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Why I'm Not Sick of Sick Days

Picture it - you’re bopping along at a decent clip. You’re getting things done. By all standards, things are running smoother than a smoothie.

And then you wake up.

No, it wasn’t a dream. The days leading up to this moment have been a virtual tour de force. Robot overlords could never dream of replacing you... if only you’d not woken up with a sore throat.

Sore throats are my Achilles heel. They always have been. If I ever missed school after my HIV diagnosis, it was due to strep throat or some variation of it.

These days I get hit with a wimpy sore throat about once a year. It usually lasts about a week. I’ve come to accept this tax on my life when it arrives, which is helpful since, as a long-term survivor I’ve had my share of sick days.

Importance of rest

I’m actually rolling through a patch of sick days right now. My nose is running like a Hawley and a cough is disrupting my sleep at night. My precious, precious sleep... the low-key superstar of my longevity.

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I’m certainly not at my best when I don’t get that rest.

This time, though, I’m rolling with the sleep disruption better than usual. That’s probably because, the older I get, the less reliable sleep, in general, has become. Don’t get me wrong, I still rest very easily. If there were a Sleep Olympics I’d have been its Michael Phelps, a legend up until I hit my 40s several years ago.

I learned how to take it easy from my parents, who had no qualms about letting me sleep in and stay home from school at the very hint of ailment. I was 11 and had just been diagnosed with HIV, so their game plan was understandable. I stayed home from school a lot, actually. If the flu was going around, I’d stay home.

Sometimes I’d miss weeks of school at a time.

Finding comfort in my own skin

In recent years I’ve come to understand that a lot of it was psychological. I was processing so much. And I wasn’t talking to anyone about HIV through junior high and high school. When I was home alone on sick days, there was a relief in not being at school and pretending I walked the hallways with the same future ahead of me as my classmates.

Not that anything is guaranteed for anyone. Developmentally, I couldn’t comprehend things on that level. And the public school system wasn’t set up to cater to students with a year or two’s prognosis to live. Sure, I missed a lot of lessons on those sick days, but I learned something that wasn’t being taught in school: how to find comfort in my own skin. Those early sick days gave me the space needed for that type of introspection.

By the time I went back to school, I was rested and ready to go.

Hitting the pause button

When I was a teenager, I hated missing out because I was sick. Now, I look back on those days at home with fondness and understand their importance in my own journey and survival. These days I respect the clarity that becomes available when I have to hit that pause button on my own life and turn on some random TV show I haven’t seen in decades.

This time I was surprised and delighted by Saved By The Bell. Screech’s comedic work is next level and I think it’s high time we put a little respect on the character’s name. He never got the respect a, say, Horshack did on Welcome Back, Kotter...

Alrighty then, it’s past time for me to step away from the keyboard and refill my glass of water. Maybe put in a little couch time. Thanks for reading, and I hope you make the most of your next sick day.

Even if you do absolutely nothing.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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