I spent the last few weeks of 2017 visiting family in the U.K. for the holidays. I had an enjoyable and restful time there, despite the decidedly depressing, wet, and monochromatic British weather. I returned home refreshed and excited for the new year, my head filled with ambitious plans for upcoming races, adventures, and creative work. I liked the symmetry of the first of the year falling on a Monday–a clean starting point for training for winter objectives.
However, on New Year’s Eve I went to bed at 7:30 p.m., tossed and turned for the next 12 hours, and was barely able to get up the following morning. This fitful night of sleep marked the beginning of a nine-day stretch spent nearly exclusively in the horizontal position. I got the flu on the flight back from England, but it hit me so hard that I cannot recall ever being this sick for such a prolonged amount of time.
The first couple of days, I tried to get on with life as usual, but even a short walk was barely manageable and seemed to only exacerbate the symptoms. To my despair, I couldn’t focus on anything without being utterly exhausted within minutes.
Light entertainment, such as watching Netflix, felt like too demanding of a task, let alone trying to read or write. Sleeping wasn’t much better as I would just shiver, sweat, and ache uncomfortably until the night was over.
I settled on just laying in bed, with a cloudy brain, just being and waiting. This was by far the most challenging aspect of being sick. Of course, the physical discomfort was pretty unpleasant, but after so many days of total mental apathy, I started to question whether I would ever get better. Humans need more to be fulfilled than simply staying alive. I know that might sound overly dramatic, but it’s a strange feeling to not only be extremely physically depleted, but also to be in a state of complete mental limbo.
After nine days, I finally began to see marginal improvements in my health. Any short walk, though, would result in terrible coughing fits and dizziness. On one of these outings, I bumped into Buzz Burrell who suggested that I might have pneumonia, given the symptoms are somewhat similar to the flu. Thankfully, a visit to the doctor’s ruled this out and confirmed that I did have the flu which, however nasty and persistent, was mostly over. He treated a lingering sinus infection and within three days I was finally ready to get back outside.
While I initially had felt that the first two weeks of the year had been a complete waste, as I regained my strength, I began to think of this period of time in a more positive light.
First of all, I had the privilege and resources to check out for a couple of weeks. The bizarre limbo state I experienced that seemed so frustrating in the moment was in retrospect quite freeing. In a roundabout way, it allowed me to disconnect from the busyness and stress that makes up much of our day to day. There is something to be said about taking a brief hiatus from the happenings of the world and just letting yourself exist.
I spent those two weeks gradually rebuilding my body, eating mostly fruits and vegetables, the sickness serving as a catalyst to cleanse myself. While I did not enjoy this period in the slightest, I am thankful for the lessons I learned. Being in such a vulnerable state has its merits. It served as a powerful reminder that my time on this earth is finite and that I am not indispensable. I will not always be healthy and strong, and that even when I am, I should remain humble and appreciative of what I have. Needless to say, I savoured every step of my first run back on the trails.
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- When have you found a silver lining in one of life’s rough patches?