That last part is for me… the “I am not a bad person” part. Or, if I am, it’s not because of the cold sore. But still, I feel so incredibly ashamed when I get one. Shame. It’s a powerful thing. I don’t know why, but this virus that flares when my immune system is compromised has my ego on tap and ready to party.
Two weeks ago, I fell ill in truly dramatic form – aches, pains, nausea, migraine, sinus pain, and the 102.4 fever… HOLY CRAP! It’s been a long time since I had that high of a fever and it kicked my butt. The cough came and took my breath away, and had at least semi-permanent intentions. The rest of the symptoms were gone after five or so days, but the cough is still trying to work its way out of my body today. I did the whole sick thing in record form. I surrendered, rested more than I had in years, and took all the advice I was offered to heart. I even drank hot tea. And I’m not a tea drinker.
Still, it was apparently too much for my immune system to deal with all that and still fight off the herpes simplex virus which resides somewhere in my body, waiting like a bottom-feeding scum sucker for the just right conditions to rear its ugly head. Or rear itself, making my head ugly… at least the right side of my lower lip. On day eight of this mess, I woke up with a cold sore. Damn. I really hate it when that happens.
I’ve seen other people’s cold sores; I’ve even looked at pictures online (although I don’t recommend that, as that research takes an almost immediate turn off the main road and onto some freaky, stomach-turning, nasty twist of a God-forsaken path of misery). I don’t mind other people’s. I don’t think they should feel ashamed. I feel compassion for their discomfort, physical and emotional, but mine don’t seem like the ones other people get. Yes, I already know that everybody feels that way but mine are so bad that people don’t usually even realize that it’s a cold sore.My badge of shame is accompanied by such dramatic swelling of my lower lip and the lymph gland under my chin, combined with a surprising intensity that for the first week or so people say something like, “Oh my God… What happened?” I’m not joking. It looks like I’ve been assaulted with a baseball bat or in a car accident where the airbag deployed 1/8 of an inch from my face. And it turns out there is a lymph gland tucked right behind your chin bone that attempts to deal with lip drama and when I get a cold sore, it looks like I somehow tucked a golf ball under my skin.
The whole experience, while rare, is very traumatic for me… for my ego. People stare at first and then after catching themselves staring, won’t look anywhere near my face again. My every humiliating move is burned into my mind. I can tell you that this week, I went to my mom’s house once, the children’s school once, the grocery store three times, to the recycling center once, my daughter’s oral surgeon once, the pharmacy once, one department store once, and the emissions testing place. I spoke with one neighbor three times, two other neighbor’s once each, and two neighborhood children have come and gone about a dozen times each. I haven’t kissed my wife or children in over a week… and that part kills me. It’s all very memorable, every detail, because of the ego.
Still today, I had to go into not one but two soccer complexes and talk to several people about my son’s plans for the day. I’m going to a friend’s house to spend time with her family and another couple that they thought we might enjoy knowing. There is a part of me that would like to stay home, in my bed, hiding my face from even the people who love me the most. But, I can’t do that. Well, obviously I could… I just won’t. I can’t turn back the clock and un-kiss, un-share a drink, un-whatever the hell I did 20 some odd years ago to acquire this virus. Perhaps it’s just time to let it go and accept that for all this self-acceptance stuff I go on and on about, sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find it.
I have a cold sore. It’s awful to have, and awful to look at… but I’m going to live my life anyway.
There I said it. Ego squashed. My true self is back in the driver’s seat… but no I’m not posting a picture of my little virus. This totally zen moment of a beautiful stranger will have to do, because that’s what I feel like on the inside now.
I wrote this piece a while ago but I woke up this morning with a very good reason to go back and read it. I’m posting it here in case it’s what you needed to hear today, too.