So I do have mono. I know that’s a fairly repetitive statement at this point, but what I mean is that I had my blood work done, had extensive testing done, and the findings were that all of my counts look great and I’m perfectly healthy except that yes, I tested positive for having had mono in the past and also for having an active infection in the present.
And upon hearing those word, she exhaled.
The doctor left it up to me whether I wanted a blood draw at all. I guess he figured I pretty much knew what I was talking about, so we really didn’t need to confirm it, as there is no way to treat mono. I told him I’d just as soon be completely sure, because, “If I don’t have mono, I’m a very sick girl.”
If I don’t have mono, I’m a very sick girl.
I’ve told that to friends and family members and doctors and Starbucks baristas and who knows who else in the course of the past month-and-a-half. ”If I don’t have mono, I’m one very sick girl,” usually followed by a laugh. Like whistling past a graveyard, a sort of superstitious protection, because if my symptoms were being caused by something else, it was something big and very scary.
I was pretty certain it was mono, but not completely, in the way I made everyone believe I was. The symptom pattern was a little bit different this time, as it was last time, as it has been every time I have had mono. And that little bit of me that wasn’t convinced, that I knew would only be convinced by blood work, well, it was really fucking scared. And having already had my mother express to me the night before I didn’t go to Pittsburgh how worried she had been, I saw myself as having only one job, and that was to not let anyone catch on to the fact that I was anything but 110% certain it was mono.
Old habits die hard.
In any case, it is mono and that’s a good thing when we’re talking about my peace of mind. But I think I can now allow myself to reassess that ubiquitous sentence, and structure it so it’s not just true, but honest as well.
I am a really sick girl.
I think I’ve done more than conceal this by word, though I have done that. My parents, who live in the same house with me, they get how incredibly ill I am, but they’re the only ones. I managed to go out for a couple of hours on Friday to see one of my girls sing in her school choir. That was huge and I will still be paying the price for it for a few days yet. The child’s mom then sent me a text asking if I could watch her daughters for an overnight this weekend, and even though she assured me that I shouldn’t stress over it, that she knows I haven’t been feeling well, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with her that she would even think to ask that of me right now, with as sick as I am?’
The answer is there’s nothing in the world wrong with her. I may be very sick, but I never let her know how very sick. I went through the comments on a post with a friend of mine, trying to get her to understand there was nothing strong about my choice not to go to Pittsburgh, in fact there was very little “choice” at all. Once I figured out we were talking at cross-purposes, I wrote to her the following:
I guess I didn’t express what I meant the right way. When I said weakness, I meant literal, physical, debilitating, I would even venture to say incapacitating physical weakness. Like when you have run your body so hard and for so long and you’ve kept at it on nothing but adrenaline and still you keep pushing until your muscles give way and you collapse altogether. Only this was the situation after going out for two very easy errands. I literally spent the entirety of the week I would have been away (plus some) on bed rest, with my major activity of the days consisting of going downstairs to the couch for an hour or two.
I thought about the unfortunate necessity of walking through the airport, of collecting my suitcase on the other end and getting it to the car and hotel, and I didn’t think any further than that. I have absolutely no doubt based on how ill (and still pretty well relegated to my bed) I still am that the trip would have been very rudely interrupted by a stay in the local hospital. I’ve been hospitalized for mono once, I’d like to avoid another admittance.
I don’t communicate my struggles as openly as most people seem to think I do, so if I don’t express how badly I’m doing in every detail, people can’t know it. They take me at my word, and I am usually grateful for this. But it takes an enormous amount of my energy even to sit up and attempt to communicate how rough the waters are for me right now.
Most people hear mono, and they think of how tired they were for a month, maybe longer, one time in high school. Let me tell you, having mono in your 30s isn’t anything like that (for that matter, me having mono in my teens and my 20s wasn’t anything like that either). I almost want to tell everyone I know I have been admitted to the hospital, because I think it’s the only way they would begin to get how bad things are.
I’m not looking for sympathy. I don’t want a bunch of “oh poor you” comments. It would be nice for a few people to realize that hey, if it takes me a month to answer a simple email, don’t take it personally. But the people who read this by and large already have a magical gift for being understanding even when they may not understand. I am grateful for that.
I don’t know exactly where I am this time around. I may start to feel better in a couple of months, it may be half of a year before I’m approaching levels of normal again. I will get better, I know that. I also know I’m not going to run myself into the hospital over anything in the interim. My 94-year-old-grandfather didn’t rate that, and if he doesn’t, no one does.
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