When a Hypochondriac Gets a Throat Infection, This is What Happens…
You know that thing where someone’s all, “Woe is me, because <insert thing that is not the end of the world, but is nevertheless annoying>, and the Internet’s just all, “Shut it, random blogger person: THERE ARE CHILDREN STARVING IN THE WORLD, YOU KNOW?”
Can we not do that today?
Like, can we just pretend the internet is exactly like the real world, and people are allowed to have normal, human, reactions to someone who’s been a bit ill, even although they didn’t actually DIE, so are obviously just being giant babies about it? Because, honestly, I just want to be a giant baby right now. I want to vent a bit and complain a LOT and for people to stroke my hair and say, there, there, that sucks, Amber, but it’s OK now, let me go get you a nice cup of coffee.
So can we do that? Because, folks, I’ve just had one of the worst two weeks of my life.
It was a throat infection.
Yeah, I just thought I’d get that big reveal out of the way up front, because a throat infection? Really, Amber? That’s what you want to complain about? When there are children starving in Afric… oh.
Yes, it was a throat infection. But, me being me, I wouldn’t go and get some kind of normal, horrible-enough-but-no-biggie throat infection. No, I had to go and get the mother of ALL throat infections. The One Throat Infection to Rule Them All, if You will.
It started off as Just a Sore Throat. When it was Just a Sore Throat, I did my best to power through, safe in the knowledge that, even though a sore throat can make you feel like crap, it normally only does it for a very short period of time, and, well, my two year old isn’t going to look after himself, while I wallow in self-pity, is he?
Then, however, we entered the, Actually, I Think It Might Be Flu: Could This Be Flu? phase, which was accompanied by the usual aching muscles, shivers, and lying awake all night hallucinating that the toddler is in your bed, and your husband is about to roll on top of him, AAAAARGGHH, WAKE UP TERRY, YOU’VE JUST CRUSHED… whoops, sorry! Just me hallucinating again! As you were.
The ‘Is It Flu?’ phase is bad enough on its own, granted, but, this time around, it was particularly bad, because this time it obviously included a quick detour to ‘Could It Be Coronavirus ?’ country. So THAT was fun. I might have health anxiety, however, but my obsessive Googling of Coronavirus symptoms were sufficient in this case to convince me that it was highly unlikely to be it – unless, of course, the virus had mutated, which CANNOT BE RULED OUT, people. Ever. For now, though, it seemed unlikely to be COVID-19 (This is, however, a station I will presumably re-visit many times this year…), so I was able to move onto the next stage.
The next stage was one I like to think of as ‘Wine and Chocolate are Burning My Throat, Why?’ It was a bit of a curve ball, to be honest, because it was ONLY wine and chocolate, and they were both REALLY burning. Consuming them was an act of sheer masochism, really, but I did it anyway, because, look, it’s wine and chocolate – they’re LITERALLY my favourite things in the world, and I just could not bring myself to accept that they were being taken away from me in such a cruel manner. Happily, though, this phase was ALSO short lived: by the next evening, the burning sensation had stopped, I could eat whatever I wanted to again, and I was surely on the road to recovery!
Then came The Night of the Long Knives.
The long knives were in my throat, apparently: or, one side of it, at least.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to function normally with a sharp knife sticking into your neck, but let me tell you, it IS NOT POSSIBLE.
I couldn’t swallow without being in excruciating pain… which meant I couldn’t eat, and, by the time I went to bed, it was too painful to even sip water. I tried to sleep, but ended up spending the night on the couch, struggling to swallow, and with pain radiating up from my throat to my jaw, which felt like someone had smashed it with a brick.
