what’s the matter now, stupid?

This is not how it’s supposed to go. I am supposed to be having a fabulous time. I am supposed to be hiking very close to, if not in, the majestic Alps. But the Alps weren’t interested. They pulled the mist and rain and clouds down around themselves like an invisibility cloak. They vanished.


And my body did everything wrong.

The night before our flight, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. I rolled over a hundred times, I got a glass of water, I had to pee, I pulled the covers up, I petted the cat, I peed, I read a book, I read the newspaper, I pulled the covers down, I tried to think soothing thoughts. I finally fell asleep at 6:00 am, just before Bear got up to go to work. By then, there was no time to sleep.

And so, because of my excitement, I was exhausted on the plane, which probably contributed to the sad turn of events. The sad turn of events that I’m about to relate in riveting detail.


The guy sitting next to us was coughing and sneezing a lot, without covering his mouth (who does that? Maybe he was an orphan? Maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh. He was probably an orphan). By the time we switched planes in Paris, I was miserable. By the time we made it to Switzerland, I could barely function. I slept for most of the first day and when I woke up I had a fever.

Which has not gone away. The fever came with a generous, gurgling cough, prickling, hypersensitive skin, and an angry throat that wasn’t even slightly interested in the famous local fondue. I could not move. And then I couldn’t sleep at night. So I slept during the day. At night, I lay awake, burning, freezing, thinking about little ways in which I’ve failed, thinking about how characters in Jane Austen novels sometimes go to the sea to convalesce, and really, if you have to be sick somewhere, and feel like a tragic heroine, Interlaken, between two shockingly blue lakes, must be that place. Thinking about how if the cat breaks just one more of our nice glasses, there will only be three left, and three is a bad number for nice glasses. I pushed the covers off, I pulled them tremblingly up. I thought about how pathetic I was. What would I do if Bear wasn’t there? Am I incapable of independence? What if I had a baby and I got like this? What would happen? Would my baby starve to death? Probably. I am unfit for motherhood. For personhood. Bear slept soundly beside me, one freckled, hairy shoulder visible above my swaths of blankets, like an island. In the morning, he was cheerful and enthusiastic, but I could hardly mutter a response.

The Alps were out there, somewhere outside the window of our dingy hotel room with the sloping, oddly squishy linoleum floors, but I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Besides, it was still raining.

Bear went jogging. He read for hours about the history of the country we couldn’t see. I don’t know what else he did—I had no interest

Two days in, he had to change the plan. Instead of me coming with him to Helsinki and London, he booked a flight straight to Amsterdam, where I’d wait for him while he had his meetings.

That’s where I am now. With my ears stuck popped, from the flight. My head feels like it’s been encased in a ball of packing foam. I can’t stop coughing. Classical music plays on the radio, dramatic and formal. Here I lie, the tragic, ill heroine. Or maybe her annoying, self-pitying aunt.

On the plane, in what seemed like an unfair and absurd amount of pain from the pressure in my ears, I sat, clutching my head, childish tears escaping down my cheeks, wondering what the hell my problem is.

Who gets sick because she stayed up for a night? Who can’t get on a plane because the slightest amount of congestion will cause her eardrums to swell to the point of bursting? Who can’t function for days afterwards, because she still can’t hear? Who misses out on Switzerland, and London, and Helsinki, all because she sits next to the wrong person on the plane?


And it makes me feel totally helpless.

I can’t take myself anywhere.

Bear can’t take me anywhere.

He thought it’d be nice, to take me along on this trip, to spend some time somewhere I’d always wanted to go, before heading off to his business meetings. Instead, he’s had to reschedule, and rearrange, and spend a day on the phone with airlines and hotels and the car rental place, trying to form a contingency plan while running back and forth from the pharmacy.

Finally, rushing to the airport, after taking the wrong exit, staring at sign after sign in German, and eventually French, lost in a sea of red and white construction, he snapped. “This is the worst trip ever! Everything is going wrong!” 

Once again, my inexplicable sensitivity ruins everything

Where did it come from? Why am I made like this?

