What the Food Poisoning Taught Me
The past few weeks have been marked by one illness after another.
First, the panic attacks. Then a lingering chest cold. Next, a sharp pain in my left side that made me gasp whenever I bent forward. After that, food poisoning. And through it all, a ten-month-old who should be sleeping through the night but wakes up screaming every three hours.
The food poisoning was the worst. It hit on Sunday night and knocked me completely off my feet. I typed a quick apology to my boss that morning and spent the entire day in bed.
I'm not used to letting go like that. Not used to releasing all responsibilities and letting other people pick up the load. It's what scares me most about the depression and anxiety. They could descend out of nowhere and render me unable to function. Then what? My husband would become tired and resentful. I'd miss important deadlines at work. My marriage and career would suffer; layering stress upon stress.
The food poisoning gave me a little glimpse into that fear.
For 24 hours, I was unable to function. Unfit to work or write or parent. I might have worried about it, had I been lucid enough to worry. But when I woke up the next morning, everything was fine. My husband was tired but not resentful. My coworkers had covered for me. Everyone asked how I was feeling.
I'm feeling better; thank you. I'll never eat grocery store sushi again, but I'm better. And as miserable as I felt, I'm not worried about it happening again. I know that I can take precautions, but I can no sooner stop another bout of food poisoning than I can stop eating.
Maybe I can adopt the same attitude toward mental illness. I'm sick of brooding about when the panic attacks might come back, how I might ward them off, and the various ways they could throw my life into shambles. What a waste of mental energy. It's not like I can strong-arm my way to mental health. I've tried. It doesn't work.
The panic is a lot like food poisoning. It happens. It's excruciating for a while. I get through it. Life goes on.