In Sickness and in Hell
You’re going to need a clean groutfit, at least one streaming service, several Canada Dry’s and a window with a view that makes you melancholic.
By Anne Ertle, John Carroll University
Sick days in high school were the best.
You could just wake up, feel a little more tired than usual and text your mom “Too sick to function, not going to school.” Then you could roll over, sleep the day away and hit the hallways refreshed the next day. There was always an aura of mystery that surrounded your return. “Where was I? Oh, I had taken ill. I’ve since recovered, thank you so much for your concern.”
In college, sick days are stressful fits of fevers and overdue assignments. If you divide up your tuition and see how much money each class actually costs, you’ll see that a single sick day can set you back a depressing amount of money. If you weren’t sick before, seeing those dollar signs will definitely get you stress vomiting!
Still, there are mornings you’ll wake up with the thought that even death would be preferable to the flu or head cold or (insert malady here) that you currently have. Accept the sick day. You are human, you have a compromised immune system and we will get you through this.
The ideal sick day is planned the night before. You might fan your face and say “I can just feel myself getting sick,” which could likely be true; it could also be a ploy for attention, in which case, ok, chill. Either way, if you already know that you’ll wake up feeling like hot wet garbage, don’t set an alarm. Attune yourself to your body’s needs, and sleep for as long as you want.
The other option is waking up and realizing that there’s no way you’ll be going to class. Once the very thought of skipping is in your head, there’s no fighting it. Silence that alarm, and realize that while you are not your best self, you will make the most out of this horrible day.
The dress code here is huge. One of the best do-it-yourself remedies for any illness is the groutfit. For those uninitiated: I pity you, but I will explain. A groutfit is when you wear head to toe gray, usually featuring a gray hoodie and a pair of gray sweatpants. Ideally these will be the biggest and baggiest items of clothes in your closet, and most likely they will feature the name of your grade school. Maybe it’s because they’ve had time for the fibers to break down and for the fabrics to relax a little, but grade school/early high school clothes are optimal for comfort.
You should pull the hood up. If there are drawstrings, you’re going to want to pull them as tight as possible. This is imitating the warmth of the womb, and you’ll reap the psychological benefits.
As for footwear, you should put on your fluffiest socks. Put them on over the sweatpants: The elastic will act like compression socks and improve your circulation, maybe. If you have a bathrobe, you should put that on over this outfit. Now you are ready to really sick it up.
You’re going to want to get your surrounding areas ready. Fluff your pillows. Fill up a glass of water, Emergen-C or ginger ale (Canada Dry is the official sponsor of sick days) and keep it close at hand. Get a box of Kleenex within arm’s reach. Treat yourself and get the quilted kind with the lotion in each individual tissue. You’re already on death’s door, and God knows you don’t want a chapped nose on top of that. Plug in your laptop and phone. Drag a trashcan to your side in case things (for example, your stomach or your insides in general) turn sour. You will not be leaving for a while.
Craft the perfect email to any professors or employers that will note your absence. You’re going to want to emphasize that you’re on the brink of utter deterioration while delicately balancing manners and grace. Try not to mention that you’ve been throwing up all night, unless your puking will score you extra days off and/or sympathy, in which case, own that bodily fluid.
This next part requires the most mental fortitude: You should call and check in with your mom. When she hears your voice and detects even the slightest hint of congestion, she will rattle off six different medications, their varying side effects and how often you should take them.
She will probably offer to come pick you up from school. She will tell you about an email that her best friend’s vet’s cousin sent her about a virus that’s been going around. Do not roll your eyes at her concern; it’s important to save your strength.
Thank her for her love and support, and then disregard all of her advice and take two of the ibuprofen you keep on hand for headaches. That should do something.
Now you begin your media binge. If you have Amazon Prime, I recommend Catastrophe, a comedy about two adults dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. You might be withering away, but at least you’re not hosting a fetus (unless of course you have morning sickness, in which case there are a million things you should be doing other than reading this article).
If Hulu Plus is your thing, watch You’re the Worst because no one else seems to watch it and I need to talk about it with someone. Get back to me.
If you’re watching Netflix, watch literally anything. Clear out your queue and count it as a productive day after all.
After awhile, you might feel over-stimulated by all of the pixels and pictures and colors. At this point I recommend that you listen to music. I’ve found it helps to swaddle yourself in a blanket and sit by a window. Put on Bon Iver and reminisce about all the times you took for granted how easy it was to breathe out of your nose. Project your regrets onto the people who walk by. Look at them—so happy, so free of throat clogging mucus, of streams of snot. You used to be one of them.
It’s so exhausting to self-reflect. You should nap.
When you wake up and your energy’s back, you should walk around your dorm or house, groaning “I’m sick” to everyone you see. In my experience, this is one of the final steps to recovery.
If you did all of this and still don’t feel better, you should see a “real” “doctor.”
See you in the health clinic!