The Woes and Wisdom of a Freshman Plague Survivor

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Congratulations! You’re a few weeks into your first year of college. You’ve been quite a fighter, adjusting to this new lifestyle and trying your best to balance a budding social life, the demands of higher education and a somewhat agreeable sleep schedule (eight hours on a bad night, am I right?). You’ve even taken some of those EmergenC packets your mom packed for you. It’s paid off—your immune system has valiantly combatted all the foreign germs that have journeyed alongside your classmates from lands far away. You’ve avoided the party of viruses convened in the close quarters of residence halls, dining halls and lectures.

You’ve done everything right and the world seems to be rewarding your efforts. But unfortunately, as the temperatures and the leaves begin to fall, you’re about to find out a simple, terrible truth: The Freshman Plague spares no one. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you my survival story.

It started with a pain in my throat and was followed by the unnatural urge to reach for yet another sweatshirt. It proceeded with a trip to my university’s health services building, which concluded in a conversation about how it was just a viral this or that and everything was fine. I was given a paper about it from which I derived “Suck it up, freshie. This is adulthood.” Then they handed me the infallible remedy of cough drops, tea and instant broth, and sent me on my way.

I told myself that I was fine. I would not call my mom. I would not assume the fetal position under all of my covers. Instead, I would allot some of my meager college kid budget to DayQuil and carry on with my active and studious life like the champion adult I’d become.

The strategy worked for about a week, until my condition declined. My classes and my roommate’s sleep patterns were continuously being interrupted by my violent, seal-esque coughing fits. I attempted to participate in class, only to find that I had no voice to do so. The only outfit I could bring myself to put on consisted of sweatpants and an oversized hoodie (both a fashionable shade of light gray). My friends seemed concerned, but probably doused themselves in Purrell the minute I was out of sight. Everything I thought I was had been replaced with a mute, mucous-filled monster.

I gave in. I assumed the fetal position under all of my covers. I called my mom.

She encouraged me to find a doctor. My roommate, my guardian angel with a car, overheard and offered to drive me to the nearest MedExpress. Punctuated with the same coughs that had been keeping my guardian angel from logging those precious nightly eight hours for the past week, something along the lines of “Yes, please” escaped my lips.

I returned to my dorm with a diagnosis: sinus infection AND bronchitis. I emailed my professors, took the prescribed antibiotics along with some NyQuil, and then blissfully slept until the following afternoon.

By taking some time off, I slowly regained my pre-plague self. I started to feel better, and eased my way back into the demanding-but-wonderful lifestyle that is the college experience. Only now, I was armed with a newly seasoned immune system and some Sweet Brown-referencing jokes to help reconcile my dignity with everyone who witnessed me (or whatever that unfortunate creature was) during the past few weeks.

I learned that making my health a priority doesn’t reveal that I have some lingering child-like weakness. In an environment where pamphlets seem to scream “no excuses” and “push through,” it’s important to remember that taking the time to rest and heal is the mature and smart decision. Just because there’s no quick fix (sorry millennial kiddos) doesn’t mean I need to be a superhuman.

Now, I make time for my health and take care of myself from the first symptom. I’d rather do that than end up with bronchitis…ain’t nobody got time for that.

Sophomore English major at Notre Dame. Soulful ginger. Track runner. Located somewhere at the intersection of Disney music and Red Hot Chili Peppers. [Proverbs 3:6]

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