Monday, November 21, 2005

Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz

When I was in high school I (briefly) dated a girl who wouldn't open a door unless she had a piece of tissue paper in between her hand and the doorknob. Needless to say, I was unaware of this little personality quirk before I started dating her. The first time I saw her do it, I thought nothing of it. The second time I saw her do it, I raised an eyebrow. On that instance she rifled through her purse to find Kleenex, realized she didn't have any, then played coy and asked me to be a gentleman and hold the door for a lady. When I grumbled, she accused me of being both "uncouth and unchivalrous." All was not lost however, as a few days later I got to return the favor and accuse her of being "nuts" when she pulled the act a 3rd time. When I asked her why she felt the need to open doors with a piece of paper she matter of factly said, "Oh, you didn't know? I'm kind of a germ freak." No, m'am, I didn't know. I thought you were just a prude. I feel so much better knowing it's because you have "What About Bob?" size psychological issues.

To be fair, her fears were somewhat warranted. This poor girl seemed to always have a cold, and I guess if you're the type of person who is particularly susceptible to the dreaded rhinovirus, you'll try anything. However, the reason I mentioned her at all has to do with the fact that in addition to always having a cold, she always seemed to expect one as well. I don't think there's any question that a person can think themselves sick. Psychosomatic illness abounds in our society. Hell, I'm even guilty of it myself. If, when growing up, I didn't want to go to school I could convince myself that I was indeed ill. Did you brush your teeth, Eric? No - my head is pounding. Want some breakfast? Nuh uh... my stomach's rolling. My mother - a nurse - was having none of this, of course, and I ended up going to school nine times out of ten. But on some occasions, I was able to work myself up into enough of a frenzy that I thought a doctor's visit might not be a bad idea. My mother just made sure it was the folks at the schools problem.

Nowadays it's a bit of a different story. I can count on one hand the number of colds I've gotten over the past ten years. And, not unlike my former girlfriend, I had to work hard to get that way. For years (also on the advice of my beloved mother - I'm such a mama's boy, eh?) I've been singing the praises of echinacea. At the first sign of a cold, I'd start popping the pills. When friends started exhibiting symptoms, I'd virtually shove it down their throats (much to their disgust, I'm sure.) Every morning I make sure to have a tall glass of orange juice along with vitamins c, e, calcium and a multivitamin. I drink lots of black, green and white teas, and I keep my nose hairs clean and trim. OK, so the last part was an exaggeration. Nose hairs have nothing to do with a cold. I DO trim them though... really.... let's just move on.

My mindset had become such that I was a bit of an immune system snob (i.e. mine is better than yours, you weak little vermin.) If I noticed the first tingles of a cold, I knew the proper action to take to make sure it didn't progress into anything substantial (Cold-Eeze works wonders, friends. Take it and follow the directions to the letter.) Echinacea also had much to do with this, but, I think, so did a positive mindset. I'm well if I think I'm well, etc.. Go away cold, you have no business invading my body! Be gone! And it went - often enough that I think it would be a little to irresponsible to call it coincidence. Why, for example, did my roommate and half of my friends and coworkers suffer through colds these past three weeks, and I not even suffer barely a sniffle? Got me. The only thing that separates me from them is the fact that I'm a kickass superhero that doesn't feel as if he's going to get a cold.

There IS a point to this rambling little post though, and it goes back to the whole "You're ill if you think you're ill, and you're well if you think you're well" bit. This morning, I received this article
from a friend who clearly felt like bursting a bubble. (Thanks Josh. Want to spit in my tea next?) Later in the day, on separate occasions, two coworkers with no knowledge of the article said to me, "Do you have a cold? You sound stuffy?" Well.... no, but I might as well now that you mentioned it. Thanks. (I thought about sneezing on their keyboards to confirm their suspicions, but opted not to.) Still later, I noticed a few of the students at the school where I work wearing those SARS like masks that cover your mouth and nose (Japanese custom - they wear them not to avoid being infected with a cold themselves, but to avoid passing their cold onto other people - at least I think.) Now, as I write this my head is pounding and I feel like I could sleep for an age and a day. Seriously.

What have I learned? Well, my friends suck for one. Two, my mental well-being really does contribute to my physical, despite how much I may want to try and convince myself otherwise. Three, I am NOT ill, dammit. I just have a slightly stuffy nose and a bit of a headache. And four, maybe my old girlfriend was on to something. There are a lot of germs flying about, you know. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to pop an echinacea. Screw the naysayers.


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