"You'd be in perfect health if you lived in a bubble." my doctor told me, laughing. I had caught something from someone as I usually do instantly. A long recovery ahead, I knew. But, without germs around me my health is pretty good. I've structured my entire life so it can be. I guess that's like saying the soccer team is great at scoring goals but terrible on defense. You can't really be a winning team if one side is great and the other can't block a single ball, right?
For years, the sound of someone coughing literally makes me cringe because I know if I don't move fast, I'll catch whatever they have. I've moved into hotels when my sisters or roommate have been sick to avoid the germs which catch even faster in close proximity. I look like a drug dealer when I travel with all my immunity boosting pills to protect myself again 100 people on the plane. I go to doctors who tell me I have nothing then a week later diagnose me with exactly what I thought I had--because I can feel it in my body before they can diagnose it. So I always go to the doctor twice. I carry a full pharmacy with me. I'm vigilant. I run away. It's EXHAUSTING and I'm so over it.
This joke about being a "bubble girl" has been said by just about everyone around me--my parents, coworkers, boyfriend, friends. While it's an entertaining thought, I can't help but think, would it help? My immune system has difficulty fending for itself, and it amplifies whatever I catch. I don't just catch a cold. I catch a cold, ear infection, sinus infection, and chest infection that stays for a month. I am still recovering from a stomach virus I had over a year ago. So when germs come, I run. People judge me for it. They say I'm dramatic or get frustrated or offended. I'm tired. I don't want to run. I don't want to be in a constant state of guarding, protecting my weak defenses. But what choice do I have? What option is there besides running or getting sick? Neither is a winning answer but at least when I run, I can safeguard my health. What I lose is sanity, dignity, and calm. A bubble would be alienating-- but I already feel alienated so I'm not sure there's much of a difference.
I'm afraid, all the time. I live in a constant state of fear and anxiety that I can't release because my body literally doesn't know how to handle the alternative. It's 5AM here in Seattle where my family has gathered to see my older sister. My little sister arrived last night with a cold, hacking cough, and ear pain. I'll be moving to stay with my older sister as soon as day breaks and will spend this vacation ferociously drinking immunity tinctures, vitamins, and avoiding the germs as much as possible. She won't understand. She'll think I'm being overly cautious. I'd feel the same way if I was in her shoes. I haven't seen her in months and every fiber of my being just wants to be "cool" with it. To just hang out with her and with my whole family and let down and enjoy our time together. I miss her and want to help take care of her and catch up for hours. But, I must be on guard. Must be responsible. I must be cautious and deliberate, smart and quick, sensitive but not overly so. I can't trade a few days of incautious behavior for a month plus of recovery. It's just not worth it--but it continues to wreck my psyche every time I do it.
I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I didn't have to run. What a life would be like without constant fear. I could go where I want, when I want and see who I want. I could embark on bigger adventures without that gripping feeling in my chest or drop in my stomach. I wouldn't have to spend days packing and could say yes to things I want to do without considering the repercussions for hours. I wouldn't be the buzzkill or the responsible one. I'd be free and I'd have the option to run wild.
Then, I settle back into reality because that will never be my life. And while I've coped with a lot of elements of my condition, this is one that haunts me every day and I still haven't been able to tackle it. I've structured my entire life around helping myself feel better and am vigilant to a fault but this part sends me into overdrive to a point I can't function moderately normally. Psychologists usually help you through an issue by demonstrating how your fears are unfounded or showcasing how your thoughts are irrational. They have no idea what to do with me, because every time I get sick, my behavior is reinforced. It's not irrational or unfounded, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.
I know as a blogger, I'm supposed to end this with a "but it's all okay!", "life is wonderful!", "I'm fine!". But, I'm not fine. I'm having a pity party of one over here and I have no wisdom to spout or great advice to give. I'm just exhausted and I'm angry and I'm upset and I wish I didn't have to run away all the time.