by Luis Prada
It’s flu season. You probably know that because of the trails of snot you’re swirling your fingers through as you swipe across your smartphone or tablet reading this, like an exceptionally stupid kid during a finger painting session. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t had the flu this season, because it’s everywhere. We’re currently in one of the worst flu seasons in recent years. And it’s not just the regular coughing-sore throat flu; it’s the stomach flu as well.
As I write this, I am recovering from both. I had the flu, and after it left my body a decimated, bombed-out wreck, I got the stomach flu and was further ravaged. It was like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki of seasonal illnesses and overblown comparisons – one right after another, as if I didn’t get the point the first time.
I’m one of those people who doesn’t get sick very often. I’ve been it through multiple sets of years without getting sick. There’s a lot I didn’t know about seasonal illnesses. Simple, easy, intuitive things had completely bypassed me, simply because of a lack of first-hand experience; all of which I learned all about in the two-weeks the two illnesses made my organs feel like they were trying to rip themselves out of my body like my skin was going to collapse and they wanted to get the hell out before they were trapped under the debris.
Duh #1: The Stomach Flu is Not The Flu
Have you ever caught yourself doing something that you’ve been doing all your life, having never once questioned it because you didn’t think you needed to? That’s what the term “stomach flu” was for me. I always figured it was the same virus that can give you a sore throat and severe coughing, just along the way through your body it comes to a fork in the road – one sign says “Lungs, Throat, and Head” and another says “Stomach and Butt.” The virus assess how naughty it’s feeling, and it chooses where it wants to party and follows the appropriate path.
I’m dumb, it turns out. The flu and the stomach flu are two entirely different things; just some dude’s tummy started hurting at the time everyone around him had the sniffles and he assumed he had the B-side of the same illness. And then every person after him started calling it the stomach flu when it’s actually gastroenteritis, which is what I had.
Looking back on my ignorance, I can see how my irrational acceptance of the stomach flu myth could be interpreted as rational. When you’re in the middle of the hellish turmoil brought on by a common illness, you can give a damn what it’s called. You just want the thing to pack its stuff and leave, preferably via teleportation as opposed to the alternative, which is fiery brown liquids spraying out of you with such a fury they could propel you across a tree top zip line tour of the Amazon rainforest.
Duuh #2: Don’t Have Sex With Sick People
Let me be delicate here, because this is a website for general audiences and mostly because my girlfriend might read this. When you’re healthy and the person you “do it” with is only a couple days removed from having everything she’s eaten since 1995 leave body through most of her holes, its best to stay away from those holes for so long she starts to suspect you no longer have genitals. If you don’t and you’re an eager horn dog like me, her terrible illness will transfer over to you in the way only really mean voodoo curses do.
I keep hand sanitizer in my car at all times, and the moment I get home from anywhere I wash my hands to scrub off all the dirty disease you filthy mongrels carry around. Yet, when it comes to the people I’m closest to, I might as well be sucking on their snotty used issues as a savory snack. Diarrhea could be firing from your mouth, but if you’re the woman whom I love every survival instinct that tells me to avoid sickness shuts off because, hey, you’re on the bed already and I’m extremely stupid, so…why not? I’m down. Let’s do this. For some stupid-ass reason, I think all of you strangers are patient-zeros for a new super-virus, but the people I love and trust the most are as sterile as a toilet in the CDC offices. So the lesson here is, you know, they’re not.
Duuuh #3: If You’re Feeling Bad, Don’t Push It
I like to fight through adversity. Not the real kind, like money problems, or someone telling me I can’t do something, or injustice – I’m a huge pussy and I run from those things. I mean the pathetic kinds of adversity, like not wanting to fall asleep even though I’m sleepy but these episodes of Deadwood aren’t going to watch themselves. I like fighting against my own body and its natural functions. I’ve had to pee throughout the writing of most of this article, but I’m not going to do it because then my body wins. I can’t let that happen. I’m better than me, goddamnit. I shall be victorious in my defeat of myself!
Knowing this, I attended my weekly Dungeons & Dragons session, even though I was still feeling the effects of the flu and was just starting to feel the nausea and bubble guts of the stomach virus. This D&D game fell on the exact day my two illnesses overlapped the most. So, of course, I thought I could slay my own bodily functions and power through the game by telling my body to stop it the way a really menacing bouncer can stop an argument with only a mean look that suggests he may be a suspect in a couple of murders.
I rolled my D20 a few times, I did some role-playing as a psion on the run from the law who speaks every word like he’s afraid the wrong combination of vocal sounds will trigger a dry heave, and I told my body to settle down and start acting like a damn adult. That all worked very well for about an hour. After that hour, I excused myself from the table for a moment and fired every fluid including spinal out of my body. At the same time. That’s doubly confusing because as the horrors were transpiring, I didn’t know how to shift my body so that everything that was coming out went into an appropriate container. I’ve watched a lot of Cirque du Soleil on TV but I can’t bend over and touch my toes without giving up and continuing to eat peanut butter from the jar. At one point in the middle of it, I had a mental image of a product that I want to designs that’s basically just two buckets held together with bungee cord. You strap it to both ends in a situation like this and you just let it all fall out. Then you throw it at your enemy like biohazardous bolas.
When you’re going through illness, it’s best to not push yourself too hard. If you think you might vomit, stay home and don’t, say, hang out with a bunch of friends who will hate you for potentially infecting them and putting a dent in their cash flow when you’ve made them miss work.
Duuuuh #4: Man, Being Sick Sure is Awful
Like I mentioned above, I don’t get sick too often. So when I do, it’s just about the worst thing that has ever happened. The day after the D&D game, one of my friends in the game called me up to find out how I was doing. I had just had one of my worst nights in recent memory. It was a night filled with violent bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, and I had only slept for a total of about 17 minutes, mostly due to my fear of vomiting and pooping in my sleep. Also, I must have had a high fever because my brain was in overdrive, turning the moments when I was asleep into intense horrors filled with horrible visions and this weird sense that I could make myself feel all better if I could only find a way to position myself under the sheet juuuust right. When talking to my friend, I came to a realization: I’ve never had cancer, but I’m sure it’s truly terrible. But since I’ve never had it, I don’t know how high sickness levels can go. So, ipso facto, what I was feeling was the worst thing anyone had ever felt. Ever.
It wasn’t. By a longshot. But as I went through the torment of two seasonal illnesses and my of bar previous experience with illness wasn’t set very high to begin with, for me this was the worst thing in the world and I didn’t care about how much worst it could possibly be.
I now have the bar set at a higher position, which means only the really bad illnesses can top it. So, expect a sequel to this article in about 15 years called “4 Realizations an Idiot Has About Cancer/Arthritis/Erectile Dysfunction.”