Glandular Fever is a truly horrid virus. It crept up on me one day, as silently as a warship sliding onto dark water. I’ve watched my attempt at explaining how I felt in the video below, but I’m not sure it quite does justice.
Currently, I am sat in my favourite Parsons Green coffee haunt, Hally’s – I write a lot in here, whilst slurping on matcha lattes. I’ve had a week of feeling good, telling everyone how amazing I feel, and that I’m totes better, that’s IT, no more Glandular Fucking Fever. Then, last night I had to go to bed at 9pm with a scratchy throat. I woke up 12 hours later feeling like my deep sleep never happened, utterly drained, sore and sensitive. Inside myself, I am just the same person, with the same unrelenting sense of humour and complete disregard for rules or being told off. My body doesn’t feel the same though; it feels like it belongs to an 85-year-old woman – soft and aching, scared to exercise, unable to dance, do cartwheels or jump around. In another life, the one before Glandular Fever, I went to boot camp circuit classes, learnt Beyoncé dance routines, and loved that fantastic feeling after smashing a hard gym session. I can’t do any of that right now, and it’s really getting me down. After breakfast today, I had a lie down, a shower, a lie down, lots of supplements, lunch, a lie down and some deep motivational thoughts have propelled me to started writing at 3.30pm.
The story begins a couple of months ago when I was feeling constantly run down. My usual routine of jumping out of bed like a coiled spring, and carpeing the fuck out of my diem, often with a gym class or two squeezed in, felt utterly impossible. I had just started a new job, and could. not. get. ill. It wasn’t an option. I trudged on and believed I had developed tonsillitis; my voice was raspy, glands were swollen and I had the most horrendously sore throat. This went away a little, hurrah! I thought I was getting better… Then on my birthday I couldn’t feel my arms, they had become weightless floating appendages, barely attached to my hot, aching body. It was the strangest sensation I’ve ever experienced. My heart was pounding, head was spinning and skin developing angry, prickly rashes.
About 10 days later I was sat at work, completely covered in these rashes. My skin was on fire. I took photos and sent to various friends and doctors for their advice.
“Sometimes your body has to tell you that you are not fine, because your mind is too busy coping.” Toni-Jay Collins
The next evening I got into a lavender oil bath, my usual routine when feeling unwell. After 20 minutes or so, I couldn’t stand up. I was shivering uncontrollably in this hot bath, with loud ringing in my ears, my vision was coming and going and heart pounding through my chest. I tried to stand up again, but this time collapsed. My superhero flatmate called an ambulance.
A week later, one very memorable low point was watching people walk past my bedroom window. I was a fevery, dizzy mess, lying there as my limbs sank like hot lead into the clammy sheets. As I watched these people laughing, chatting and putting one foot in front of the other, getting on with their day, I became so intensely jealous and emotional. I was so sad that I couldn’t leave my flat and walk around without either fainting or burning up to *mashes keys* 97838829237794 degrees. How long would I feel like this? How could I pay my bills if I can’t go to work? How could I take care of my business, my body, or relationships and just and crack on with life?
Then it hit me how lucky I was. It’s almost impossible to feel sad when you feel extremely grateful. As I’ve been on a fairly speedy road to recovery, my friends and family have been a saving grace. There are people out there with Glandular Fever who don’t have a close-knit family that will drop everything, and take weeks of work to look after you (thanks mom Xx). My heart goes out to international students, people new to somewhere, migrants, all of them, these people on their own who don’t have someone to make them breakfast and clean their flat. I realised there are people who simply develop horrible illnesses and don’t live in the comfort of a lovely, calm, cosy home. With great clout, this illness served as a powerful reminder that my life is incredible. Some re-prioritisation was due.
It sounds dramatic and quite deep, but in a way, I’m really glad I’ve had it; Glandular Fever has taught me a few lessons:
- Family first. Always. Not work, not boys, not ASOS, and not big nights out. You realise there are a select few who will do anything to make sure you are comfortable, and free from worry. I count a couple of close friends as family (Millipede and Aimee), but honestly, I’ve never been more grateful to have such a loving and caring family.
- Don’t work too hard and do fun things, as a matter of priority. Stress is one of the WORST things for our health. Rather morbidly and by chance, I read about the most common regrets of dying people… one of them was “working too much”, or “working too hard”. Functioning alcoholics will feel better in themselves than someone who seems otherwise healthy but is under a great deal of stress. My amazing GP, Dr Victoria Muir told me that when we are stressed our corticosteroid hormone suppresses the immune system, lowering the amount of lymphocytes, and we get ill. Relaxed, happy people don’t catch viruses with quite the magnetism and ferocity that stressed, low people do. I sort of knew this, but after having it explained in a very matter of fact, scientific way, this became a very weighty piece of wisdom to take on board. I was ill with a horrendous strain of Glandular Fever and a secondary resulting complication of Hepatitis. Right up until I collapsed and was rushed into hospital, I had been working evenings and weekends, constantly on edge. Not any more! In the words of Jack Black/Dewey Finn… STICK IT TO THE MAN.
- And finally… The NHS is BLOODY AMAZING. I received the best care, in a pristine, clean hospital full of very lovely nurses and wonderful doctors. Lots of people criticise the NHS, but I could not find fault with the service I received. From the sense of humour the paramedics had, “well don’t you look fabulous girl!” as I was lying in my PJ’s, face grey/white and red blotches all over my chest. I could see my heart thumping away, and couldn’t feel my arms. The humour and attentiveness of these paramedics made me feel so much better. I really listened to the advice of doctors, especially one who had suffered Glandular Fever as an adult. One day, after my second ambulance trip to hospital, a wispy looking woman appeared in my cubical and sweetly asked if I would like a cup of tea. My grey face must have lit up. She told me the elderly patients, many of whom had fallen over, respond to this simple question, like I did, with the pure elation. It was the best cup of tea of my life. I’m tempted to volunteer myself.
The crux of this very long post is that Glandular Fever SUCKS… but I’m going to be OK. I have become a lot more appreciative and mindful as a result of catching this bastard virus. Since starting to feel better, I’ve stopped ridiculing myself for not being thinner, or looking a certain way; my wonderfully imperfect, curvy body is shaking off Glandular Fever – and for that, I love it dearly, feeding it broccoli and flaxseed oil every day . Thank you Mom for taking care of me, thank you lovely flatmate, thank you friends, and thank you under-appreciated NHS. I can now walk around in the sunshine again, light-footedly bounding past my bedroom window.