I’ve had something of a writers block for a while. Being sick has had some interesting psychological effects on me. About a week or so ago, an old acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook about soothing her child who was anxious about getting the coronavirus. Her response seemed so inappropriate and callous to me. I’m still not sure if what I read was really what she was saying, or if my mind created something different, my deep fear. Regardless, my reading of the post was that she was telling her child that she had nothing to fear from the virus because the vast majority of people don’t know how to take care of their bodies and because she and her family ate healthy and took care of their bodies, that they had nothing to fear from the virus. She said that people who don’t understand healthy living sometimes get sick and sometimes die, but that they wouldn’t because they weren’t like that.
At first I was shocked and angry that someone would blame the victims of the virus in this way. Also, I can’t imagine the psychological consequences that the child would experience if she or someone she loved became very ill at some point. I thought about responding to the post, but I saw that there were already many comments on the post and I figured I would leave the contentious conversation to others to sort out.
Still, the post and the insinuation has stayed with me. Blaming myself for bad things happening is a habit that I developed a long time ago. It is soothing to think that I have some control over the random happenings of a fallen world. If I am righteous, smart, and in tune with God, nothing bad will happen to me. I can have peace in my heart because bad stuff only happens to those who are stupid or sinful. If I am neither, I am safe.
If you are vulnerable to a lie, it is hard to fight it. You throw reason and logic and contradictory examples at it, and still it worms its way into your mind creating dissonance and conflict within the soul.
What did I do? Why have I struggled with illness for over a month now? I haven’t prepared healthy enough meals. I haven’t taken care of my body. I haven’t rested enough. Maybe I went to the wrong store, didn’t disinfect the cart enough, or touched my face when I shouldn’t have. I did something stupid or sinful and now I’m sick and I’ve put my family at risk. I’m not smart enough to know what’s wrong with me and fix it. My repetitive yoga routines to soothe my aching joints help, but the pain keeps coming back. Why? Why am I not smart enough to know what’s wrong? Why do I keep pestering my doctor during a pandemic for something I should be able to fix?
And yet I can’t fix it. Blessings and medicines and prayer seem powerless against the relentless illness that never goes away. And I battle the shame and fear that come with having a possibly deadly virus growing inside me endangering everyone I might come in contact with. I guess the longer I am sick the more probable my Covid-19 test was a false negative, which sometimes happens. My doctor suggested that I get an antigen test, but I’ve read that those have a high percentage of false positives and negatives as well. I wonder if it is worth it to spend $65 dollars on a test that is not likely to tell me anything reliable.
Still, doing nothing is difficult too. I’ve never been sick this long with a fever. And it doesn’t get any better. Usually I have a fever for a day or two and then it starts going down. I start out the morning feeling okay. I start doing my activities and I start feeling the heat and fatigue within an hour after I get out of bed. By the afternoon, my temp is at or over a hundred. I rest and it comes down.
I dreamed last night that I was visiting my brother. For some odd reason I had the idea that human feces was the greatest medium for painting. I collected a bunch of my poop in a towel and mixed it with pigments and painted some pictures. I wanted to teach my niece to paint with the filthy paint as well. Later in the dream I was ashamed of my art and the filthy paint I had used. I remembered that I possibly had the coronavirus and that it can be spread through human feces. I desperately worked to clean and disinfect the bathroom before I put my brother and his family at risk.
I think this dream captured the shame and worthlessness I feel right now, and how intimately connected I feel to the illness I have because I used it to create art. My desire to destroy the art and disinfect the bathroom reflects my desperation to cleanse myself and the filth of contagion that came from my body. I’m afraid that the illnesses in me both mental and physical could hurt the people I love and that even something like art, which is something my niece and I connect over, could be harmful to her because it came from me.
I’ve struggled the last week or so with my feelings towards my parents. Our relationship is going through rocky times again. It is so painful for me to think that my parents are ashamed of my expression and that my writing causes them pain. It makes me feel broken beyond repair and that nothing I write could possibly benefit anyone; that my creations are poop paintings to be ashamed of and discarded. I feel broken beyond repair and worse than useless; dangerous and harmful; someone to be hidden away.
Usually I come to my Savior at times like these and he brings me comfort and peace. For some reason, that peace and comfort has been beyond my grasp. Ben tells me that the sun exists even when it is hidden by clouds. Right now my Savior exists, but he is hidden from me. His love is there, but I can’t feel it. What is faith if it isn’t tested sometimes? So I am taking one day at a time with the faith that eventually the sun will come out again and that he will sanctify me and my efforts and my suffering for his glory. Blessed be the name of the Lord!