Last week my friends and I were at a random Kroger in Virginia looking for bug spray. It occurred to me that I probably hadn’t ever read the front of a can of bug spray before in my life, because for the first time I noticed that every single can boasted protection from West Nile Virus. I laughed and pointed out that I could’ve used a can of bug spray six weeks ago when I contracted West Nile Virus. My friends laughed along, because what are the odds that I actually had a mild case of West Nile? I guess I sounded like a hypochondriac, but I knew in my heart that I had it. You should have seen my legs, covered in circular rashes that looked more like nipples than mosquito bites. I felt all the symptoms of a mild West Nile infection, from the fever to the body aches to the severe headache. As it turns out, eight in ten people with West Nile don’t even experience any symptoms, so why was it such a far-fetched notion that I could have had it?
It also occurred to me that I could have been a little dramatic. Maybe for people who didn’t grow up in a clearly mosquito free desert climate think West Nile is normal. Maybe that’s why my friends brushed it off. Maybe everyone gets it. I honestly don’t know, because I didn’t get mosquito bites growing up. But it feels like my time in Nashville is making up for my entire bug free life. I’m in a constant cycle of getting bitten, itching my bites, complaining about how much my bites itch, and then trying to get rid of my bite scars. Seems unfair. But while I learned that bugs suck and everyone should move to the desert, I also learned to trust my body.
Regardless of everyone else’s perception, I was feeling the lingering fatigue, the refusal to wear shorts because everyone would see the dark marks on my legs, and hesitance to eat lunch with my friends outside ever again. I knew I wasn’t feeling normal because of these bites, and instead of struggling internally about whether or not I should be feeling physically ill, I should have been focusing more on making myself feel better. That’s what made me really think: what about the other times people brushed off my physical pain?
We ghost over other people's pain because it is hard for us to relate. That's life. What we need to do is become a little more empathetic to the fact that someone claims they are hurting, and we should believe them because only they can truly know what is going on in their body. My physical ailment was not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but what happens when someone with a long term physical issue is being skipped over? When everyone tells you you’re okay, even the brain starts to believe it sometimes. But the body can’t lie. So trust what someone else says about their own body. Trust your body over all of the anxious noise. Trust your body, always.