Being sick is like being trapped in a car while your husband goes hiking

“Trapped” might be overstating it, since the car doors were unlocked, though metaphorically you could say I’m trapped by illness, and therefore it’s an accurate interpretation of our trip to the Blue Mountains last week.

I’m still sick, and still taking regular breaks from the whole-lotta-nothing I generally do most days. And it’s still boring and lonely and heartbreaking, and also not nearly as bad as it could be, so I’m trying not to complain, even when I get left in the car by the side of the road to nap in the backseat while Steve and his cousin go hiking in the mountains.

FYI, I love hiking.

Being sick is like being perennially stuck in the car while everyone else does stuff you used to do, but without you. Sure, I can pose with the best of them. Look at me at Echo Point, smiling like a healthy person and convincing everyone I’m having a great time!

Ashley Kalagian Blunt on chronic illness

And I was having a great time, in the sense that I was relieved to have escaped the apartment for a day, and have the mountain scenery to distract me, even though I spent most of the drive feeling like I was being run over by a tractor.

Here’s the thing: if you meet up with me, I’m probably flooded with adrenalin at the excitement of being out of the apartment and interacting with another human creature, to the point where I’m talking 7200-words-per-minute and, if you look closely, vibrating slightly. I don’t look sick.

But after, at home, I’ll go straight to bed because my eyeballs are burning and my muscles are aching and my brain is too muddled to figure out dinner (does hummus go with oranges?), even though all I did was sit and drink three cups of lemongrass tea and converse for 97 minutes in a public setting.

You’re right, I’d probably feel better if I’d just stayed home alone all the time, except I would go insane.

I am getting better, but it’s slow. Slow like an overseas letter posted circa 1824. Slow like a slow cooker you forgot to plug in. Slow like Australian internet.

I assumed my recovery would look something like this highly scientific graph, where the x-axis is time, and the y-axis is healthfulness: Ashley Kalagian Blunt on chronic illness

A much more accurate depiction of my recovery looks like this:
Ashley Kalagian Blunt on chronic illness

(Which is of course stolen from Demetri Martin.)

My point, if I have one, is that I’ve been in that swirly mess stage of recovery lately, and writing all 419 words of this has felt like a punch in the face, so I’m going back to bed now, at 11:23 am. Good night.

 

CSI: Your Life

The post in post-infective fatigue syndrome indicates that an infection was the catalyst for the illness. In effect, I had an infection and my body successfully fought it off, but something went wrong in that process, which led to PIFS.

But there’s no way to what the infection was. For a lot of people it’s glandular fever (aka mono, aka the kissing disease – which is more aliases than some spies have). But I didn’t have glandular fever.

The doctors said the initial infection could have been subclinical, meaning I was never aware of it. (There’s also no way of knowing if the doctors have correctly diagnosed the condition. It seems like I have PIFS, but there’s no test to prove it. They tested me for literally every other testable condition, sometimes twice, then threw up their hands and said, ‘Huh, must be PIFS then.’)

This mysteriousness leaves me constantly wondering what actually caused my illness.

I have no way of actually knowing until medical science can give me some better information. But that doesn’t stop my brain from trying to be helpful by interrogating everything I’ve ever done/encountered as a possible suspect. Hey, my brain constantly interrupts, could it have been –

  • The chestal rash I had in 2014, that appeared randomly and vanished after three days?
  • The grapefruit addiction I developed in 2016?
  • The time I was bitten by either a gigantic spider or a tiny vampire?
  • Any of the other 82,937 mystery bug bites I’ve had since bugs abruptly added me to their directory of high-end cuisine? (My blood is the insect equivalent of Michelin rated.)
  • Voodoo?
  • The brief period I used the basement stairwell in our apartment complex, which smelled horrendously mouldy, resulting in trillions of mould spores holidaying in my lungs?
  • Any other of dozens of mould-based situations? Brief Encounters with Suspicious Mould is a book I might definitely write.
  • Alien abduction that’s been conveniently wiped from my memory?
  • Encountering some bacteria or virus in Bhutan / Uruguay / Morocco / Cambodia / Mexico / Malaysia / Armenia / Portugal / Vietnam / Bolivia / Thailand / France / Japan / Malta / Turkey / Queensland / North Korea / Peru / etc that set in motion a complex series of biological processes resulting in PIFS?
  • That time I ate alligator?

There’s absolutely no evidence for any of these theories in my personal case. Regardless, my brain has lots of extra time these days, so it obsessively spends that time picking through memories, examining them under its ultramicroscope, cataloguing and ranking them.

Here’s what scares me most: because I have no idea how I got PIFS, I never had a chance to prevent myself from getting it. I likewise can’t suggest to anyone else how they might prevent it. Keep your fingers crossed, I guess! And maybe avoid both gigantic spiders and tiny vampires, that’s just solid life advice.

 

Let’s go out for cool water and zucchini slices

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You probably heard that I quit sugar recently. Well, technically speaking – and there are a lot of technical details based on questionable science – I quit fructose. A skinny blonde woman and a man claiming to be a doctor said fructose is bad and I should stop eating it, and also stop being in the same room as it, so I did. You should too! I would love to tell you all about it over coffee, except I might be tempted to put some fructose-laden sugar in the coffee, so let’s avoid that whole quagmire, shall we?

I know a great place where we can get a tall glass of slightly-below-room-temperature water (not too cool or it affects your metabolism, that’s another thing you should look into, here’s ten web links) and a plate of diagonally sliced low-calorie zucchini. There’s no menu – that’s all they serve! That’s their secret, no temptation. It’s very popular with women like me who wear lycra and neon purple runners all day so everyone who sees us is aware of our superior lifestyle choices.

I had to stop going to most cafes because studies have shown that sugar can be absorbed straight through your pores, so even being in the same room with it can negatively affect your endocrine system. A slice of banoffee cheesecake diffuses fructose molecules into the air at a rate of 0.37 micrograms per minute. Depending on your proximity to the dessert tray, you can absorb up to 41% of that through exposed skin!

It’s not enough to purge your home of fructose. You need to find sugar-free zones where you can enjoy a quick snack without the military-dessert-industrial complex pressuring you with omnipresent brownies, cupcakes and melt-in-your-mouth macaroons, which are things I absolutely do not want and neither should you.

When are you free? I can do tomorrow, or this afternoon, or even right now. I’ve got a lot of free time since I started avoiding all my sugar-eating friends. They were enablers who would say crazy things like “it’s okay to have a slice of banana bread now and then,” which it absolutely is not, since sugar is more addictive than cocaine and anyone who cared at all about your health would not tell you it’s okay to have a little cocaine now and then, would they?! Well, how about Thursday? Saturday? The water and zucchini slices are on me and I’ve got lots more to tell you about why fructose is ruining your life. Next month? Early next year? Please?