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Emails to my Therapist

Caught a Bug. Let People Down.

Dear Nicholas, Doc thinks I have the flu. So I’ve cancelled commitments for the next few days, which is to say I’ve let people down, six of them to be precise.

That’s what has bothered me about this, messing with their plans, breaking my commitments,  even though I have been massively assured by each one I’ve talked with that it’s not a problem. With their assistance, I’ve put aside my worry and obsessing and am simply lying home sick.

But I’ve Let People Down

The fact that letting people down has bothered me to a mildly unhealthy degree means the larger problem is OCD and not FLU.

I’ve thought before that I treat my life as a ritual that must be performed correctly. It’s not very relaxing. I’m rethinking this once again.

Going Viral?

My physician, Jim Parsons, told me to consider myself contagious for 48 hours after the fever is gone.

getting sick let people down

The lovely flu virus. Is flu really blue? Photo by abhijith3747

So it’s good I didn’t drive to Wilmington today as planned to look after my 95 year-old mom. Having a “note from my doctor” makes bailing on this more tolerable to me. She’s not in shape to deal with the flu, which she freely pointed out to me.

But my usual mantra is, of course: Just Keep Going. And that’s useful in many situations. Not in this one.

Lying here, I find myself rolling my eyes toward the ceiling in a manner that reminds me of classic paintings of martyrs. I don’t actually feel all that bad.

Photo by Minerva Studio

I’m keeping myself entertained reading an excellent novel, The Condition, by Jennifer Haigh. I’m a little afraid to touch my own novel-in-progress in my current state, or maybe that’s an excuse.

I’ve always had really good physical health. Last week, I got my lab results from my annual physical and every single number on the report was excellent.  In my adult life, I’ve had one mild case of pneumonia and a couple of tiny skin cancers, the only ailments that have merited an actual name, and a few “bugs,” sports injuries, and colds. That’s all.


Photo by into.

So what’s looking like several days being laid up is pretty exotic. I think I’ve now dispensed with enough of the guilt involved that I can enjoy it. It’s going to take a lot of personal growth before I cope well with any serious ailment.

Bebop Medicine

My still-feisty and quick-witted mother said long ago that if she ever got a terrible diagnosis, she’d do no unpleasant treatment. Instead, after more than 50 years of not-smoking, she’d get herself “a cigarette and a Wendy’s Frosty and go be-bopping down the street.”

As it happens, the only food I’m allergic to is Wendy’s Frostys (and some powdered cocoa) and would prefer that Mom do whatever necessary to stay alive, but I do like that jazzy attitude. It feels free and celebratory rather than hampered by worries of letting people down.


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  • Peggy Clover
    January 31, 2018 at 1:53 am Reply

    I just got my official flu diagnosis today and will be missing out on several things in the next week. Fortunately were to be fun things for me–hockey games, dinner with friends, lunch with a friend, etc. I think they are all very thankful that I did not try to act like I was doing well. With just a low-grade temp yesterday, I actually enjoyed being all cozied up in bed for the day.
    I have two friends going through chemo so I don’t imagine I will see them for a while. But thinking of them makes these few days of the “eye rolling martyr” a whole lot more bearable.
    Can’t relate to the OCD. I have had so much experience living through things that are out of my control–so I can relax…..somewhat. I really enjoy following your blog.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 31, 2018 at 1:58 am Reply

      Thanks for this kind and thoughtful comment, Peggy Clover. You’re absolutely right about perspective on the eye-rolling martyr.I don’t envy you the out-of-your-control experiences, but to relax even somewhat sounds really good!

  • Robert Braxton
    January 31, 2018 at 2:20 am Reply

    Mama Rachel three years ago went into hospice before her 92nd birthday. I am beginning (age 73) my third week, again, spouse’s 2nd total joint (hip) replacement.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 31, 2018 at 2:33 am Reply

      I hope the joint replacement is going well, Bob!

  • January 31, 2018 at 2:24 am Reply

    I’m so sorry you’re sick. Did you get a flu shot? Whether yes or no, I hope you recover quickly!

    • Peggy Payne
      January 31, 2018 at 2:34 am Reply

      I did get a flu shot, Kenju. But I hear that there are new breeds around. Thanks!

  • Roy Skinner
    January 31, 2018 at 3:01 am Reply

    Peggy, continue to give yourself a break. I am 55 and have been pretty fortunate to be rather healthy most of my life. I agree with your mom. She has the right idea.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 31, 2018 at 3:42 am Reply

      Giving myself a break, Roy. Sounds like you have the right idea! Thanks!

  • Virginia
    January 31, 2018 at 5:57 am Reply

    Hope you feel better fast!

    • Peggy Payne
      January 31, 2018 at 6:31 am Reply

      Thanks, Virginia. I hope you haven’t caught it.

  • Angela
    January 31, 2018 at 7:02 am Reply

    Hi Peggy, that is one terrible looking flu bug. No wonder it causes havoc. I’m sorry it got you but I’m real glad you come to the point of realizing you just have to take time off and are not letting them down so much is saving them and that you’re not so sick as to get in the way of some enjoyment, drinking tea and taking naps.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 31, 2018 at 11:47 pm Reply

      Thanks, Angela. Miracle drug tamiflu turns out to be up to the challenge. I’m making progress. And you’re right about sparing people exposure to a bug: a much-needed reframe.

      • Ron Perkinson
        February 1, 2018 at 2:05 pm Reply

        Over the last 2 and a half years I have had a fair amount of health issues. The nature and substance of those matters is irrelevant for this note. Peggy, you appear to be more concerned about the disruption in your professional and personal life than the effects of the flu. I am offering myself as an example of one who enjoys poor health on some level. I have spent about 50 days hospitalized during that time. The general assumption s that I was straining to be released . My deep, dirty secret? Not necessarily. With the press of a button, I could have liquids, food, reading material, toilet assistance and my pillow fluffed. Not once did I ask for lotion to be applied to my back and legs and have that request denied. No question I prefer good health. But I try to find the lining, silver or not.

        • Peggy Payne
          February 2, 2018 at 6:54 pm Reply

          Under the circumstances, Ron, you did very well at finding a silver lining. I’ve enjoyed my lie-down, once I got past the guilt. It’s not the disruption to my schedule to that bothered me. It’s that that disruption messed with other people’s plans: a trip delayed for two people, lost income for one, etc. But there’s just nothing I could do about that. Took me a day to come to terms with that.

  • Beverly
    January 31, 2018 at 1:35 pm Reply

    I have a bad cold and the bebop cheered me up. I hope you feel better soon.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 31, 2018 at 11:43 pm Reply

      I’m glad the bebop helped, Beverly. My bebop research was pleasantly diverting. Good health to you!

  • Mary Lambeth Moore
    February 1, 2018 at 1:26 am Reply

    Hope you feel better, Peggy. I can relate to the disproportionate angst of letting people down, how big it can feel. Your mother sounds wonderful!!

    • Peggy Payne
      February 1, 2018 at 2:41 am Reply

      Yes, she’s wonderful. And thank you, Mary!

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