Blech (or “I’m not very good at being ill”)


I despise being ill.

I’ve had a lingering cold/cough type thing sitting on my chest and head since the end of August. And yes, much to my chagrin, I have finally booked a doctor’s appointment for next week. Whatever this thing is, it doesn’t sit still – it waxes and wanes, from a small sniffle to full-blown suspected laryngitis (which I have previously written about)

At the moment, its waxing – my nose is blocked and I have a hacking cough that makes people look up and pull what I think are sympathy faces (but it could also be disgust, or fear for their lives in the presence of such a phlegm monster). 

I hate it. 

I know in my head that it could be so much worse, and I could be (and have been) so much sicker. But that doesn’t change how awful and distracted being ill makes me feel. It’s like I can’t switch my focus away from it to properly get down to any tasks, at least with enough attention to achieve anything that falls within my strict parameters of ‘acceptable’. 

Having an illness is the ultimate loss of control over my own body. It’s the panic of trying to breathe through my nose and finding that I can’t; that split second before I remember that I can breathe through my mouth. The rattle of my own breathing is hellish, the type of thing that makes me wince and try to hide away in others, but that is doubly amplified when it’s coming from inside me.

I’ve talked about sensory sensitivities before, and the horrible cough-and-cold mixture is like the ultimate magnification of all the things that push those buttons in my brain. 

Everything seems so much louder. 

The tickling in my throat and the blockage in my nose is akin to the  rubbing of clothes tags against my skin; only it’s inside me, and I can’t reach into my throat or up my nose and remove the offending tags. I want to scratch it away. It makes my hair stand on end as if someone has grabbed my hand and forced my fingernails down a chalkboard. 

My head feels tighter. I’m so acutely aware of all of it, and it feels so heavy. 

As a result, my nerves are even more on edge than they normally are. 

Like now. Since I wrote that last sentence at lunchtime, I’ve battled the second half of a workday, and then topped it all off with a horrific journey across the London Underground system. On many other days, I’ve had similar treks and been able to put my techniques in place to deal with it. 

By not today. 

I am, right at this moment, sitting on the train I managed to get on with twenty seconds to spare. I’m shaking. I can’t catch my breath. That may have something to do with the fact that I am incapable of running successfully even when I can breathe through my nose. But there’s more to it than just that.

My head hurts from where I spent the whole journey digging my nails into my scalp, wrapping my hair around my knuckles and tugging. I’m bright red – from the exertion of existing and the shame of the looks people were giving me.

Was my inability to reach for any sort of coping mechanism to do with the fact I’m ill? I think so. All of the energy tokens I was handed this this morning had already been used up trying to get through the day with all this extra virus-based sensory management.

What conclusion do I come to, as I sit on the train with my breath almost returned to normal (but with a thumping headache on top of everything else)? 

I don’t know. I just feel rotten. And its not just the immediate symptoms – I feel I already experience life at twice the sensory impact of neurotypical people, so to add virus on top of that becomes much more than marginally annoying. It consumes all of oomph I have to use just to get through things other people do without thinking.

And then when something happens that normally I would have the reserves to strategise around, it knocks me arse-over-tail because the energy savings pot has been spent. 

So yes. I am incredibly, absolutely, sickeningly bad at being ill. Not because I am weak and feeble, but because it steals the energy I can’t afford to lose due to having to be strong all the damned time. 

And that pretty much sums it up.

Be understanding of your friendly neighbourhood neurodiverse person when they get the sniffles. 

And more importantly, be understanding of me right now. 

I’m suffering. 



And once more for luck: 


Author: QueerlyAutistic
Erin Ekins is a queer autistic writer, speaker and attempter of activism. She has an interest in all areas of autistic social justice, but has a particular passion for improving understanding and acceptance of the intersection of autism and queerness. She runs the blog and is the author of the upcoming book 'Queerly Autistic: The Ultimate Guide for LGBTQIA+ Teens on the Spectrum'. By day, she works in campaigning and influencing at a disability related charity, but, by night, she is inhabits a busy space between angry internet person and overly-excited fangirl.

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