I am so frustrated with my untrustworthy, turncoat body. This body that has absolutely nothing serious wrong with it, but that will suddenly crash and crumple at the slightest provocation. This body that can not seem to manage to do the ordinary things that other bodies do, like spend time in a car without getting nauseous, or wake up at an earlier time than usual without being nauseous, or go on a plane ride, or stay up later than usual, or bump into something without getting a painful bruise, or sit in grass without getting a rash, or get a pedicure without getting an infection, or put on eyeliner without getting red, irritated eyes, or turn suddenly without pulling some microscopic, pretentious muscle, or wear a necklace without the weight of it becoming too pressing, or have even a single period without debilitating cramps, or, or– it’s all stupid. Stupid whiny little mundane meaningless complaints that add and add until they become the reason why I can’t be counted on to come through. Why I can’t count on myself to be there. To enjoy it. To be normal.

Tomorrow, Bear flies to Helsinki. And I—I have no idea. Maybe the fever will tire itself out. Maybe the foam surrounding my head will fall away and I will be able to fully hear the somber, funereal music that won’t stop playing on the radio. Maybe I will wake up  energized, with Amsterdam sprawling at my feet, ready to explore.

I don’t know. I can’t count on it.

Because of this obnoxiously sensitive, complaining, humiliatingly delicate body of mine.

This body that is not made for modern times. Or any times, at all. God, imagine me as a peasant. Wouldn’t have made it through the winter. Any winter. Pick a winter.

This body that does not like to be taken even a few feet outside of its comfort zone. This body that would like me to sit still and quietly write, in a quiet room, in a quiet little home that I never plan on leaving. With a lot of Tylenol on hand, just in case.

(the sun finally emerged for a moment, as we drove to the airport)

*  *  *

Anyone else absurdly sensitive? Betrayed by your body? Missed your chance at the Alps?  Or maybe, do you have a tip for dealing with congestion on the plane? Chewing gum doesn’t work. Swallowing and yawning don’t work. Is there some powerful drug I should be taking that I don’t know about?

Unroast: Today I love…Sheesh, it’s hard right this second. OK…The color of my wedding band against my skin.

To everyone who wrote to me from London and Helsinki– this is why I haven’t responded. I’m going to try to do that soon, but I hope you see this first! And thank you! And I wish I could’ve met you all. When I can download my consciousness into a sexy robot, this stuff will be much easier, I promise.


Kate on April 16th 2012 in body

73 Responses to “what’s the matter now, stupid?”

  1. Jessica responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    I loved this – I want my body to be low-maintenance and carefree! But no, if I don’t get my sleep I’m a mess, and as I’m getting older I also find I can’t skip meals anymore as that means I can’t focus on ANYTHING. Loved the detail on how if you get up earlier than usual you feel sick – I get that too but I’ve never heard of anyone else who gets that. Hope you feel better soon.

  2. Anon responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Man, I totally have those periods of time where each little thing that goes wrong is “obviously indicative of a lifetime pattern of failure.” It sucks while it lasts, and the only way I know to deal is to just hunker down and wait until it passes (it always does, eventually).

    And even if you can’t give yourself a hug at the moment, rest assured that the internet is giving you a big, if digital, hug. =)

  3. littlestbrowniexD responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    Ugh. My body hates me. It never works right. It betrays me. It scares me. And even after ive tried so hard to take care of it and even (almost) love it.
    Particularly my stomach xp
    Whenever i have a sleepover, or a guy wants to talk to me or something important goes on, it hurts me soo bad xp
    Im sorry you didnt have a swell time :/

  4. Melanie responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    I have the opposite body and wish I could give you some of its resilience. I hardly ever get any sleep, and I travel all the time and my body just adjusts. I hardly ever get the sicknesses going around my work (I thank all of the years of working with kids for that. I have the immune system of a god). I have a really bad back, rapid cycle bipolar disorder, and OCD, but in the scheme of things it could be a lot worse.

    Being sick while traveling is THE MOST horrible. Being sick at home no big deal. But when you feel like you’re missing out, it just makes feeling icky, that much ickier.

  5. Kate responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    SO jealous of you. So jealous. Remember that post about how I’m not getting as jealous of people? I take it back :-)
    This is how Bear is, too. He’s completely resilient. He can keep going no matter what. Of course, he also has diabetes. Maybe when you have something really bad you can deal with the rest? Sort of like OCD and everything for you. What is rapid cycle bipolar disorder?