By the time Max woke up in the morning, I literally couldn’t speak, and was so dehydrated that I felt like my head was about to explode. Toddlers don’t really understand the concept of other people’s illnesses, though (By which I mean Max did not give a shiny shit…), so, when Max cheerfully presented me with a giant stack of books and requested that I read ALL of them, RIGHT NOW, MUMMY, I staggered upstairs, woke Terry, and asked him to help me with Max – and also call the doctor for me, because did I mention I couldn’t speak? (Well, not above a croaky whisper, anyway, and even that required so much effort that it hardly seemed worth it for the kind of rubbish I normally come out with…)
I should say here that, throughout this fun time, I’d been self-medicating with paracetamol, ibuprofen, a wide and varied selection of over the counter throat meds and – I’m not proud to admit it, and don’t try this at home kids – but also some high-strength painkillers left over from my c-section.
No, not even salt water gargles, honey and lemon, or whatever it is you’re about to suggest, because, seriously, I TRIED THAT TOO. No, not even the prescription-only painkillers, although, now I come to think of it, my abdomen DID feel fantastic, so maybe that’s what those things were targeting?
NOTHING was working.
I had reached the end of the road. I’d been battling my stupid throat for a week now, and it had only gotten worse, so there was one thing for it: I’d have to see the doctor.
To most of you, this would obviously be no big deal.
To someone with health anxiety, though (ME), it’s a Very Big Deal Indeed: especially in the middle of a coronavirus outbreak, where I’m pretty sure that proceeding directly to the place where you’re most likely to come into contact with sick people is NOT part of the government advice.
Still, even I had to admit that attempting to struggle on whilst unable to eat, drink or speak was probably not the greatest idea ever, so Terry made the call, and I was booked in with the nurse.
“Do you think she’ll send me to the hospital to have an operation?” I fretted, as I waited for the appointment time to roll around, while lying on the couch, feeling sorry for myself. (It took me about five minutes to get that sentence out. It WAS NOT WORTH IT.)
“Hmmm, I’m not really sure,” replied Terry, who has now had his ‘Heath Anxiety Handler’ badge revoked. “I don’t actually know WHAT they’ll do to you with this one!” So THAT was reassuring.
Thankfully, however, ‘They’ didn’t do anything to me, other than that terrible thing medical people do where they hold your tongue down with a stick while peering into your mouth: an act which is guaranteed – GUARANTEED – to make me instantly start gagging. The conversation went a bit like this, then:
NURSE: I’m just going to hold your tongue down with this stick so I can look at your throat!
ME: <in a faint whisper> I will instantly start gagging if you do that: I have a “thing” about it.
NURSE: <holds tongue down with a stick>
ME: <instantly starts gagging>
In the end, she sent me away with a bottle of ear drops (Er, nothing to do with my throat, but apparently as soon as this current episode is over, I have to start worrying about my ears…), and instructions to just continue with the ibuprofen/paracetamol double-act, and wait for the strep-throat to get better.
But it did NOT get better.
No, it got way, WAY worse.
48 hours later, I had a raging fever, still hadn’t managed to eat anything or drink much (Silver lining: those pesky few pounds I’ve been trying to lose since Christmas are GONE. Can’t really recommend the Strep Throat Diet, though, tbh…), and had entered a phase I think of as, “FML, Seriously”.
So, back to the GP I went, feeling absolutely THRILLED that, having not been near a doctor’s surgery in over two years now, this year I’ve managed to visit one no less than FIVE times: four of them being this very month, right at the height of my Coronavirus panic.
(Oh yeah: did I mention that my strep throat started just as Max started to recover from an ear-infection which resulted in two trips to the GP with him, and one dose of antibiotics? Because, yes, that also happened: pretty sure they’re just going to have to come and put the plague sign on our door soon…)
This time I saw a doctor rather than the nurse, and yes, he ALSO put the stupid stick thing on my tongue, and YES, I totally started flapping my arms and making panicked noises to indicate, “STOP! YOU ARE CHOKING ME TO DEATH! AM DYING!” BUT! BUT! I did not gag! I just looked really, really stupid! Which is progress of sorts.
