Reflections on having the flu when you’re single

Recently, I was out sick. And not the kind of sick where you’re just sort of gross but functional, but the kind of sick where all you can do is lie on the couch, doubled over, whimpering in pain every once in a while just to let those around you know you’re still there. While I was far from death’s door, it was the sickest I had been in a while.

Lucky for me, my boyfriend happened to have a schedule where he could be around to make me soup, pretend that I wasn’t totally disgusting when dry heaving in the other room, and at one point, sternly force me to go to the doctor when I couldn’t bring myself to stand upright. With every bottle of water he brought me or offer he made to pick up my medication from the pharmacy, I found myself thanking him, sometimes several times in a row.

“You don’t have to do that,” he would say.

But having been single for years and living on my own before meeting my boyfriend, I knew how having someone to take care of you, especially at your weakest, was really more of a privilege than the norm.

Just two years ago, I remember a few instances of feeling quite sick, especially as I was prone to migraines. During these times, my Upper West Side studio became a cave of disgusting as I would keep the curtains drawn and lights off. Even the light from my computer would hurt my eyes, so I would often play Netflix on low in the background with the screen halfway shut, blinking away episodes of How I Met Your Mother as I drifted in and out of consciousness. Even in the smallness of my apartment, getting to the kitchen was often a chore. If I didn’t have things in cans readily available, Seamless was my go-to source of sustenance, and I would try to tip well to make up for my blanket-wrapped, un-enthused greeting when the delivery guy came to the door.

There was a lot of self-doubt that also occurred in the darkness of my woman-cave as I stewed in my thoughts, which could no longer be distracted by work emails and dinners with friends. As someone who is almost never sick, has no allergies, and has no medical conditions, I know I am incredibly fortunate to be in good health. Yet, being sick made me realize how fragile health can be. I would wonder if I could continue to care for myself or if I had the rainy day funds I would need if there was something seriously wrong (spoiler alert: I do not). Then I would wonder at what stage in my life would I have my life together enough to be able to account for life-changing circumstances, health or otherwise. Would I ever have stability to roll with the punches? Was everything in life, from health to jobs to relationships, fragile? Most of all, I would wonder if I would always be tackling these kinds of things alone and if it would be lonely.

That escalated quickly, right?

As my boyfriend watched Let’s Make a Deal with me on the couch, I still felt my mind slip into a lot of these thoughts, but having someone by my side helped ease some of these worries. And what surprised me is, just as much as I was feeling a current sigh of relief at having someone to take care of me, I felt a strong sense of appreciation for Single-Me for taking charge and powering through the hard times by herself. She made sure I was fed when I couldn’t leave the apartment, she dragged herself to the CVS to get medicine, and she faced all the ominous worries that lay in the dark and admitted that she didn’t have the answers but that things would be okay.

I was grateful for Single-Me for taking care of, well, me. And I knew that if anything ever changed and I found myself back to being single and living alone, that I could and would do it again. Knowing that, I found myself that much more comfortable sitting back and appreciating someone else doing it for a change.

[Image via NBC.]


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