  6. Liz responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I am so sorry that you’re not feeling well!! I also have a delicate body, one fraught with digestive problems my whole life, and the slightest change in scheduling can totally screw me over the rest of the day. I understand some of what you’re feeling, but it’s truly frustrating and disappointing that this is happening while you’re on vacation. Please know that I am sending good and healthy thoughts your way! Hang in there!

  7. Kristina responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    your man Bear sounds like a solid dude. I find it interesting that when anything goes awry in my plans, the whole world ends and I think “that’s it….everything is ruined. lets go home!” yet my husband will rearrange everything, like your Bear did with his meetings, just so I am more comfortable or happy, even if I continue to cry and moan like a baby. It boggles my mind.

  8. Sonja responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    I fly to Germany once or twice a year. It’s an 11-hour flight and a 9-hour time difference. The jetlag knocks me on my ass for a week EVERY TIME I go (no, there are no tricks to avoid it – people keep asking me as if I should know). If someone with a slight cold even so much as looks at me, I get sick on top of it. And if I don’t sleep the night before I leave (which has happened more often than not), I’m even more likely to get sick.
    I’ve always assumed that was just normal – let’s go with that. YOU are normal. Bear is superhuman. Problem solved. :-)

  9. Madison responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Its definitely not just you! My fiance took a once in a life time trip to Australia with his dad, and because of an unexpected night long layover, got really sick just as they were landing. He spent a good portion of his trip emailing me about how he wanted to come home and have homemade soup. Sorry you’re feeling awful!

  10. Kate responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    Yes. I have felt like a baby for this entire trip. I actually said to him today, “You’re such a grownup.” He is so friggin’ competent. It’s lucky for me. I also hope it doesn’t turn me into more of a baby. I’m also glad you have a husband who is like this, too, because it makes life better.

  11. Kate responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    @Jessica, Anon, littlestbrownieXD, Sonja
    Phew!! Someday, we need to take a plane ride together. It would make me feel like a real person :-)

  12. Kate responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    AWW!! I’m sorry!! Why is it on the once-in-the-lifetime moments? Because. Just because.

  13. TG responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    Have you tried a fresh orange sliced in hot water? Helps soothe the throat and makes you feel a little more human. Maybe a little less doomful classical music? Change the radio station to something lighter to banish the suffering aunt or at least lift her spirits? Sounds like a terrible conjunction of jetlag and a bad cold. A great recipe for misery for all concerned. I find wearing in-ear headphones helps for congestion on the plane.No idea why though. Hope it all clears up in time for you to enjoy even a little bit of the trip. Amsterdam is full of great things to do.

  14. gwen responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Oh, Kate, I would saying all the same things to myself right now — but don’t beat yourself up too much. You’re sick, you’re far away from home, your ears hurt (I have had that same awful plane experience and it is NO JOKE)… but I think that old body-image lesson about what you’d say to a good friend still applies.

    If someone you love called you and said all of this, you would NEVER say to her, “this is all your fault. you’re ruining everything. you can’t count on your terrible turncoat body and you aren’t normal.” You’d say, “oh, I’m so sorry, that’s awful, what bad luck, please take care of yourself,” and you’d understand, you know?

    Not to guilt you at all, and I’d be mad at myself too — but be kind to yourself too, OK? You deserve it. Your body is not everything you want it to be, but it can do some pretty good stuff, too, and it WILL get better. Bear loves you and we are pulling for you stateside.

    (And the person who commented about the earphones helping on planes is right… after my terrible ear experience, a doctor told me about these little plugs called “Earplanes” that essentially block some of the pressure-changing air from pressing on your ear canal. The in-ear headphones do something similar; I use them every time I fly now.)

  15. Sooz responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Kate…I am just like you…so I feel your pain. Seriously. It sucks. hang in there. I hope you are feeling better. :)

  16. Yan responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    I’m flying on Thursday, with spring allergies, and I am going to look for Earplanes when I go buy my dramamine.

    I LOVE the idea of traveling. But I may be one of the world’s worst traveler’s. The stress of schedules when flying, on top of the actual transit part, always always messes with my gut, which is easy to mess with. I also need to eat regularly and have food sensitivities.

