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On Getting Sick + Being Human

On Getting Sick + Being Human


I was at the precipice of death.

It was seventy five degrees, both outside and inside my apartment, but I was shivering underneath three comforters with a hot water bottle.

I was scared.

And alone. Well, just me and my son.

Single parenting when you are sick is a spectacular kind of alone.

So, I texted a friend to be on call in case I needed a ride to the ER. She did some web research and came to the conclusion that I had Menengitis. Or Lyme Disease. Possibly Tuberculosis.

While I was weak, my sense of humor was, fortunately, intact.

I called another friend, a nurse. She said watch for fever.

The tape that started playing for me was how I get sick or hurt when I start running again. Two weeks back after the sprained ankle ordeal, I had even signed up for a 5k with my son, which means this is clearly more validation for my Exercise Conspiracy Theory.

Laugh if you want, but you know you have one too.

Anyway, I told my nurse friend that I didn’t have a fever.

Shortly after our call, I started to get hot. The thermometer light was flashing red like an ambulance.

I took some ibuprofen.

Then I spent some time feeling really sorry for myself, mentally cursing everyone who doesn’t love me, cursing that horrible emergency contact question on every medical form everywhere — an activity that was silly times eleven, but I was hurting all over. The blankets felt like evil needles on my skin.

I made sure my son wrote our address down exactly right in case he had to call emergency. He made me a cup of peppermint tea. I must admit, the kid excels.

Then I spent some time wondering who would take care of him when I died.

After that, I wondered if this horrible feeling was because I was turning into a vampire and my maker had callously deserted me before I even realized I’d been bitten.

Naturally, that led to more cursings of things. Especially my vampire maker who also, apparently, doesn’t love me and is going to be another lousy emergency contact.

Thanks, True Blood!

Then I had a few forced postive thoughts. Surely this bout of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever will pass! My life is the best! Deep breaths! Relax! RELAX!

I make fun of it, but the truth is that I did calm down when I started remembering that all wasn’t actually lost.

For a sec.

Until I had to succumb to the fact that, in order to have any integrity, I would have to reschedule all of my appointments the next day — and then, as the fever continued for another two days and I was diagnosed with a very real and massive kidney infection — the entire week.

I had books full of people I was really excited to talk to. In addition to my clients, I had offered free 30 minute sessions in my last post and they had been going exceedingly well. I had been heartily looking forward.

And now I had to tell all of the people that I was sick.

The Sick Health Coach.

Of course health coaches get sick. So do doctors and people who work for the Center of Disease Control. So does David Bowie (I’m assuming. But chances are that guy looks better sickly than most of us ever will in our lives. So, bad example.) But none of that matters, because when I get sick, no matter how sick. it makes me feel like a fraud or a flake. I feel like I’m lying like a highschool-sophmore-school-skipper when I call in to work.

Also, I kind of think that you will think I’m a useless health coach because I am sick which must mean I AM DOING IT ALL WRONG.

Yeah. I know it isn’t true. But the fears creep in.

It’s the I Am Doing It All Wrong Psychological Phenomenon. It’s an epidemic. Ask anyone who is doing anything that matters to them if it’s a real thing.

But being sick brings up all kinds of vulnerabilities.

Obviously, being sick also just means I’m human.

Basically, I am not getting out of being in this imperfect body for the duration. And really, I wouldn’t want to.

Bodies can seem like a burden. They can feel so heavy all the time, weighing us down to our tired, tired feet. Our bodies get sick at super inconvenient times and cause us to have to change our plans when we have commitments to other people. Our bodies have needs and desires that eclipse the rational parts of our brains. They fail us. We fail them. They require a kind of care and maintenance that seems impossibly hard and counter-intuitive sometimes. They exacerbate a perennial disconnect and an existential angst that is about the hardest thing to overcome. See: I am so alone. 

It’s a seriously complicated relationship.

We consistently ignore our bodies when they are doing their job, and then we curse them when they need a rest and take us down. We only give them real attention when they are misbehaving, real or imagined transgressions.

Sometimes we curse them when they are working just fine. We offer them a tirade of hatred because they aren’t tucked in properly or round pegging into some perfectionistic idea of nothing. Too small, too big, even too sexy. Sigh.

Our bodies, they are understandably confused.

But these bodies are actually one of the most sublime things about our humanity.



They are our tool to interact and connect.

Our bodies are our first line of defense between us and the world. It is where we live no matter where we live. Our bodies keep us safe. They keep billlions of things from invading our insides all the time. Toxins, parasites, bacteria, toxic and parasitic people. Things we don’t even know about because our bodies kept them out. (Just because one gets in once in awhile, or something goes awry, does not mean you have a body that failed. It actually means, statistsically speaking, your body is hitting it out of the park.)

Bodies are constantly filtering information. If you listen to them, you can be in on a very acute kind of wisdom. Your body is so smart. Just one single cell is smarter than every doctor on the planet put together.

And I know some pretty smart doctors.

Our bodies are a mystery to be revered and adored. Not to be chastised, shamed and whipped into submission. (tweet)

Our bodies are how we are able to give and receive love, how we are able to experience pleasure and how we are able to move around the world.

Our bodies make us distinctly, infinitely, and yes, mortally human.

And while humans can be internet trolls sometimes, they can also be radical creators of art and connection. (tweet)

A human did this. This. This. This. And this.

The list of incredible things humans do is a very long list. Much longer than four things.

Doing cool human things requires having a healthy body to hold and execute big ideas. (tweet)

Really, anything you do, even if you’re sick and have to stay in bed and watch campy vampire shows, ahem, requires a body.

While we can’t do anything about the inconvenience of illness and the inevitability of death, we can take sweet care of our bodies while we have them. This will help avoid a lot of body stresses and diseases. It’s easy to count the things that do go wrong and impossible to count the things that don’t. But rest assured, your constructive health choices are keeping you mad safe behind the scenes.

We can appreciate our bodies instead of being their adversaries. We can learn to listen to them, to love them, to fully live in them. We can aspire to understand, in a concrete way, what it means to be embodied.

We can respect our bodies, feed and hydrate them well and use them to love well. We can maintain them with a variety of preventative methods. I love massage and acupuncture. We can take them to the doctor when they need to go.

The doctor is exactly where I took mine. And right now I am super grateful for antibiotics, being able to write blog posts from my bed, the generosity of friends who hung by their phones, delivered juice and tea and fruit, and the flexibility of everyone who has graciously rescheduled appointments so I can heal.

I adore all of you guys. For real.


Meg Signature





PS. I hope you clicked those links up there when I was talking about the cool things humans do. Because, art.


image by me

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2 Responses to On Getting Sick + Being Human

  1. karen says:

    I hope you are feeling better. I would not want to work with a Health Coach that never got sick. How could she be compassionate with me when Im sick unless she had been there herself? Even worse than a never-sick-coach would be one that did get sick and never talked about it. Our vulnerabilities are our strengths, and visa versa, right? Thanks for the share! I related to it all!

    • mworden says:

      I agree, Karen. Empathy is a pretty important quality in the people who support us. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m so glad you are here.

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