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Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

That Time I Didn't Have the Flu

A few weeks ago, I could have sworn I had the flu. The symptoms were certainly reminiscent of the flu. All I could do for days was sleep, tremble, and sweat. The idea of getting out of bed seemed foreign, abstract, and ridiculous, no more than a silly pipe dream. Journeying to the kitchen and boiling water for tea seemed about as achievable as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Of course it wasn’t the flu, as I was later informed by my doctor. “It couldn’t have been the flu,” said she, “because we gave you the flu shot.” Sound reasoning if ever I’ve heard it. Why would they call it a flu shot if one could still contract the flu after being inoculated?

Anyway, this thing—whatever it was—started with a slight cough and rapidly diminishing energy, much like . . . oh, what can I compare it to? Well, it was a bit like the very early stages of the flu.

And so I took to my bed, where I remained for more than a week, suffering with persistent not-the-flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, and chills. I considered a trip to the doctor, but that would have involved getting dressed, which struck me as far too complicated and taxing.

It hurt to think.

Each day, I was quite certain I’d be up and around by the next morning. When morning came, any such plans struck me as completely laughable. By day three, I began to wonder whether I might, in fact, be dying. And so, on day four, between sweaty naps, I began to get my affairs in order. I asked friends to find me a priest, an odd request considering I’m not Catholic. But delirium (which, coincidentally, is a symptom of the flu), makes you think and do strange things, which probably explains the unexpected arrival of those five cases of butterscotch pudding that I don’t remember ordering.

I detest butterscotch pudding.

By now I could see my cat starting to calculate how he might feed himself once I was gone. Friends texted to ask if I needed anything. (I could have sworn I’d asked for a priest, but people simply don’t listen.) At one point, I ordered $30 worth of chicken soup from the neighborhood deli. It came in a tub the size of a flower pot and I lived on it for several days, though I tried to keep meals to a minimum since moving about had yet to regain any appeal whatsoever.

And then, of course, there was the hacking and the wheezing—an all-day concert of sounds. And as I slept, I heard a high-pitched rasp that could have easily been misidentified as a tiny kitten stuck inside my chest.

I can only imagine how awful all this would have been had I not had the foresight to get the flu shot. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to get the flu on top of this dreadful and persistent non-flu.

I’m reminded of a car mechanic I used to go to. After an alleged repair, I’d often find my car continuing to malfunction, so I’d bring it back in. He always had the same answer: “That should be working.” Well, yes indeed, it should have been. It should have been working, but it wasn’t. So it is with the flu shot. I’ve taken it; I’ve also subsequently gotten what I very much suspect was the flu that I couldn’t possibly have. And every time it’s the same diagnosis: “Oh, that shouldn’t be happening. Not after getting the flu shot.”

My doctor and I finally came to a compromise: I’d go along with the whole “this isn’t the flu” routine if she’d prescribe medications as if it was, and it would all just be our little secret, never to be mentioned again.

At this writing, having taken medication, the fever and coughing are gone. Even still, my energy is so low that I find leaving the house a distasteful proposition. I’ve developed a strong preference for sitting in my big comfortable chair watching TV and ordering meals for delivery. It may be that I’m still healing. Or it may be that I just don’t like people. But at least—thank the Lord—it wasn’t the flu.

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