    What helps for me is making sure I am REALLY good to my body the week before (which is difficult), and try to get some extra sleep knowing that it’s not going to go well at the very end there. I also travel with a veritable pharmacy so that I know exactly what I’m taking.

    Your post reminded me of this post: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/missconduct/2012/02/so_my_awesome_v.html

    I try to cut myself some slack, as stressing about how my body is betraying me just makes it worse. I’ve gotten better about doing it at home, but damn is it worse when I feel like my “sick” is ruining someone else’s good time.

    Try holding your nose shut and then blowing it. Sometimes that’ll equalize the pressure.

  17. Elena responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    Kate!! I am so sorry that you got sick!! I really hope you feel better soon, I know you will.

    Why does life do annoying things like make us sick when we’re on a trip? Or about to do something we’re really excited about but then can’t go? It never makes sense, but it’s totally normal and it actually happens to all of us a lot. It’s also the expectations that are huuuge to begin with–and of course they are–but it can be hard for anything to go wrong, or not feel as great as we thought it would, etc etc because we have an impossible mountain to climb. You know? I think also the reaction we have and the thoughts that go along with it like how our body ‘doesn’t cooperate”, “things aren’t going right” or “everything is always going wrong” and “whats wrong with me” is that old record (like our song! :) that we all have to some degree and its totally natural. We have a lot of uncertainty and fear taht comes up when our life takes us in turns we don’t want to go on, but if we can just be aware (which I know you are) of the thoughts that occur and to try to be compassionate with yourself, it will probably be nice for your body and mind.

    I really empathize though with the thoughts that come rushing in when things aren’t going “right”, like they’ve been cooped up and waiting for this moment to make their grand entrance and finally be like, “SEEE??? I was right all along!!” So ridiculous but they are powerful thoughts. I’ve got a ton of those and have been trying to work through them in particular recently. Its kinda interesting..I’ve been feeling some kind of sickness starting to come on too..and girl..if I was traveling, I’m sure I would be a sick basketcase.

    Basically everyone who I’ve talked to goes through a cycle of thoughts/emotions when they get sick, because you’re not in control, you feel weak, and so of course negative thoughts are more likely to grow at those times. I’ve noticed a huge negativity ssweep through me in the past day..I actually got really pissed off at this guy at whole foods tonight who was being rude and innapropriate, I actually got up and left I was so pissed off. Boy! How the feeling of the body can alter our perspective.

    I’m sending you healthy vibes! And sorry my typing and spelling and commas suck in this passage bc im too tired :)


  18. San D responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    So sorry you aren’t feeling well. That’s the worst…when you are sick and traveling. I traveled all of my life, and even brought my students on long treks through europe, and couldn’t “afford” to be sick. True to my nature, I “held it together” until we got home, and THEN would fall apart physically. But at least I would be home with my bed, bed, bed. I have travelled with sick students, and with my sometimes sick husband, and I turn into Nurse Ratchet stuffing them full of vitamins, orange juice, tylenol, and whatever else I had in my traveling medicine cabinet.

  19. Elly responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    So sorry to hear you’re feeling icky! I absolutely know what you mean about not getting enough sleep. That’s just not an option for me these days (ever, really). Less than 7 1/2 hours and I start feeling nauseated and bad for the rest of the day. Which is…decidedly problematic as a grad student. In an arts-related field (see: occasional weeks of rehearsals till midnight, then back again at 7AM). And then when I travel and take a flight that leaves me without enough sleep and in a close box with the germs of the rest of my fellow travelers? I’m really, really likely to get sick.

    I normally just take Sudafed on the plane when I’m traveling while sick…seems to help enough.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  20. sami responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Oh I am EXACTLY the same! It is just one reason why I don’t travel. I was actually standing at my bedroom window this morning, looking outside, thinking about how yesterday afternoon at work I had a random light-headed moment and thought I would fall off my chair. And how awful that would be because I’m still new in this job. And how I can’t even go to work without fear of my own body betraying me in public.

    I think that’s the worst thing, in public. At home it can do whatever it likes. Be anxious, feel sick, seek refuge in the shower in the dark (my comfort zone). But in public there is no sanctuary, which only feeds my anxiety.

