the stages of a sinus infection
I sneezed, so random!
It starts so innocently. You’re going about your day when suddenly: a sneeze. A sniffle. While reading a bedtime story one night, your voice inexplicably thickens and you need to clear your throat. “That’s weird,” you think. “It’s probably allergies.”
Allergies? Bitch, please. You know exactly what’s happening here. Deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you know what’s coming. But sure, pumpkin, you take that Claritin. I’m sure it’s just the cherry blossoms. Inside your house. IN DECEMBER.
You can remain teetering on the edge of wellness for a week or more, pink-cheeked and able to recall words like “fork” and “pencil” with admirable speed and accuracy. But at some point, you’ll get cocky. You’ve heard the legend of people who “feel these things coming on” and “nip it in the bud” with homemade elderberry syrup and turmeric tea, and you feel certain you are she, the legend, the bud-nipper herself.
Oh, have you been taking homemade elderberry syrup?
So you’ve been drinking turmeric tea.
No, but… listen, I have been reading Emily Nussbaum’s salty tweets about season 2 of Maisel instead of doing laundry this week, so that’s basically the same thing, medicinally speaking.
“I can stay up late tonight to finish this piece,” you’ll think. “5 hours of sleep tonight won’t be the final insult to my immune system.”
(Narrator: It would.)
Or maybe, “I can have a girls’ night and drink wine and eat toffee brittle with the girls and get home at 1 am on a Tuesday. Sure! Sure I can do that, grown-ass lady that I am. There will certainly be no consequences for this.”
(Narrator: There will.)
I said it before and I’ll say it again.
(Narrator: Bitch, please.)
2. OK, I’m sick. I shall take to my bed to heal myself.
It feels like someone is pumping hot pudding into a water balloon inside your brain, and also like the entire inside of your skull is one tender bruise, the kind that your sweet husband might look at and say, sympathetically, “Oh, honey, ouch! Does this hurt?” and then POKE like a BASTARD. Your ears are plugged. Thick wads of gooey phlegm leak out of every face orifice you have, in all the colors that you could have purchased a refrigerator in the 1970’s. You can’t possibly do things like pack lunches. You must stay in bed with your heating pad pressed to your forehead. Watching talky television and moaning softly for tea… more tea…
Misery. Obviously. Nothing but misery.
(Husband leaves the room)
OK, just between us, I fucking DREAM about getting sick enough that I can’t take care of my kids, but not so sick that I need to be hospitalized. It’s like waking up with a hangover on vacation. You might feel like shit, but you’re OFF DUTY, BABY!
Can I spend 24 hours in bed with a heating pad, bingeing BBC television and bedside tea and saltine service? Great, which of my organs will you be requiring to bring that holy vision to an earthly form? Oh, you’ll just need me to cough and pop my ears? SOLD.
It’s important to note that the “I shall take to my bed” stage of the sinus infection is only possible if someone is around to take your kids for 24 hours. Girl, if you are lucky enough to hit stage 2 on a Saturday morning when your sister or partner is around, enjoy that shit. Start a new TV show, take 7 naps and 3 showers, whisper pitifully for a fresh sparkling water on ice with a straw: (cough cough) can you put a lemon wedge in it, baby?
Cash in on all that goodwill you’ve earned by taking extra bedtimes when he had to work late or travel, because before you know it, it’ll be Monday morning, you’ll wake up, and you’ll be in stage 3:
3. I’m still fucking sick, but I’ve got shit to do.
Basically the same as in stage 2. Your head feels like a pony keg that people keep kicking with their voices when they talk, but it’s not full of beer. It’s full of putrid slime that sloshes painfully against your eyeballs and cheekbones, and drips down your throat.
Oh man, what AREN’T the emotional symptoms of “I’m sick but I’ve got shit to do”? You swing wildly between outraged misery, snide passive-aggressive martyrdom, and the flinty self-satisfaction of being a sick bitch who still gets shit done. You’re basically Doc Holliday from the 1993 film Tombstone starring Kurt Russell, Sam Elliott, and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in perma-I’m-sick-but-I’ve-got-shit-to-do status.
You get an email from the PTA like, “We need parents to bring in homemade baked goods for the teachers this week!” And you’re like,
Ten minutes later, your son asks you to read him a story and you’re like,
Ten minutes after that, you remember that you are the descendants of women who crossed the plains in covered wagons, and you’re like, I’M MAKING BUTTER TONIGHT!
but after you google “homemade butter” you’re like
and then you remember whose blood flows through your veins and you proclaim, I’M CLEANING OUT THE SPICE CABINET, but with this vibe:
HAHA who’s sick now, motherfuckers? Check out allllll my spices. Take a sepia photo of this bad bitch for the archives. God it’s so hot in here, why is it so hot now I’m cold
See what happened was, you started to get better. You were handling your shit. You baked diseased cookies for the teachers at your kid’s school. You even cleaned out* the spice cabinet.
*you removed everything from the spice cabinet, got hot, got cold, yelled at the paprika for being too tall, and then put everything back in the spice cabinet, but with the labels rotated toward you.
But now you are worse again, and it has broken you. The phlegm is thick and ropey and your head feels like someone is using a hockey puck to play pinball in the pain center of your brain whenever you bend over to pick up whatever the fuck is on the kitchen floor. Yes, sick as you are, you are still the bad bitch whose great-great-grandma survived cholera (or at least she had the good sense to breed before dying of cholera) and you will PICK SHIT UP OFF THE FLOOR until you collapse over the butter churn and they bury you next to the oxen.
This stage is called despair, so… it’s despair. I have a sinus infection. There are no third-act twists in this post. This is an express train to hell.
You shuffle around the house with a permanent sinus headache squint, making a mental list of all the world records you would definitely have been shattering this week if you hadn’t contracted this debilitating condition that prohibits you from doing anything but watch Working Girl. Again.
Oh also, in stage 4 you have to deal with your silent, borderline hallucinatory panic. Because this is definitely cancer. I mean, it’s not. But it definitely is. It’s been EIGHT DAYS. If it were a regular sinus infection you would have been able to fight it off by now, but this…
Didn’t you have a sinus infection for 2 weeks last winter?
Yeah, you started writing a will on day 11.
For I am wise.
Then the antibiotics kicked in.
5. I guess technically there’s a stage 5 that might be “health” but idk, right now I’m pretty sure stage 5 is death.
PS guess what stage I’m in right now.