It hit me like a freight train; I was at my tax job Monday night. I felt fine all day, and suddenly… not so much. I managed the last 45 minutes and the 5 minute drive home… and barely left the bedroom suite for the next 24 hours.

The thing is, I don’t get sick often. Not like this. I get a cold/sinus thing about once a year, but stomach stuff, missing work – that just doesn’t happen. So what was it? Well, no, it wasn’t the corona. And that’s not what this is about, either, for the record.

I talked to my friend, co-founder, and nurse practitioner Amy when it started; she told me the flu has been running that way this year. GI distress, then moving into chills and respiratory badness. I never made it to that point though – body aches but no chills or coughing.

Something I ate? I mean, I had that chicken burrito at a national chain restaurant a couple hours before I got sick… I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I was ServSafe certified back in the day, and spent a dozen years in the restaurant business. I know a little about how that all works. Do food illnesses happen? Absolutely. But many of them require a longer incubation, and I’ve just never been one to blame food out of hand.

Alright, alright? What was it??!!!

Yeah, I don’t know. And, really, I don’t care that much. In our conversations about the waves of patients hitting her urgent care this year, Amy told me the flu swab has a high false negative rate, and they often don’t use it at all – because if you have flu-like symptoms, they treat you for the flu. Fluids, rest, watch your breathing… the positive flu test doesn’t usually change that answer.

Fix What You Know

I have an established track record as an over-thinker. If you know me, you’re nodding your head right now… It’s who I am – but I am working on it. After all, if something hurts, find a solution.

Do I need to have the exact cause to try and make the hurting stop? Eventually, there is a need to treat the root and not the symptoms, yes. But horses not zebras, and all that. Don’t over-analyze the situation.

When everything is going wrong, there is an immediate value in stopping the bleeding. Take on fluids to prevent dehydration. Fix the little things and keep them from getting worse. The big issues, the root cause, will still be there – but if you bleed to death from a thousand little cuts while you work on the root, you are just as dead.

This isn’t just medical, either. If you hate your job, change something about your job. Talk to your boss, talk to HR, change departments, quit, do something. Life is too short to dread your job. (Trust me, I’ve been there. I was forced out, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me!)

When it all seems so overwhelming, you can get caught in the sheer magnitude. So break it down. Start with what you know and can fix right now. Give yourself the feeling of control – even if it’s something small. Doesn’t matter – you own that one thing, and it gets your confidence back.

When I get sick, there are markers I look for. When I feel hungry, that’s a huge step. (Interestingly, the markers are the same as when I’m hung over…) Late afternoon Tuesday I reached that point; the aches were subsiding, the distress was calmed, and Donger needed food. I treated that symptom, fixed something small, and was well on my way to recovery.

Pay attention to root causes, but don’t ignore your symptoms along the way. Triage is an essential element of emergency medicine, and of your wellness journey.

Photo by Kwame Asante on Unsplash