developing’ every single illness that gets mentioned on page 24, let alone the front page.

Anyway, the point is that if Anthrax or Swine Flu is in the news, I find it so terrifying I’m likely to end up walled up in the house trying to wait it out, pretending the outside world doesn’t exist like some bad Poe story. I’ve been working very hard over the years to get a more realistic view of life, to accept that some illnesses are a part of being in the world. But I’m so afraid of the small chance I’ll get one of the kind that takes me out of the world altogether that sometimes it becomes absolutely debilitating. When SARS went around, I was instantly afraid to travel to Canada. Which you can imagine isn’t really so bad, except it really is the same fear that makes it hard for me to go into the backyard because the Lime disease monster will get me.

It seems different to someone who has a properly developed sense of risk assessment. Someone who can look at the world and be more realistic about what they are really likely to be exposed to, and what they are not. Lime disease is a real possibility, and SARS is pretty damn low on the list. But I can be afraid of both. Especially something like SARS, which can kill me dead, even though I’ll never get it. Lime disease is super scary, but I do know people who have contracted it and gotten it treated before it became a problem.

For someone with my illness fears, any illness is a mental death. There is no ‘other side’ to getting sick. There is getting sick and then a black wall with nothingness beyond. So this Swine Flu thing is super duper scary. You know, I think I was even vaccinated for the last strain that went around in the mid seventies. I remember my mom taking me to some kind of mass inoculation clinic with big long lines. That’s when they were using that spray gun that shot the medicine right through your skin and left a mark reminiscent of a Star Trek salt sucking alien. And now they know that many people who got that vaccine became quite ill from it. Damned if you do …

Boy I’d sure love to stay ‘safe’ in my house and never get anywhere near that Swine Flu. (That, by the way, is sarcasm. I hate the fact that I’m trapped in the house by my disorders and I know perfectly well I’m not safe there. Anyway …) But I have a new policy for my life, which is trying like hell to actually live before you die. And so you know what I saw this morning? I couldn’t miss it given how just yesterday I arrived in Granada, Spain and the local papers are all over the hotel's front reception counter. Couldn’t miss seeing a picture on the front page of people from Mexico City wearing masks in the Madrid airport – which is where I was twelve hours ago. Yep. Flipping Madrid Aeropuerto. Cripes.

Is this funny or isn’t it? I mean, I can see the humor but I’m scared out of my mind. Freaking ‘Gripe Porcine’. Between the Bird Flu and now this, I’m beginning to think that the food is fighting back for real this time.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image is Surgery by Chrissy Teena via Creative Commons

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