essays

Sickness

Note: this post is envisioned as a sequel to “Health,” written at the start of the pandemic and viewable here

Although I had initially been resistant to so doing, in August of this year I chose to get vaccinated.

As was expected, the first twenty-four hours following this decision were riddled with chills, fever, and general disorientation. What was not expected, is that some of these symptoms would persist for the next month or two, even longer; well into the fall, I noticed mental slowness and a difficulty in grasping for words, as well as loss of creativity. Additionally, my meditation experience felt narrowed; it was as though my awareness had been forced into the cramped house of my body and brain, whereas before that awareness had been identified with something transcendent. Similarly, I felt my intuition stifled.

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Not long after this vaccination experience, I got a minor surgery in my mouth, a gum graft to mitigate erosion that I had been anticipating for some months. The surgery itself was both quick and painless; it wasn’t until after the surgery, during the recovery period, that I became concerned my wound continued bleeding after it was supposed to have stopped; at one point, I awoke in the middle of the night with my mouth full of blood and had difficulty stanching the flow. When I called the doctor to inform him of this, he expressed his own concern, saying that very few of his patients’ mouths had continued to bleed this far beyond the surgery. 

My frequency and intensity of illness continued. Either before or alongside the oral surgery–I forget–I contracted a sinus infection, and natural remedies and rest did not prove sufficient to ameliorate things; ultimately, in desperation, I wound up taking antibiotics. Several weeks to a month after this, I got what I initially presumed was a stomach bug, a meme of discomfort, constipation, and nausea that I expected would last the traditional twenty-four hours. However, these symptoms endured much longer, and I am still nursing a sensitive stomach at time of writing. 

What is wrong with me?

*

When this cavalcade of illness first began, I attributed it to the vaccine, a confirmation of all the worst fears that had prevented me from running out to get the thing in the first place. Had the vaccine either temporarily or permanently damaged my immune system, and was this why it now seemed I engaged in a never-ending war against illness?

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At other times, I attributed my convalescence to astrology, since it seemed this fall presented a host of challenging influences for my sign in particular, and I felt that every time one health obstacle was surmounted, another arose. Were forces beyond the human to blame for my nevertheless very human perils?

More recently, I have wondered whether these struggles with illness might be emotional, since this fall has constituted a time of stress, anxiety, and grief for me. Both at work and in my personal life, I have been negotiating heavy energies; are those energies responsible for the physical fluctuations in my health, as emblematic of much larger dynamics working their way through me?

Ultimately, it is probably not my place to know; beneath all these routes of inquiry, there lies the fantasy of vanquishing illness once and for all, and instead what is mine to do is tend to my one particular body.

*

As we enter the Age of Aquarius, we contend with many prophecies of a harmonious epoch, a time when humanity sets aside its differences and lives as one. Alongside these prophecies, there is no doubt an expectation of vital health, a form of embodied equanimity that facilitates other kinds of collaboration and aspiration. In other words, if our health can be relied on as a constant, then it is no doubt easier to attain the other holy grails heralded by this age. 

And yet I feel that this vision in itself is an erasure, a neglect of an aspect of life with which I have recently become all too familiar. In “health” divorced from illness, we create an abstraction that is not only medically inaccurate–for each time we get ill, we give our immune system an opportunity to become stronger and thereby fortify our health–but inaccurate systemically, for illness represents an acquaintance with those elements of life we would like to forget.

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For example, every time we turn on a light in our house, coal is burned or oil plundered in some distant land; for these reasons, people other than ourselves are impoverished, beings beyond the human rendered extinct. Every time we bite into a delicious fruit or vegetable, hands other than our own pick that item at extorted price; animals are contrived as “pests” and extinguished, plants are framed as resources and deflowered. And so with our every waking moment of so-called “good health,” in which “poor health,” by contrast, is distributed to some subterranean person or being other than ourselves, someone depressed by our very upliftment, as it were; the health and dis-ease of the system max out at zero, and too often we construe “health” as one half of this equation.

I do believe the Aquarian Age foretells a paradise never before seen by the human species. However, I think that in order to reach this place we need to each of us feel what it means to be sick, to be poor, to be hated, to be taken advantage of, to be faithless and in despair. Internalizing the reality of these states, we stand to bring forth an age in which all elements can be equally distributed, meaning that each person gets to feel what it is to be black, as well as white; rich, as well as poor; sick, as well as healthy; and so on and so forth. There is no shining state that can burn forever, deprived of the laws of mechanics; instead, a resplendent reality meets us already here, alive in each of us if visible only in particulates. 

In every instance of having “fallen,” I glimpse a door to a complete tomorrow. 

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