Let’s Talk About Health, Baby

Let’s get real about being sick on campus.

You can feel it coming. You hear the click in your ears, the headache is not going away, your jaw feels achy, and your energy is at an all-time low. But do you stop and rest? No, of course not; there is no time to rest when you have that paper due, that presentation to give, and that project to work on. The symptoms will pass. Except they don’t.

You’re now at the stage when you can’t ignore that you’re sick and you’ve popped three Tylenol in record time, giving your liver another reason to hate you. You make a deal with yourself that if you get your readings done early, you’ll go to bed. It’s five hours later and you’ve moved onto the paper that you just need to revise.

You wake up the next morning and it feels as though it’s HoCo Sunday: your head is pounding furiously and it hurts to touch your left teeth. You pray it’s not another sinus infection. There’s no escaping it now. Staring at your laptop screen has your eyes stinging to the point of crying, and the words in your book sway with every beat of your headache. By the time three in the morning comes, you’re sitting on your bedroom floor surrounded by bottles of Tylenol, Aspirin, Benylin, and Aleve. You’ve taken more pills than you probably should have, but the pain is still keeping you from the bliss of sleep. All you can do is stare at the ceiling and wonder what it ever felt like not to be sick and if you’ll feel that again.

It’s time. You’ve put it off for as long as you could. You take your friends' only advice for when you’re sick, and you go to the - wait for it - walk-in clinic. The place one only ventures to when in dire need of help. The place of long hours sitting next to fellow students coughing their lungs out and watching the precious studying minutes that pass by painfully. Two hours later and there is only one chart left, and it has your name on it. This is it. This time is going to be different; this time they are going to give you something other than nasal spray. They put you in the room and you wait some more. Two hours become three hours, and the doctor finally steps in.

“So what’s the issue?”

“Well you see, I’ve been experiencing extreme pain in my jaw, teeth, and head, and—”

“Say, ‘ah.’”

“Sounds like a bad cold. I recommend that you go buy some Advil; try the sinus one.”

You leave the clinic with tears rushing down your face. Advil?! She couldn’t be serious; like you haven’t taken every sinus pill available. You waited three hours to be told to go buy Advil – sorry, no – Advil Sinus.

You make your way back home and collapse onto your bed, curling beneath the covers. Something as simple as walking has become the hardest thing in the world. You realize how you’ve taken for granted the privilege of just being able to be able to go to class, do assignments, and eat; you want to be able to do everything you normally complain about.

All you can smell is sickness, the smell that you can only sense when you’re sick. You can feel your sweat sticking to you, and you can feel the germs surrounding you. You need a shower but you’re too sick to even stand. You just want to be back to normal and you promise yourself you’ll appreciate being healthy.

You wake up and slowly open one eye at a time; you don’t feel the throbbing pain, but aren’t ready to allow yourself the hope of being better. You give it a couple of minutes and still no pain. Yes! You’ve made it.

It’s only been two days, but as you walk into class, people stare at you like you’re in the wrong place. Your seat has been taken by that blonde girl who used to be stuck in the front. The prof starts talking and you realize two days in university is five weeks of catching up – and it’s not like the prof is going to care, unless it’s pneumonia or something.

Someone told me that girls take longer to get better because they’re used to working through the pain that comes once a month. When men get sick, they become big babies until they get better, and are thus able to get better sooner. So not only do periods suck, but they also make us prone to not confronting being sick? I’m not sure if there is any truth to this, but no matter who you are, if you feel it coming, please rest. Don’t wait for the storm to hit, because in university there is no time to be sick – although maybe that’s the bigger issue.

Photo courtesy of Pexels