Being Sick in the Fishbowl

So far the hardest thing about my time in Peru has been sickness. It seems like at times I am getting hit from all sides. When I eat I get sick. When I travel, sick. When the weather changes, sick. When my host mom is sick, sick. It seems as if my immune system is constantly battling something.

To exacerbate the sickness I feel, I have very few resources to feel better. When I’m sick in the States I have my own comfy space to sleep in. I have access to the plant medicines that help me heal. I am in control of the food I eat to accommodate my ailing body. But here in Peru I don’t have that.

As of now I am still not moved into my own room. I’ve been staying in another room because mine is being refurbished. I am entirely grateful that my host family wants to do that for me, but I am also ready to stop living out of suitcases and create my own space. Especially in these moments of sickness.

Prior to Peru I had phased out all types of Western medications, over the counter and prescribed. I did not take Dayquil when it was sunny and Nyquil when it wasn’t. I didn’t pop Ibuprofen with each sudden onset of minor headache or sickness. I drank water and tea. I invested in herbs and oils that come from the earth to help me feel better. I slept. I meditated and manifested a healed body. I cooked with superfoods and medicinal spices.

My PC experience so far has been quite the opposite. Each volunteer receives a first aid kit with enough medication to kill a small animal. We are instructed to keep it close and pack medication to go when we travel. Without my normal strategies for healing, I’ve resorted to the medications and their inherent chemicals to help me feel better (ironic, I know). Yes this process works. But is it the best for my body? I really do not think so. And until I find an alternate solution, I’ll continue to medicate.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Teddy is a dingus, there’s gotta be all types of plant medicine goodness and alternative medicine in Peru.” And to be truthful, you are right. Unfortunately though, I have not found it. Yes I’m drinking tea but when it comes to medicinal herbs to consume and foods to cook with I am still struggling. I hope as I become more integrated that I’ll find more holistic resources to help me feel better when I am sick.

Now for the fishbowl… all this sickness is occurring in a fishbowl. What I mean by this is that my community is small. And I am the only gringo fish swimming in it. So all my fish neighbors and their neighbors somehow find out I am sick. Specifically, everyone at my school found out. In fact, the psychologist was sent to my house to check on me. When I didn’t answer because I was dead asleep,  one of the doormen for the school came to visit with my host siblings. They knocked once and barged into my room. Disorientated and blind because the lights were just turned on, I had to figure out who the hell was in my room (not my room) and why.  The doorman, Miller, was offering to take me to the regional capital hospital because he heard I was sick.

When I made it back to school the following day, every professor and personnel of the school made sure to tell my why I was sick, and how to feel better. Dress warmer. Don’t drink cold drinks. Take cold showers. Mind the changes in the climate. Don’t wear shorts. Drink tea with lemon and honey. Take pills. Rub something on my face. Abrigate, abrigate, abrigate. 

Now I know all these people are coming from a caring and loving space. And yes, some of their reasons why I am sick and how to feel better might actually be true. But for some reason all I can feel is frustration. Frustrated that so many people know that I am sick; that I am weak. Frustrated that my privacy was invaded. Frustrated that when I don’t show up, everyone feels like it’s their job to find where I am and tell me what to do.

This is for sure a culture shock moment. As if only a certain amount of caring is allowed. That too much caring violates my independence and my individual experience of being sick. It’s funny because in the past, I might feel bad for myself when people didn’t care enough. Or when my friends or family weren’t giving my sick self the attention I deserved. Poor me.

So where is the line drawn? Between caring just enough and caring too much? Will being sick in my community feel this way always? Or will I get accustomed to every community member suddenly becoming a trained doctor in the moment that I sneeze or cough? Why am I frustrated when people care about me? Why do I feel like being sick is a private experience? But when it’s too private, why do I feel like I’m being neglected?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. Nor to the other questions that are currently running through my sick brain at the moment. I could keep writing but I feel as if this is sufficient for now. I now will turn to more a more personal strategy of introspection in order to grapple with some of these thoughts. I truly hope I feel better soon. I will feel better soon. And all these frustrations will melt away. At least until next time I am sick. Or maybe these feelings won’t manifest again. Perhaps more reflection and patience on this subject will help my next sickness not be so culturally jarring. Surely that is the goal.

And now, two mantras that always give me company in moments of sadness, weakness, sickness, injury etc.

…This too shall pass…

…Don’t rush your healing. Darkness has its teaching. Love is never leaving…

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