    Apparently I have quite low blood pressure which I guess is the reason why I feel a bit faint sometimes. But now it’s on my mind and that makes me feel funny when I think too much about it. I feel sick whenever I am really looking forward to an event and have bailed on things so often that I’m sure my friends think I’m a real dick sometimes :( Public transport frightens me, I avoid trains as much as possible. The bus I can deal with somewhat. I love music but have to stand at the very back or side at concerts, so that I have an escape route. At movies I must sit at the end of the aisle. My claustrophobia and anxiety manifests quickly so I need a way to get out of anywhere. Heat affects me strongly. Summer time is my enemy and in my city in Australia we have HOT summers.

    I have Rescue Remedy pastilles in case I get nervous about something, thought the taste now triggers more nerves because I’ve associated it with scary times.

    What to do? :(

  21. Zellie responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    I used to have terrible pain and difficulty equalizing the pressure in my ears on planes (and diving). One time my ears stayed plugged up for 3 weeks.

    Now I use homeopathic kali muriaticum 30 c 1/2 hour before take-off and landing which makes it easier. It can be repeated. Also the valsalva maneuver as Yan described can be helpful. Give gentle pressure if you try it. You don’t want to rupture an ear drum. If it won’t move, don’t force it.

    I’ve never tried ear planes but when you know how much pain it can be you know it’s worth a try!

    You might also consider any foods that make you more congested like milk & cheese and avoid them a few days prior to flying.

  22. Sunflower responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 12:28 am #

    Oh my goodness, travel is horrible! I get sick a lot too when I get on planes. I’m scared to go on one again because of the really awful sinus pressure issues. When I was a kid I travelled all the time and never had issues. I think flying has changed honestly, for the worse. It’s all stressful and full of indignities and regulations and sick people stuffed into a tiny area. Awful! I don’t think you’re sensitive, I think you are sensitive *to certain things* which everyone is. For me, it’s perfume and stuff that affects sinuses, but I’m like a tank when it comes to carrying heavy things or doing physical work. Everyone has their thing. It’s not wrong to feel frustrated and angry so go ahead and let yourself feel that way guilt-free, ok? And thank you for sharing your story. You are so strongly perfect in your “imperfection”, if that make sense!

  23. Anni responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 2:05 am #

    Kate, I’m so sorry about you being sick while in Europe, and us not getting to meet up! I hope you’re already feeling a little bit better and get to enjoy Amsterdam eventually. If it’s any consolation, the weather in Helsinki is miserable this morning!

    Traveling while sick really does suck. Last fall, I caught a food poisoning in the Hong Kong airport during a layover, when coming back home from Asia. And it was from Starbucks of all places… I was traveling alone and too tired to try to figure out anything else to eat, and the Starbucks hummus wrap must have been the culprit. Let’s just say the next 20 hours were pretty miserable. The Chinese guy who had the isle seat next to me had to stand up about 20 times during our flight. I could have asked the flight attendants to give me another seat, an isle seat closer to the lavatories maybe, but I was too exhausted to think straight. I definitely have never been happier to see my own bathroom than I was after that flight!

  24. poet responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 2:14 am #

    Ow, poor you! I hope you feel better soon. I know this feeling of “my body betrayed me” all too well (allergies etc.) – but it isn’t that. It’s just bad luck. Nobody was made for airplanes, true, but getting a fever after germ exposure means your body is working exactly the way it should :) If Amsterdam was any nearer to Southern Germany (alas, it isn’t) I would bring you some chicken soup!

  25. Kristine responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Don’t feel bad, I am completely useless when I am sick. Any other kind of pain I can take, but not that. It’s one of my worst fears not being able to breathe. If I am sick like that and really can’t breathe, I will literally have a panic attack and cry. I am a 22 year old woman :(

  26. Lynellekw responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 3:44 am #

    Totally sympathise. Mostly I don’t get sick, but when I do, I get BAD sick. And stupid little things can flatten me. Foolishly eat an apple with the skin on? I will be awake most of the night in pain, wondering if NOW is when I should go to the hospital. One night of not enough sleep? Five days of aching joints & flu symptoms. Other people get headaches. I got a brain abcess, and didn’t go to hospital for five days because I thought it was a migraine. On the up side, at least I remain mostly functional while my body is falling apart around me. Like when I nearly passed out in the toilets at work due to some kind of inner-ear virus and forced myself to haul myself out of where I’d fallen in the gap between the toilet and the wall and prop myself upright on the loo and open the door so that someone would find me in a reasonably dignified position.

