The pile of tissues next to me blocked the framed photo of my husband and I. From where I lay all I could see was the gold frame holding fall leaves which haloed the white mound of crumpled up tissues. On my other side my husband slept deeply, his breathing so heavy I wondered if he was catching the same bug I had. It took me a week and a half to feel somewhat normal again. And by normal I mean back to my non stop cleaning and organizing. If I am not being productive I feel like a failure, so being sick is, well, my worst nightmare.
The dishes only got half way to the ceiling, the laundry spilled over the hamper, and the inside of the fridge became the only space that didn’t feel cluttered, its lack of contents making it appear clean and tidy. Because of this I put off going to the grocery store knowing that at least somewhere in my house there lacked cat hair and dirty plates.
Being sick had this affect on me. It caused a craziness that could only be tamed by realizing there was nothing I could do. If I wanted to get better, if I wanted my nose to cease running and my throat to stop screaming in pain, I had to rest. My to-do lists were put out of sight, and I tucked myself into bed early with a quick swallow of medicine to ease my cough and mind.
This forced rest is usually just what I need to gain perspective on my daily goals and habits. Priorities can become painfuly detailed as my lists get longer and longer. But as I lay my head on my pillow and look over at the mound of tissues covering the photo, I remember to just let go.
When my husband was in nursing school I heard it said that when you are a nurse people come to you with all of their health questions. Around his last semester of school my mother and sister would ask my husband’s opinions on things such as absurd health news they read on social media or diet fads that were preached on blogs. He would cooley give his opinion, a mix of amateur knowledge and level headed sensibility. When my nephews got a boo-boo I would send them to their Uncle and watch as he gave them their prognosis and then send them on their way wearing a cartoon decorated bandaid. This would only be the beginning of his off hours nursing.
Each semester of nursing school armed my husband with more knowledge, meaning each semester of school I was diagnosed with another ailment. When complaining of a headache I was quickly assessed for a heart attack. When my daily stomach ache flared up my mother asked my husband if I could be suffering “leaky gut” to which he declared I was missing three symptoms and therefore fine. When he learned about labor and delivery and the complications that can occur our decision to not have children was solidified. When he told me that if I got pregnant at this late of an age that I would be considered an “at risk pregnancy” I stopped initiating sex. By the time graduation rolled around I was regularly suffering from “heart attacks,” and my husband had moved on to diagnosing our dogs.
With diploma in hand, and the dogs being cleared of epilepsy, our acquaintances were dropping like flies with my husband’s new favorite – borderline personality disorder. When the heart attack diagnoses had all but ceased I couldn’t help but wonder if I too was now recieiving his secret psychological labels. When my stomach aches got worse and the shooting pain in my arm lasted more than a day I was branded a hypochondriac, and he turned to ignoring my daily complaints.
In the beginning I was nervous to ask him about my female issues – periods, cramps, infections. Just saying any of those words out loud made me wonder if I had crossed a marital line that one should never go near. In my first marriage we never so much as mentioned the word “fart”, and I had preferred it that way. My second marriage being different on many levels (and my digestive issues worsening) we openly passed gas in front of each other, and I prayed this openness was the key to marital bliss that my first marriage lacked. So when I asked my first question about my menstrual cycle the awkwardness only lasted but a minute and the hypochondriac in me relaxed knowing this was a union that would last.
Every now and then I have an ailment that even I cannot ball up the nerve to have him assess. I’ll be standing in the bathroom, naked, post shower, sweating from the anxiety that I may have just found something and hoping that he will accidentally walk in and find me. He will give me one of his matter-of-fact responses: “you’re fine,” “stop being a hypochondriac,” or “well call your doctor if it’s bothering you.” But his interruptions are never that timely, and I am left to my own anxiety. Maybe I should push him towards becoming a doctor.