Last year, I was lucky. Extraordinarily lucky. One might say unbelievably lucky considering I was a Freshman, living in the dorms, surrounded hundreds of ill and sniffling college students (some of whom still hadn’t learned all of the basic ins-and-outs of hygiene). Last year, I made it through two glorious semesters sickness-free. I felt like the goddess of white blood cells and vitamin C. This year? I wasn’t so fortunate.
So, following an extensive, Influenza A-induced absence from the writing world, I’d like to take a beat and discuss the intricacies of surviving sickness in college. Spoiler alert: it’s not easy.
It all starts with a cough. Or sneezing. Or something else that’s slightly unpleasant, but annoying enough that you mention it to your mom on the phone that day. When this happens, you’re going to want to brush it aside. You might still go to the gym, go to a party, or stay up until 3 a.m. finishing a paper. Don’t. The second you start to feel anything less than 100%, you’d better start worshipping Airbourne like it’s your god and sleeping like it’s a full-time job. Wash your hands. Stay indoors. Drink soup. Whatever.
Hopefully, the sleep and the insane doses of vitamins knock out whatever wimpy virus ailed you. Yay! If this happens, please feel free to take your healthy body and dance right out the door. For those of us with real afflictions, this is where things start to get a little critical.
After a while, you may start to realize that you feel like death, hate the world, and it’s nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning. You’ve gone through three boxes of Kleenex. Your friends have started referring to you as “The Plague.” You can’t remember how to write the letter “Q” because of all the cold medicine in your system. It’s a bad scene. Once you hit this point, you’re going to want to start bracing for impact, because this sucker isn’t going away anytime soon, and it’s about to get a lot worse.
While you’re still able to function, you need to get yourself to a Health Center. You need to do this for a couple of reasons: One, they might be able to give you drugs that make the last week of illness seem like a bad dream. Two, if they can’t give you drugs, they’re going to write you a note to get you out of class until you halfway resemble a human being again. If you miss a pop quiz, paper deadline, or midterm, professors are much more likely to excuse it and let you make it up if you have proof of a real ailment. We all hate going to the doctor, but can’t we all agree to hate school more?
During this time of half-lucidity, you will also need to email your professors and let them know what’s going on. Ask what you’ll be missing, discuss times to meet up with them to catch up on notes, and try to see if they’ll accept late work. Even if you can’t make up all the credit you miss, showing that you care about the class will go a long way. You’re welcome.
Now that that nightmare of an administrative firestorm is over, you’re going to get really sick. And it’s going to be okay. If you can go home, go home and let your mom be a mom. If you can’t, let your roommates be roommates. Watch a lot of Netflix, take copious amounts of codeine, and accept the fact that you’re going to be dead to the world for a few days.
And then, one day, you’re going to wake up. You’re going to feel better. It might be a slow process, but you’ll feel alive again. You’ll muster the strength to peel yourself off of the couch, go downstairs, and eat something that isn’t soup. Maybe, if you’re feeling brave, you’ll even go outside for five minutes. You’ve hit the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s over. You survived.
Now, go grab your laptop in a panic and start making up all of that late work. You’re still in college.