  27. Rose responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 5:15 am #

    Oh you poor thing!! I have the same problem on long haul flights (I live in Australia, everything is long haul from here) and for the few days pre the flight I take immune system boosters like echinacea or garlic and horseradish tablets (go figure, they work) or just some good vitamins, take fish oil and probiotics. I also generally eat super healthy just to make sure my body is in good condition when I get on the plane. While I fly I dress in soft layers with a shawl around me and drink water like theres no tomorrow! Staying well hydrated is a huge part of not getting jetlag, also sleeping as much as possible. Add ear plugs and a sleep mask and I can usually get a few hours kip. If there is someone sick next to you, ask the stewardess to move you, or politely ask them to cough away from you. Quietly make huge use of antibacterial handwipes or the like and hope like hell you don’t get sick! As for the nausea, stemetil or travelcalm is a godsend, or just plain ginger tablets.

  28. Maya responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 7:26 am #

    Nearly the first time I flew, I got sick- I was in middle school, and was sick for over half the vacation. It was pretty miserable, but at least I was young enough that I didn’t quite get the idea of feeling bad about missing out on seeing things.

    Being sick is miserable, that’s all there is to it, no matter where you are.

  29. Celynne responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Oh sweetheart! *hugs* You know what makes me nauseous? Being hungry. Yes, the completely natural feeling of being hungry comes across to me as nausea or pain, or both. I often have terrible stomach aches without realizing they are hunger. No stomach rumbles, just pain. But then I eat and it goes away. MADNESS. So I constantly carry snacks with me everyone because I WILL be ill if I don’t eat, which is entirely unpleasant on account of my stomach’s empty status causing the nausea in the first place.

    I think you will feel much better about your body once you are back up to your usually healthy ways again. A few weeks ago, I was so sick, I couldn’t even leave my apartment. I thankfully decided to make the treck – a casual 10 minute walk – to the grocery store to acquire apple sauce and orange juice which absolutely exhausted me, but I didn’t leave again for another 3 days. I felt too weak, I just lay around shivering and overheating and shivering and not being able to sleep and coughing and being miserable. I also during this time found out my job was being cut due to a new budget, and I was convinced I was too weak and ill to ever do anything actually difficult or requiring of a dependable body… And then a few more days passed – it took me two weeks to completely get back to regular health and my lungs are still a bit congested – and my strength returned and I trusted myself enough to go for a work, started pushing my bodies boundaries and feeling strong and capable again.

    Your body is fighting an intense battle right now! It’s at war, doing its best to keep you alive and get you healthy again! I suggest you do every single thing your body asks it to, and if that means lay about in a pile while visiting Europe, that’s just what you do. Because the more you answer its requests, the sooner you will get better. Be an ally to your body in this war my dear, instead of resenting it, and you’ll get through this a whole lot easier! *hug*

  30. Celynne responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 8:48 am #

    Oh and! About the ears and the plane… The first time I flew, the pain was incredibly intense both on ascent and descent. Then I found these special earplugs designed for while flying, they keep your eyes from popping, they deal with the pressure somehow but oh my goodness, life savers those things. I just found mine at Wal-Mart, I think they were called Ear-Planes haha…

  31. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Earplanes!! As usual, you guys are saving my life. I need to find these. Thank you so much for letting me know about them!

  32. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Can I just say: thank you for being weird in exactly the same way I am! My stomach also hurts a lot when I’m hungry. I honestly thought everyone was like that, until I asked Bear and his mom, and they were completely confused and I had to describe the sensation. And it’s exactly what you’re talking about. I brought snacks on the plane for that reason. I don’t know why I feel so happy that we’re alike in this way :-)

  33. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Thank you for these tips. I know someone else who takes the remedies you mentioned, and she swears by them. To her credit, I have never seen her sick!