Anyway, the doctor took one look at my throat and said, “Well, this obviously needs antibiotics?” So he prescribed me some, and I headed home, where I went straight to bed and entered into the NEXT phase of my drama illness, which I will call simply, “I Wouldn’t Have Thought It Was Possible To Feel Worse Than I Already Did, Yet Somehow I Have Managed It.”
Guys, I’m sure this is pretty obvious by now, but I have never felt worse in my life: or, if I have, I honestly don’t remember it. Over the next 24 hours, I learned, amongst other things:
- Why reading about the coronavirus while you have a fever is a very, very bad idea.
- That, no matter how often you point out that you’re unable to speak above a croaky whisper, someone will always try to shout questions at your from another room and expect you to shout your answer back at them.
- That, no matter how often you explain that you can’t swallow or open your mouth properly (Did I mention that my jaw had kind of frozen shut at this point, and I could no longer open my mouth more than a few centimetres? Because that’s another thing that happened…), people will continue to suggest you swallow things.
- That toddlers REALLY don’t understand why their mummy can’t speak or play with them, and react to this quite badly: after a full week (During his ear infection) of refusing to allow anyone other than me to even touch him, Max decided he only wanted daddy, and mummy could just go away, thanks. Which made me feel awesome, obviously.
- What it’s like to throw up, when there’s nothing in your stomach TO throw up, and your jaw is frozen shut.
So, yeah, it was all pretty dire, really, especially given that all of this was underpinned by my constant worrying about coronavirus , plus the conviction that all of this was just basically practice for the hell that lies before us.
(Yes, this is the moment when you realise I have spun this lengthy tale purely to give myself yet another opportunity to talk about coronavirus, which now occupies my every waking thought. Sorry. Feel free to leave now if this is likely to be triggering…)
I mean, my biggest fear in all of this, obviously, is that one of us dies, or gets really sick from it: but I’m also really worried about other aspects of it, too. As horrible as the last week has been, for instance, I was really fortunate in that I was the only one who was ill, so Terry was able to look after Max, and my parents were there to babysit as usual. The infectious nature of coronavirus, though, makes me pretty certain that, if one of us gets it, we’ll ALL get it: and I honestly can’t even imagine how that’s going to go down in terms of being able to look after Max if we’re all feeling anything like I’ve been feeling for the past week. Like, how is that even possible?
Mostly, though, I’m just feeling really, really sad about it all. The last few weeks have felt totally surreal to me: partly because the near-constant run of illness in the family (I mean, FIVE TRIPS to the GP in as many weeks, people. FFS!) has meant we’ve been virtually housebound for a long time now, and, just at the moment when we SHOULD be starting to look forward to spring, and all of the fun things that brings, we find ourselves instead facing a right-out-a-disaster-movie scenario which looks set to continue for the the rest of the year. It feels a bit like this entire year has just been cancelled, basically, and, while our physical health is obviously the main priority, I’m also really concerned about the mental health aspect of all of this – not just for myself, but for everyone else who’s having to deal with events being cancelled, plans put on hold, and this surreal feeling that normal life has been suspended, for an indefinite period of time.
So, that’s the bad news.
The good news is that, as of today, I can finally swallow again without feeling like I’m going to die, and speak more-or-less normally. My jaw remains stuck shut, my appetite has gone AWOL, and I feel kind of shaky and weak, like one of those women in a Victorian novel, who has to go to the continent for three months to convalesce (IF ONLY.), but hey: it could all be a lot, lot worse.
And, if the current news reports are to believed, IT SOON WILL BE.
How’s your week been?[P.S. I also just wanted to say a quick thank you for all of your comments this week, and apologies for the fact that I haven’t replied to most of them… I luckily had a couple of blog posts scheduled in advance for this week, so I know it’s seemed like I was working as usual, but this is actually the first time I’ve sat down at my computer all week, and while I was able to read your comments on my phone, I just couldn’t summon the energy to reply to them all from it, so huge apologies!]