Don’t fall into the trap of huddling around to compare experiences, as if you’ve just come out of a GCSE history exam
June 7, 2022 2:11 pm(Updated 2:12 p.m.)
A new trend is sweeping the nation and it needs to stop. No, no, not Binley Mega Chippy – that’s a joy we all need and I hope it keeps thriving. I’m here to stop the new obsession we all seem to have with comparing our illnesses.
I got Covid a couple of weeks ago and along with being really annoyed, I was actually pretty poorly. It totally wiped me out. I’m still feeling ropey actually – an old car chugging around in third gear and finding steep hills intimidating. But I’ve been lucky. I didn’t need to go to hospital and I’m not dead, so that’s good.
What’s not so good are the conversations I’ve been having since my recovery. “How was it for you?” ask everyone. And even if you say you couldn’t breathe, stayed in bed for 10 days and lost all sense of yourself, they can’t wait to tell you how mild their experience was.
Why are we doing this? It didn’t happen in the good old days of 2019, I’m sure of it. If you broke your leg pre-pandemic, you wouldn’t get some smart arse piping up saying, “Sorry to hear you’ll never run properly again. When I did mine, it healed in six weeks and I was back skiing in February yah yah yah…”
Why have we started to one-up – or rather, one-down – someone’s experience of being horribly ill? It’s perhaps partly because we’re all pretending that we’re OK with what we’ve just been through; and partly that we’ve forgotten how to socialise. It might also have something to do with the fact that the vast majority of us didn’t get seriously ill, so there’s a feeling of relief.
But whatever it is, oddly, it suddenly seems OK to comment on someone’s experience of being ill “just because we’ve all had it”. It’s not.
I know it’s not breaking news, but our bodies are all different. And each person will have a completely unique experience of this virus, which, it’s worth remembering, has killed nearly 200,000 in this country alone.
I was out the other evening and said to someone that I’d been ill recently from Covid and their immediate reaction was, “Really?! God, I only had it very mildly. Weird that you had it badly. It was just a sniffle for me.” Oh, good for you Jonathan! Why would you say that? That just makes me feel even weaker than I thought I was.
I don’t think he meant it maliciously, but it was thoughtless. And actually quite weird. But I also get it. We’re all desperate to move on from Covid and one way of doing that is minimizing it. I did this. I was almost embarrassed to get it so late in the pandemic to the point where I made jokes about being unfashionably late to the party. I also didn’t take it seriously enough because we’ve become desensitised. Consequently, I worked throughout my illness, which actually delayed the healing process and is one of the reasons I feel so rough and old right now.
The art of convalescence is something we’ve perhaps all forgotten about. People get ill in different ways and the same is true for recovery. Don’t fall into the trap of huddling around to compare experiences, as if you’ve just come out of a GCSE history exam. Instead of listening to other people’s experiences, listen to your body. It doesn’t give a shit about what Jonathan or any other Covid Booster thinks.
If you’ve been hit for six by an illness, don’t feel bad that when Clive next door gets it, he’s out the front jet washing his Volvo three days later. Your body isn’t letting you down, it’s just taking its time. And so should you.