    I am drinking so much water right now, I might float away. If I forget for a second, I check my email and there’s another message from my mom that says, “STAY HYDRATED.” :-)

  34. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 9:09 am #

    @Everyone who sent me a hug/well wishes

    HUGE HUG BACK!! I’m reading these comments in bed now, and they’re cheering me up so much.

  35. Amy responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Oh My Gosh, Kate! You are so hard on yourself! It makes me sad! It’s not your fault you got sick. Although, I do understand what you’re saying. My body does the same thing to me all the time. If I’m stressed-I get sick. If I’m excited-I get sick. Nervous-sick. You see the pattern. Tonight I’m leaving to go to Los Angeles for a week and I’ve been so proud of myself for staying calm, so that I wouldn’t get a fever. Then, I woke up this moring…SORE THROAT AND FEVER! WTF!

    People always suggest vitamins and excercise to me. But, for some reason I feel like my body would find a way to reject even the things that are supposed to be healthy for me.

    I hope you feel better seriously, but stop talking so negatively about yourself, girl! It’s going to be OK :-)

  36. Finnley responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Kate, have you heard of HSP? You sound like you could be. : )

  37. Jenie responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 10:24 am #

    Kate, I too have super sensitive ears when in flight. My boyfriend has actually introduced me to taking allergy medication like Claritin or Reactin before a flight. It really helps!

  38. Mandy responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Just finished asking The Powers That Be to heal you, and to keep you and Bear safe on your travels.
    And, please consider yourself hugged!
    I, also, have managed to catch a cold, or have serious menstrual cramps while travelling, or on a holiday. Fortunately, I also married a severely competent man, who puts up with and takes care of me when I feel miserable and whiny.
    So, a big hug to your wonderful husband Bear, as well!

  39. Suzy Marie responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Oh no! How dreadful, I really hope you feel better soon so that you can have some semblance of a holiday. (And for Bear too!)

  40. Alpana Trivedi responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Kate, I’ll say this. It looks so good on paper to be the “put-together, always confident, good-at-everything, can work through pain, doesn’t get sick” kind of person. And I’ve always admired people like that. The older I’m getting, I’m finding that it’s better to be authentic.

    Regarding your trip, I know you feel that your body “let you down,” but I know where you’re coming from. It’s one of those situations where you know you’re “supposed to have a good time,” because all that time and money was spent into it and then of course, for me, the guilt seeps in about “there are people living in POVERTY who’d LOVE to have the luxury of going on an exotic trip (or have the luxury of complaining, as they like to remind me).”

    After being in the Navy, I feel that I like the idea of adventure more than I like the adventure itself. The summer before my senior year of high school, I went on a camping trip for just a weekend, and I came home with bug bites after swimming in the lake. I don’t like outdoors, because I’m not in control. I mean, I love the idea of taking a long hike, “roughing it out” in cold weather (and I might be able to do any weather as long as it’s dry), but the truth is, I like being comfortable indoors with my books and coffee/cocoa.

    I don’t like that I’m not more resilient. Today my body let me down too. I have not thrown up due to seasickness this whole deployment. I even went off the seasick pills (I HATE taking pills). Well, after 10 days in Italy, I guess my body got used to being in port and the next thing you know, seas got VERY rough and……I threw up!!! I mean….it wasn’t supposed to happen to me!!! All this time, I was bragging about going off the seasick medication and it slapped me in the face.

  41. jiminy responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Hi Kate, Sorry to hear that it’s been such messy trip. It seems silly that you are only two hours away by train for once and there’sW nothing I can do to make it at least a bit the lovely experience it ought to be… If you want, get on a train and i’ll put the kettle on for some tea/grog/whatever helps. Antwerp is really close.
    What works for me about 90% of the time is the “there is no spoon” technique. I have been denying my body a good throat cold for about two months. Yet, in the 10% i don’t see it coming and therefore go doing things as if nothing were the matter, it’s a mess indeed… Hugs and… i’m serious, you know! :*

  42. Sheryl responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Kate, I’ve never known anyone to have as much trouble with ears and airplanes as me but it sounds like we’ve got a little club here. My ears will not pop, no matter was tricks I try (I’m going to have to look into the ear plugs I’ve seen recommended here), I end up in tears on takeoffs and landings because of it and like you I can’t hear for a day or two after.

