As I type this, I’m holding down vomit and counting down the hours until the Tropical Disease Centre opens.
I slept about 15 hours until midnight yesterday. About an hour ago, I ate my first proper meal for the first time in days.
I cried 6 hours ago, and realised that, despite my recent heavy episode of depression, I didn’t actually want to die. Not like this.
And the self-blame started. As did the regrets of two years of treating my body horribly. I was uncomfortable, and possibly going to die. After all, the last time I said I felt like I was going to die (without a hint of irony or humour), I turned out to be right.
So how did I get to the point where I’m able to suddenly write this Medium article (with some difficulty, to be fair)?
Basic care during illness.
A thing I’ve had to teach every single person who happened to be around whenever I’ve been sick.
“Yes to the water. No to the fatty foods. I don’t think that juice is a good idea until my gut is a little happier. Let’s have the rice cakes now, and the acidic food for another time. Oh, and do you have any charcoal tablets handy?”
But today it struck me why I have had to teach so many how to look after me while I’m sick. The liberty of fully letting go while I’m ill, is burdened by my knowledge — instilled in me since I was a young age.
Of course, I learned lots as an adult, from myth-bashing facts to just how angrily some scientific articles will dismiss things that have worked for many in the past. Placebo maschmeebo.
The reason adults don’t know what to do when their body “malfunctions”, is because they weren’t taught as children to have some reverence for how their body works. Also, it’s not actually malfunctioning most of the time that you assume it is, by the way — in fact, it’s working the way it should!
I would like you to read this, and then spend some time soon with a child in your life. Teach them some basics. What to do when a fever strikes. Medicines that work, along with things that don’t work. Teach them to read the boring little slip with everything they’ll ingest for healing purposes, and teach them that prevention is better than cure.
But more importantly: stop letting Google teach you what to do when illness strikes. How can you leave the health of a human being in the hands of a website that may have excellent SEO (click here for a simple explanation of what SEO is)? How can you trust the popular vegan sites that claim that veganism is the way for absolutely everyone? How can you trust the site that claims that drinking juice and eating raw foods all day — something that’s very bad for certain bodies — will magically cure everything? On the flip side, how can you trust the site that tells you to avoid sodas when some doctors recommend it in certain situations? How can you trust the scientific site that tells you water isn’t even all that necessary?
Read those articles. Do your research. I’m not asking you to avoid them. But I am saying that it’s best to have figured out what works for you — and those you love- before you have to somehow know the answers in an emergency situation. And remember: what works for one person may not always work for another. We are still so young in our knowledge and awareness — stay open to things that may seem too silly, or too simple.
It’s only because I know my body well — and what works for it — that I knew something was wrong when none of my usual tricks worked. If I hadn’t known this, I’d have died in 2011 of appendicitis as well as some gut-related issues.
But I didn’t. And today, now that most of my techniques haven’t worked, and I’ve only gone from a 1 to a 3 in terms of my wellness after the last few days — I know to seek a doctor.
Teach others prevention. Teach them when a doctor is necessary. Teach them when they should be going to the ER. Teach them what different over-the-counter medicines do — not just in terms of what they help, but how they work.
Teach them what to do for the runs (a lovely mix of electrolytes, charcoal tablets, fluids, probiotics, rest and rice cakes seems to help me most times), when to start “treating” someone who has a high fever (don’t let their head get too hot — but also don’t take painkillers at the slightest temperature raise, as a study showed that this could bring down a person’s lifespan). Find out what works for your own body, and encourage children and adults in your life to share what works for them with you.
Learn the science behind the different possible illnesses one may encounter in a lifetime — and then put your browser on private so you can secretly look up some of the kooky out-there methods that your mum may swear by.
Take an interest in your body. Find out how it works. Don’t wait until you need to know.
Update: I was diagnosed after two tests with — I hope you have a pen and paper ready — typhoid, salmonella (no they’re not the same), amoeba, worms, and multiple bacterial infections. Sometimes, knowing your body can save your life. I’m still in the process of getting tests done to make sure there aren’t more serious issues going on, but I’m no longer bed-ridden.