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Emails to my Therapist

The Small Ordeal of a Messy Illness

Dear Nicholas, I rode on a plane. Came home and got sick. I feel awful. I’ve caught a nasty airplane bug, I’m guessing. And I am freshly awed by the power of a wee microbe, making a short visit, to bring body and spirit to their knees. It doesn’t take a monster illness to briefly undo a person–or me, anyway. A short spectacularly messy illness can do it.

I won’t burden you with the physical details–except to say that I did a load of laundry in the middle of the night, including all the bed clothes and most of the pile of (previously) clean laundry I’d left on the floor beside the bed.

Okay, I’m Being a Whiner

Just before I came down with this last night I’d been reading a story in New York magazine about a director with ALS who is managing to direct one more movie though the only thing she can move is her eyes. Wow! Me, I’m asking husband Bob to bring me every glass of water.

Never Before Have I Been So Willing to Ask for Help

Bob came down with this first, two nights before me. His doc sent us to the ER for an IV and for tests to be sure it wasn’t something serious.  It isn’t. It just feels like it,

I’ll feel okay in a few days. Bob is at the end of day three and he’s a lot better.

My Current Worry

I’m afraid I’ll pass this on to other folks. If it’s a norovirus, I’ll be contagious for two days after the symptoms are gone.  And this  coming week is full of events. Example: my friend and office partner Carrie Knowles has a book launch on Wednesday night at Quail Ridge bookstore and a theatre production of one of her stories on Sunday. Don’t want to miss these; don’t want to make people sick either.

One of the strong characteristic fears of my OCD is spreading germs. I don’t want to make a decision based on an ill-founded unhealthy fear.

I’ll likely email my physician in the morning or call that ER doc who checked out Bob to get their opinions. It would be a good thing if I could stop thinking about it for the moment.


I’m amazed I’m writing anything right now, but these notes have always helped me unload the mental toxins. Also, writing is relatively easy, standing up is hard.


I so foolishly thought I’d avoided this microbe. I’ve always been proud of my fierce immune system. Well, I didn’t dodge it this time. And it seems to hit on so many fronts–I persistently feel like crying, for no particular reason, but can’t.

I was raised to view illness as somewhat dodge-able. My mother’s approach to a lot of problems was: “We’re not having that.” It worked amazingly well except for hurricanes and the troubles of the last year and a half of her 96-year life. Even so, she was a good nurse through our childhood diseases.

For a couple of days when Bob was sick, I thought: “I’m not having this.”

Oh, well.

Send healing vibes, please.



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  • Miller Sigmon
    May 20, 2019 at 5:03 pm Reply

    If in doubt,,,,, stay home..You may be contagious..!! ?? ( Carrie will understand..) Hope you & Bob are on the recovery path… now……..

    • Peggy Payne
      May 20, 2019 at 6:39 pm Reply

      We’re getting there, Miller, and going to scrub the house with Clorox tonight.

  • RonPerk
    May 20, 2019 at 5:30 pm Reply

    If I feel bad with no organic reason, that dosn’t mean I don’t feel bad. I think our society imposes a moral judgment on anyone who is struggling with non-defined issues. A couple of observations: whoever first said that which does not kill you only makes you stronger has never had sepsis. If it does kill you, it is unlikely that you died after a valiant battle, Most likely you will
    have sought medical attention, followed the treatment plan, and didn’t wake up at some point. The “valiant battle”
    language is that of a survivor. I doubt it brings any comfort to the deceased.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 20, 2019 at 6:39 pm Reply

      You’ve been through it, RonPerk, as much as anybody I know. And still witty and wise!

  • Mary Ann Claud
    May 20, 2019 at 6:24 pm Reply

    So sorry you’re sick, but good to be reading you again. The bug Sounds debilitating at the least. Keep it on your side on the state.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 20, 2019 at 6:38 pm Reply

      Will do. Thanks, Mary Ann!

  • Robert Braxton
    May 20, 2019 at 9:13 pm Reply

    Rachel Held Evans, recently deceased and quite young, began this year in Lent – with the flu.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 20, 2019 at 9:56 pm Reply

      I know of her, Bob–Christian writer admired by both evangelicals and the Christian left. A big loss! I’m pretty sure I’m not heading in that direction just now. Feeling better.

    • RonPerk
      May 25, 2019 at 1:14 pm Reply

      Peggy-Do not panic or despair. The death of Rachel Held Evans is generally thought to have been caused by encephalitis, a swelling of the brain. Doctors discount her flue symptoms as a factor.(Washington Post). My advice is to avoid seizures and brain swelling. It has never been described as contagious.
      Hope this is helpful.

      • Peggy Payne
        May 25, 2019 at 5:27 pm Reply

        Excellent medical advice, RonPerk. Will be sure not to be swell-headed.

  • Kenju
    May 21, 2019 at 3:51 am Reply

    So sorry you’re sick. I have decided that when I next board a plane, I’ll be wearing a mask. They are hot beds of germs! Hope you recover quickly!

    • Peggy Payne
      May 21, 2019 at 4:06 am Reply

      Thanks, Kenju. I actually caught it from my husband after we both got home. Now I’m hoping we don’t re-infect each other or anyone else.

  • May 23, 2019 at 5:07 am Reply

    Glad we’re both feelin’ lots better & pasr any contageous possibilities. It’s a constructive challenge to our old Be Perfect mantra/minor delusion, from which I’m glad to learn humility rest.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 23, 2019 at 1:07 pm Reply

      Very useful re-frame, Bob. Thanks.

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