In my last post I informed you all that I have contracted mononucleosis. I made light of it, which is, quite frankly, what most people’s response is to this illness. When my youngest brother found out he just laughed and then crowed, “The kissing disease!” before laughing some more. Even my dad, the health professional, didn’t seem too concerned about it. So you have mono. You’ll get over it.
To be honest, my initial reaction to hearing that I was sick with something more long term than, say, strep throat, was to almost burst into tears. I was disoriented – how could this be true? How did this happen? I immediately felt like a ball of contagion. But those feelings waned, particularly when everyone I talked to laughed and joked about it, calling me Mono Girl, pretending to cover their mouths when I walked by or threatening to sic me on people – “Go spit in his drink, he’s irritating me”. And it is funny. When my cast mate sang, “Supercalafragalistic-mononucleosis, if your glands get swollen then it’s really quite atrocious” I had to laugh. How can that be taken seriously?
I was doing okay. I was a little sick, that was all, and I was washing my hands a lot more than normal, but I was fine. I heard that there was a vague plan for an understudy in case I got worse, but I doubted that would be needed. I was fine.
Until that Friday night. The glands in my throat were so swollen that swallowing and talking were becoming difficult and painful – not so great at the best of times, but as an actor that spells death. I had no strength. I was in a daze, spending all my energy to stay upright, never mind doing my blocking and lines (which I also somehow managed to do – autopilot is a powerful tool). S. sat next to me every time we were off-stage together, holding my hand and bringing me whatever he thought might help me. After the show he brought me into the hospital, where the doctor told me what they’ve all told me before and since. It’s a virus, we can’t do anything for you, you have to rest and drink lots of water and just wait it out. I did get some Prednisone to take the swelling down but that was about all they could do. They sent me home.
The next day I slept. And slept some more. My understudy did my part in the show and I slept, too tired to even – really – care, although it did feel strange to look at a clock and think, “I’d be done my hair now, N. must be getting into his beard, S. is just putting on his moustache while r. puts in his contacts…” and know that I wasn’t there.
I felt like I had failed in some way, like my body had let me down, like I had let down everyone involved with the show. I couldn’t do what I was supposed to. I was a failure.
My health has improved every day since then, with liquids and rest, but I’m still tired and my throat is still sore. At least I can talk now without wincing and I have a bit of an appetite. I’ve done the show this week, although I am supposed to tell the stage manager every day whether I’m doing the next day or not.
You’d think that feeling better would make me happy but now that my brain has some function again I simply feel like crying.
I didn’t really even know why until S. and I went for a walk. He asked me yet again if I was really going to be able to do the show tomorrow and I almost snapped at him. YES! I just wanted to scream. I’m doing the goddamn show tomorrow, I know I’m sick and you think I should be in bed but I can do this. I can. FUCK!
I went home to get some more of the Advil I’ve been eating like candy and sat in my room and cried. It’s hard enough feeling ill without everyone around me doubting whether I can be trusted to do the show and take care of myself. I feel like now people don’t trust me either to do the show or to know my limits.
And for S. of all people to constantly question my choices made things so much harder to bear. In the midst of my tears he walked into my house. “What’s wrong?” he asked me. I spilled out my woes and he held me while I cried, and then he told me that he wasn’t upset with me, although he doesn’t think I should be doing the show. He’s more upset with the theatre because he thinks it is unreasonable of them to expect me to put a show ahead of my long-term health. He thinks I shouldn’t be allowed to finish the show. He is worried for me and it comes out as impatience and anger.
That did make me feel better. I understand misplaced frustration. I’m a well of it right now. It’s not bad enough that I have to feel tired, that my throat hurts, that I have no energy, that my throat is filled with phlegm that tastes like rot. I have to give a day’s notice of whether I’m even going to show up to do my job. I can’t kiss or even fucking touch the man I love without us both wondering if I’ve just infected him. I feel isolated and it’s not just the moratorium on kissing. I feel like I can’t touch anyone – or anything – unless I’ve just washed my hands, and even then I feel questionable. I haven’t got the energy to socialize and no-one else has the time to slow down to my new level. And as much as I hate these things I understand that they are all the reality that I have to adjust to because I am the abnormality in this equation.
One of my cast mates told me to tell him when I got sick of the mono jokes. “I don’t want to be the one that pushes you over the edge,” he said.
This did certainly stop being funny, but I don’t think I’m going to stop people from laughing about it.
I think I need all the laughter I can get.