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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Ragay

I like being sick

On Friday, I felt like shit. I was hungover from a party I threw the day before (it was incredible and deserving of its own essay sometime). I fully accepted I would be hungover from the moment I planned a housewarming party on a holiday before a work day. 

It’s weird realizing the shift from having a hangover to being truly sick. Summer camp counselor Michelle (currently me) spelunked with nine year old kids in a 100% humidity cave underneath Austin, Texas. I went down through the surface hungover and emerged detoxed, having sweat out pretty much everything. Crawling in and out of a cave is the perfect metaphor for something that actually happened. Like a groundhog, popping its head out, announcing “I’m done drinking!” I’m obviously the groundhog, if it also has a problem turning down tequila shots and says “I don’t really drink” everytime it drinks. Anyway, post-cave, I felt great. Then at the pool, where we end every day swimming, I found the water unbearably cold even though it was 90 plus degrees (32+ for my euro babies) outside. I had to stay in the sun. Like a cold-blooded reptile. I’m obviously the reptile, if it hated capitalism and loved taking the train.

I went home an hour early. I knew I had stuck it out as long as I could before I would mentally check out. I threw myself onto the couch and it all hit me. The rest of the day becoming a blur of tissues and reality tv.

Three days later, I am still at home better than before but not yet well enough for work. I like it. I like being sick at this moment. I like how weird it makes me feel, like I am high. I like the way music sounds. I like the stronger awareness of my body because I feel it is weaker. I like the change in my mind, its ability to give myself more grace because I know I am busy healing. I wonder why I can’t think like this all the time when I am healthier. It is easier to love myself when I see my limits.

(If I were able to take my self/beloved and see their breaking points, how much it could handle before it cracks, would I treat myself/them with better care?)

When I was little, I hated touching my veins and thinking about blood. I remember an elementary health class where everyone was told to push down on their veins to feel their pulse and I wanted to pass out, barely pressing my finger down on my wrist. Years later, I was flipping through a photo album of me as a baby. I was maybe three and there was a picture of me in the hospital with fully bandaged hands. I asked my mom what happened and she said I had a seizure. “What about my hands though?” My mom told me I kept ripping out my IV lines and bled so much the nurses had to wrap them up. Everything made sense and that fear disappeared.

Elementary Michelle mentioned!

(Tell me everything so maybe it will stop hurting) 

I like being sick and noticing my focus has shortened. Not in the bad, ‘I can only swipe through reels’ way, but in the better, ‘I don’t have patience for brain rotting reels’ way. I like the way Outside feels stronger, like the sun is protecting me. I like how the whole day feels like morning until I’m surprised it’s dinner. I like how I hope for my food and every sip of soup to nourish me and wonder again, why can’t I think like this when I’m healthy? I like my forceful sniffs of essential oils, and the satisfaction of good scent, subdued but still present. I appreciate my sense of smell more. Did you know intention in medicine is the word used for wound healing?

I like the extra time with people who love me enough to be around me when I’m sick. The extra time to reach out to those I miss. The extra time to plan reunions.

I like being sick and feeling connected to all those other versions of myself who were also in recovery mode. Like me in high school, happy to have an extra day to work on a project and record silly youtube videos. Like the versions of me who had COVID in Berlin, licking deodorant for fun because I had no sense of taste (I also bit into a lemon and though I couldn’t taste it, it was still sour!).  Like the several me’s who could not walk after sex thinking maybe my body is just sensitive. Like the me last year, who had pointless surgery to figure out that mysterious pain. I don’t feel alone. When I become sick, I re-remember the feeling and it feels exactly like those other times before, even while different, somehow making it all more special.

The feeling of being sick:

It feels like the liminal space of a German family doctor’s waiting room; the playhouse shaped like a boat, even light from a cloudy sky shining through tall windows lined in teal green. The taste of chartreuse which also smells like any Apotheke. A drunk car ride. Submerging your ears in water. Oversteeped tea. The desire to be in the woods after rain while living in a desert. The mind holding an umbrella. The muffled music in the bathroom of an underage party. Post-I-Should-Not-Have-Fantasized-About-This-Person-Orgasm. Indie Film. Figuring out the right time to tell you I’m bi, not that it really changes anything but it is important, - kind of, maybe - and cringing the way it comes out. It’s simultaneously peaceful, gross and funny with a pinch of mystery and *gasp* what happens next?!

While the body is busy fighting, I am left with my most pure, raw self. I only want what absolutely brings me joy and pleasure. And right now, it’s writing. It’s honest expression and love and physical affection.

(What does it mean then to be at my healthiest and not experiencing any of what I crave right now at my weakest?)

Isaias and I were only friends when I had to get my wisdom teeth removed. I asked him for a ride to and from the clinic. On the way there, we talked like friends. I asked him about his life and girls and made jokes about stupid things. And he was ready to record me post-procedure, high off pain meds saying even more stupid things. When I woke up from the anesthesia, I was completely fine and I asked Isaias if he wanted to go home and cuddle. I had never asked anyone to do that. He said yes and we’ve been together ever since.

Peaceful= falling in love, Gross= kissing with a bloody mouth and swollen cheeks, Funny= realizing the exact point between friendship and romance. 

Like going in and out of a cave.

I am grateful for the opportunity to become a new, stronger version of myself.

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