Head pounding, eyes watering and nose operating a leaky-tap mentality, I'm feeling relatively sorry for myself. What is it about a cold that can so easily knock us for six?
I know that 'tis the season to be sniffling, but why must we - actually sod the thoughtful bit - why must I, repeatedly be bashed around, deflated and ultimately lose my brain to liquidation on such a regular basis at this time of the year? No matter how much orange juice I drink, echinacea I force down, or manueka I suck off a spoon, I still catch them. Vitamin tablets, increased iron and bowing to the 'kill it dead with paracetamol' capsules don't seem to do it either.
My other half, annoyingly, doesn't seem to ever catch anything, regardless of the fact that he does nothing whatsoever to strengthen his immune system, better his diet, or wrap up warmer. When I'm tucked up with a hot toddy, unlike most people, who keep their distance for fear of catching it, he'll happily breath my olbassy air and drink from my water glass, and has no qualms about stealing kisses from me (often leading to life or death situations as my only air outlet is taken away). It's becoming more than a little annoying.
However, I am all to aware that I'm not alone. There are many people out there sniffing and sneezing their way through meetings, mixing lemsip with party champers, carting around potions and pills to try to retain control of their symptoms, and often to no avail.
I read recently that most of the symptoms of colds are actually self-induced. Our bodies fight the cold vius by raising our temperature to try and kill it, by creating unprecedented levels of mucus to wash it from our noses, then trip themselves up by triggering sinus inflamation, causing watering eyes and a pounding headache. Essentially, we do a lot of this to ourselves. Colds could be seen, if you think about it, as the world's most common autoimmune disease. (I did say 'could'.)
To begin with, I attempted to welcome this news. I lauded it over my husband, whose lack of colds I took to mean the ultimate in lazy immune systems. His body simply can't be bothered to mount a counter-attack to the virus. Ha! My immune system is super-efficient in the extreme - I win!
However, as I type, my forehead clammy, my eyes threatening to pop from my head, and a cough'n'splutter interupting my thoughts ever couple of setences, I'm feeling less smug. I don't want a great immune system if all it means is that I feel wretched when others just carry an extra hankie for a day or two.
As with most other cold sufferers out there - or should I say, 'people living with colds', I try to retain as much independance as possible when hit by the bug. I continue working - in fact, I work harder to prove that I'm ok (and also becuase , with a headache like this, everything takes twice as long anyway). I retain social engagements (unless there may be vulnerable immune systems there) and I insist on still doing the chores. Except, if I'm honest, I do all of it with a clear 'woe is me' expression on my face. I wish I didn't. And it's not on purpose - I'm really not seeking sympathy (it annoys me when people do the 'oh, poor you' thing) - but I seem to be unable to get through a cold without clearly highlighting that I'm a real trooper. I also, when out of sight of the people who don't know many of my little quirks (ie whn amongst either family or very close friends), I dissolve into a pile of pathetic. Gone is the brisk, efficient girl who ignores her cold in a dismissive and disdaining way. In her place is a mushy ball of self-pity who insists on making her own honey and lemon, trails blankets across the kitchen leaving a wake of discarded tissues, then collapses on the sofa with it with reproachful eyes, insinuating that my husband (who will have offered at least twice) should have insisted on making it for me. A delightful creature.
Today I came across something that made me feel a little better about the whole thing, though. A boy version of that creature. Leaving my hotel this morning, the porter came up to help me with my bag (in my pathetic state I couldn't face carting it down the 3 flights myself with no sign of a lift). I recognised him from the previous day, when a nice chap had brought me some soup up to the room for lunch whilst I typed and sniffed away. It didn't take long for us to be comisserating with each other on our respective colds, both with the jovial martyrish expressions expected, both pretending to be soldiering on through.
As I left, I saw him turn to the girl at the front desk - clearly a friend as well as a colleague - and let the real feelings out, something I have done to my husband so many times before. Pathetic, melodramatic and honest, out came a muted wail: 'I feel so illlllllll!'
Silly as it is, watching the bravado slip from a strapping chap like that made me feel a lot better. Not only had he not seen me slip into a wailing mess, but I had proof that I wasn't a wuss. Here was a young man, healthy looking and muscular, who was every bit as pathetic as me when struck by the dreaded garden variety cold.
I'm not sure that I'll ever make my peace with the cold, or that I'll manage to ward it off successfully in the future, but I can rest easy in the knowledge that, just as everyone will present the same strong face to the world when in its grip, they will also cry like a baby over it when they think no-one's watching.