It doesn’t matter what you call it: flu, man flu, fever, viral infection – it’s not serious, there’s not much you can do about it, but it feels miserable. Symptoms include a high temperature, fatigue, headache, sneezing, coughing, diarrhea, abdominal pain, sore throat. I have all of these symptoms, plus aching joints, aching ears, swollen glands and apathy. I’m not a person who reaches for the painkillers: up to a point, it’s useful to know how bad you feel.
I haven’t eaten for four days and I’ve hardly seen a soul, unless you count spluttering over the postman yesterday morning. It just happens, fortuitously, that everyone else in my house is away at the moment so hopefully they’ll dodge the virus, plus I don’t want friends calling round and catching a dose of my germs. So I’ve slept, or tried to. And this brings me to the main problem with viral infections. In addition to the high temperature and painful aches, there is the inescapable feeling of being utterly useless. I can’t write, I can’t exercise, I can’t go out. There’s no-one to talk to, but I can’t talk anyway. I can’t think. Standing up is difficult and lying down is probably a wise choice before I become unintentionally horizontal.
Medical advice for those with viral infections is to rest, eat light meals, keep hydrated and avoid infecting others. The resting part is obligatory as I can’t move. The avoidance of infecting others is easy as I am isolated. Food is not an option. I tried eating a toasted bagel yesterday and the first mouthful tasted like wool so I threw it away. I’m simply not hungry. I exist on ten cups of green tea a day, so I’m hydrating, but oh, how nice would it be to have a Mum, someone who’d bring me the drink or a bowl of soup served up with a word of sympathy and a cool hand on my raging head. Those were the days and, of course, I took it all for granted.
There are no good by-products of viral infections. I don’t have time to work because I feel ill. I am not getting thinner despite not eating, as I’m not using any energy other than to toss and turn under a sweaty, germ- filled duvet all night. The bad by-products are an unhealthy measure of lethargy and self-loathing. Nobody looks good in a baggy dressing gown with a hot water bottle tied under the belt, matted hair and limbs which won’t move. It’s the fat Medusa look. Friends send sympathetic messages and texts but, of course, we patients have to underplay our symptoms. We can’t tell our friends we feel at death’s door.
Which is why I’m grateful for my three cats. They don’t judge me when I look even worse than usual. They know I feel bad. They are healing creatures, supporting us in their own way. Colin Feral curls on top of me – probably on top of the hot water bottle – all night long, and purrs non- stop. He’s keeping the bed warm for me now and, as I bash away on the keyboard, little Pushkin is lying around my neck, revving like a mini motor and nuzzling my cheek. Of course, she probably wants more food, but it’s the attention that counts when you feel unwell. I stagger to the television from time to time to watch something really pointless, to let the body and mind rest in a kind of oblivious unconsciousness. I watched Twins yesterday, starring Danny De Vito and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Majick snuggled on my knee and purred while I rubbed his ears. Of course, that resulted in two dead legs, but it’s the thought that counts. Cats know when we need their help.
I’ve just had a coughing fit and popped a rib out. Time for bed again.There is a lot of it about, as they say, in cold weather and I don’t envy anyone who catches a winter viral infection. At least it will be out of the way before Christmas and the New Year festivities. In my case, I hope it’s out of the way before the weekend. There’s a limit to how much A Place in the Sun anyone can watch. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have the strength to hold a book? But until then, I’ll send sympathy to anyone who has a bout of flu, and recommend the healing paws and purrs of cats, who have our best interest and their next meal at heart.
As I sign off, Pushkin has jumped down from my neck, caught me with a stray claw, landed on the printer and started printing off copies. Oh well. Swings and roundabouts.