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Re-Evaluating My Social Battery After Sickness

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kenyon chapter.

A few weeks ago, I sat in my dorm room staring at a bottle of enormous antibiotics with the knowledge of my strep throat diagnosis. As someone who had never been diagnosed with strep throat, even after going to a public school for twelve years of my primary and secondary schooling, I wasn’t sure what was in store for me. Yes, I’d been sick countless times, but I was lucky enough not to have contracted COVID-19, so I naively thought that I would be able to combat any sickness that came my way without so much as a sniffle. And so the sniffling and self-reflection began…

With the help of the on-campus health center, I was given a new toothbrush, packets of pain medication, and lots and lots of cough drops. The cough drops, especially, were going to prove useful over the course of the following week. I cannot stress enough how the kindness that I received from healthcare professionals did not go unnoticed and it is, to this day, something I am still grateful for.

The two days that followed the diagnosis are days I cannot really recall. I know that the Kinsa app on my phone tells me that I recorded my temperature approximately thirty-seven times with the average temperature around one hundred and two degrees. I am also aware that I logged over ten hours of Stardew Valley during my time in isolation away from my friends. It’s a wonder that the NPCs didn’t scream at me through the screen to get off of my laptop.

When it came time for me to return back to classes, I did so with eagerness. I was so looking forward to getting out of my small Watson room and venturing further than the restroom or the picnic table around the side of the building. I was looking forward to living and wanted to embrace the change.

In regard to my return to classes, I will be completely transparent and admit the following: I was exhausted. I felt like all the energy had been zapped out of me even though I had spent the last two days doing practically nothing but sleeping and doing mindless tasks to pass the time. Returning to classes felt like I was half awake and barely holding myself together. I wound up ending my day early and heading back to my dorm room for a nap that lasted three and a half hours; I don’t even think I would call that a nap — I should probably call it a short slumber.

It could be argued that my body adjusted in a negative way to an empty schedule — that I was becoming lazy. However, I don’t think this is the case. What I truly believe to be the case is that I was overworking myself in the weeks before contracting strep throat and my body desperately needed to do a complete overhaul and rest. What I needed was to reset my social battery and take some time for myself. Admittedly, I still spend a large portion of my time in social settings, but being able to call it a day and head back to my room alone is something that I continue to find difficult, even though I know it is the right thing to do on days where I need some alone time.

Setting time for myself to take a nap, do a color-by-number sheet, or watch some mindless TV is something that I find actually increases my happiness when I do spend time with my friends. I am not putting on a facade of having everything put together — I am simply me. I am more rested and am able to appreciate conversations more when I don’t have to plague myself with the endless repetition of I’m exhausted that would repeat over and over in my mind. When I start to hear that tape play in my head, I know it is time for me to call it quits and take a little breather.

In a weird way, I think that having strep throat was something that turned out to be helpful for me. Now, I still am a little phlegmy, but that is neither here nor there. What sticks is the notion of true, alone self-care that is just for me and my own enjoyment of life.

If you are an extrovert and a people-pleaser who is feeling the effects of social burnout, I wholeheartedly recommend taking the weekend for yourself and really prioritizing your own happiness and relaxation. Hopefully, you won’t have to contract strep, as was my case, to enjoy a newfound sense of self.

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Tessa Pesicka / Her Campus
Carlin Steere is a writer and poet at Kenyon College. When she's not on campus, she can be found on the beaches of Connecticut with a notebook in hand.