Since Tuesday I’ve been attended to by a nefarious visitor known as ‘The Flu’.
Let the record show, I despise being ill. I whine and I gripe and I call out for my mum and when she responds I can never articulate what it is that I want beyond ‘feeling better’, which she patiently explains she’d love to help with, but hasn’t yet found a cure.
But this particular bout of flu marks the first where I haven’t had a mother tending to my every need (merely because I now live in London, not for more wrenching reasons). I’ve had to go it alone. I’ve taken to the battlefield armed with nothing but Beechams and Vicks and Kleenex Balsam Tissues by the bucketload, and a steadfast determination to conquer the invasion of infectious micro-organisms.
The truth: It fucking sucks.
Looking after yourself means you can’t concede to every whimper of pain. No matter how achey/shivery/desperate for attention you are, only you can switch on that kettle and boil another hot water bottle. There’s no-one to butter you a slice of toast when that’s the most exciting thing you can bring yourself to eat, or rub Vicks on the back of your chest. (N.B. a spatula, it turns out, is not the most effective tool in combatting this woe).
I’ve demonstrated Brie Larson in Room levels of stoicism; though the irony of having to is that no-one can corroborate your emotional strength. Tuesday, especially, saw my contention with a very difficult obstacle. I’d decided to wear yoga pants, because they were somewhat warmer than my pjs, but in my heightened state of weakness when the time came to remove them, it presented a challenge. I literally didn’t have the strength to pull them from my ankles and had to take a couple of moments to – in true Kate Winslet style – gather.
So if ever you’re faced with having to face the flu alone, I impart my wisdom on how to make it through what feels like Armageddon…
Build yourself a flu fort. My bed has become a depot for all things alleviation-related. Strepsils, tablets, cough medicine and tissues are all within reaching distance (on the side where my clock also belongs, so I can monitor my dosages). My phone and laptop are also on standby for emergencies and entertainment purposes. This is where the Netflix ‘continue playing’ feature really feels like a stroke of genius. I powered through about 15 episodes of The Good Wife yesterday, because who better than Alicia Florrick to guide you through a rough patch. The woman is a machine.
The old saying goes ‘feed a cold, starve a fever’. But any advice with the word ‘starve’ in it, I’m likely to take with a pinch, or heaped tablespoon, of salt as I gargle away my sore throat. Eat often and eat well. I just bought a shit ton of broccoli and ginger soup, along with enough fruit and veg to open a grocery business. And one of the minimal plus-sides to being alone when struck down in your prime, is that no-one can see you chew your food with your mouth open when your blocked nose means you can’t otherwise breathe.
Stay clean. I don’t mean off-drugs; if anything you’ll be more drugged up than that time at uni you convinced yourself you were a baller and took two Hay-fever tablets before drinking 2 pints of cider. I mean, no matter how weak and unwell you feel, drag yourself to the shower a la Leonardo DiCaprio in any of his recent movies. You’d have thought that being alone meant getting away with not lathering up for a few days, but not only will the steam help with your sinuses, freshening up will just make you feel so much more alive than stewing in your, by now, germ-ridden flu fort.
Give yourself a break. The hardest thing to do when you’re off-sick is to not be hard on yourself. I felt like I was letting work down, like I’ve put a spanner in my Triathlon-training works, like I haven’t been able to attend goodbye drinks for a friend leaving the country. To reiterate my earlier sentiment, it fucking sucks. But there’s literally no-point in getting wound up about it, or trying to push yourself to the limit. This isn’t Mount Everest. The world isn’t watching. Just crawl into a hole for a while and wallow the shit out of this flu. This isn’t the time to be productive. Accept that and you’ll be much happier, if still incredibly snotty.
And if you’re feeling lonely? Ring your Mum. Ask a friend to give you a call. Hell, ask them to come over and join you in the flu fort if they’re feeling particularly immune. The more people you tell, the more people that care. And quite frankly, one of the best cures for the flu is sympathy.