The other day I made the mistake of telling a friend this was the first winter in ten years I haven’t been sick and now I’m home in bed. What was I thinking? In hindsight, when she asked how I was doing I should have just said great and then I wouldn’t have jinxed myself. Intellectually I don’t believe you can actually do that but while coughing, sneezing, and wheezing I feel like you can.
She’s not the first person I’ve said this too, but our conversation was more significant than others. This friend knows firsthand what some of the health struggles I’ve had are like. For years, she’s battled an auto-immune disorder. Last fall when a biopsy revealed I had a similar disorder I ran into her right after getting the results so when she asked how I was I knew she expected more than a cursory answer.
I felt guilty telling her. I know she suffers far more than me, but she’d also see right through any pretense on my part so I was honest.
“I feel good,” I said sheepishly. The meds are working.”
“I know,” I said. “I get really nervous though about being around anyone sick. I do everything I can to avoid it. It’s crazy-making.”
“Yeah I know,” she said. “But you really shouldn’t do that to yourself. It’s too stressful.”
While she was talking I noticed a penny under the counter she was standing next too. Reaching for it I said, “You’re right I need to have a little more faith.”
“I don’t know if it’s faith or just being reasonable,” she said. “You can’t live in a bubble. You’d never find another penny again.”
We both laughed at that.
I know where it started—with my primary care doctor. Before I started taking the medication to suppress my overactive immune system she insisted on making sure all my vaccines were up to date. Along with that came a short public health lecture. Two other specialists did the same. Amongst all three docs the list of “don’ts” was longer than the leaflet that came with the prescription I was finally deemed fit to take. I’ve never tried but I think buying a gun comes with fewer warnings.
Combine that with the American bent toward worrying about a limitless list of health threats many of which aren’t legitimate I was doomed. I fell right into the trap of compounding my doctor’s concerns into worry beyond reason and felt justified in doing so. I became a first-class germaphobe.
Today nursing my nasty cold I feel defeated. Despite all my best efforts I still managed to get bit by some bug. Why had I taken what my doctor’s said to heart so much? I’m usually fairly good at shaking off what I deem as excess worry. I know doctor’s have to cover all their bases but how did that end up leaving me so paranoid? Independent of all their warnings have I actually been concerned about getting sick or just taken the path of least resistance and bought into what they had to say?
The answer is the second of the two. To worry in this case took less thought than to not. When I got the list of things I should avoid I just hopped on board with it rather than look for the alternative which would have been figuring out how I could feel confident living a normal life.
This is what Beth meant when we talked. The reality is that even with all the variables in the mix for me I’m no more at risk of getting sick during cold and flu season than anyone else. I might take a harder hit but I won’t get knocked out.
Despite what the media would tell you (or my worrisome doctors) we are actually winning the battle against the common cold and all sorts of other diseases. It’s not a leap of faith to believe I’ll be fine. It’s a safe assumption. If I really spend the time to reason through it I know that the world is no more of a threat to me than it was before I started taking the medication. The fear I have to overcome doesn’t have to resolve itself with more prayer and a blind faith. It can be resolved by taking an honest look at reality.
Sometimes as a woman of faith I forget this. I become so preoccupied with discerning the world through a spiritual lens I forget to look at it from any other perspective. In doing so I make the small leaps of faith I have to take much larger. Sick in bed today I’m reminded God doesn’t want it to be that hard for me. Fear is not His prescription to what ails me. Reason is, but I’ve got to spend the time applying it or I’ll live the rest of my life like Howard Hughes minus the fortune.