    And most people look at me like I’m an idiot when I tell them that and say “chew some gum” or “hold your nose and blow” and think I’m making it up when they don’t work. Uuuuugh. Even worse, because of the non-popping ears I have a tendency to get ear infections after flying (which once spectacularly ruined a band trip to Disney World).

    It’s frustrating when it feels like your body is constantly betraying you and won’t do the things you ask of it. It almost discourages me from taking the best care of myself, because it’s even more frustrating when I’m doing everything “right” and then BOOM body attack.

  43. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Yes, “body attack”! Exactly. And forget the gum. It never helps.

  44. Alpana Trivedi responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    Hi, Kate. I’m back. They called us in the middle of my comment to go to a liberty brief. Anyway, let me send you an e-hug:

  45. Alpana Trivedi responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Also, I’ve noticed in modern society that there are many things we’re “supposed” to enjoy and then our brains/bodies let us down when we don’t. If you ask someone what he/she would do after winning the lottery and almost everyone says “Take a trip around the world” without stopping to think that even traveling from state to state on plane was hell to them. Don’t get me wrong. Change can be good. Trying something new can be awesome. And there’s nothing wrong with doing something challenging to expand your horizons, even if it turns out to be something you didn’t enjoy.

    But the best time I’ve opened up to trying new things is when I have someone with me who’s VERY patient and non-judgmental. No matter what I’m trying, I seem to NEED that babying and comforting and of course, sometimes I get that lecture of “you’re a grown-up now, act like it.” Or it’s a catch-22 when you complain after trying something new and don’t enjoy it and some smarty-pants decides to smugly say, “Well, no one FORCED you to go on that trip/climb that mountain/eat that new dish.” The same smarty-pants had probably been the one to make the comment about how “you’re so close-minded.” The pressure to have a good time, especially if you put time and money into something, is enormous. It’s almost like we’d enjoy ourselves a lot more and be more relaxed and authentic if we just say “You know what? This is just not my thing.” Or just to say “I don’t FEEL like being all peppy/cheery/positive. I’m just going to be authentic.”

  46. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Girl! I am so sorry about the seasickness! You can’t be a tough, resilient sailor all the time, though. Hell, I don’t even know how you do it in the first place.

    And I think you’re very insightful about the things that we’re supposed to enjoy, and how sometimes they conflict with the things our bodies like to do! And I think it’s OK to need to be babied sometimes. It’s just hard to admit. So I’m glad you’re admitting it!

  47. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Ugh, the computer ate my comment back to you! I was trying to say… I’d love to come visit you and drink tea, but right now I can’t seem to get my sorry self out of the door of this damn hotel room. Also, it’s raining outside. Does it have to rain everywhere I go on this trip? Bear says it’s clear skyed in London now. I’m clearly cursed. Which is another reason why you should have me visit. I might cause it to rain permanently in your neighborhood, or something :-)

  48. Joy responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    If I don’t get enough sleep I feel nauseous, headachey and plain cranky. And I get motion sick (though it might have gotten a bit better in the last couple of years, and I think those goofy “sea band” bracelets help). And god help anyone who has to be around me if I haven’t eaten in more than a few hours! But even with all its foibles, my body can still do some pretty awesome stuff, so I guess I can deal. :) Sorry you’re having such a not-fun trip, and I hope you feel better soon!

  49. Becky responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    I loved this post. It’s so hard sometimes when you know you’re supposed to be loving the hell out of something and, for whatever reason, you just aren’t able to.

    There were some instances you pointed out that I get too, and it was so awesome to see someone else actually express it out loud. They aren’t big deal things, just strange and annoying. When I get sick my skin is hypersensitive like yours – it’s like, I don’t even want clothes touching it. So yucky feeling. And the other is the necklace comment. Sometimes I cannot stand pressure on my neck – it completely skeeves me out for some reason. Other times it’s no big deal at all.

    And I used to get (and occasionally still get) stomachaches ALL the time. Nervous, upset, excited … bring on the stomachache.

    Oh, and another fun one. I get rashes from everything because my skin is so sensitive. A couple of weeks ago I got laser therapy for spider veins. For the healing process I had to use Neosporin. Would you believe the damn Neosporin ointment gave me a rash on my legs!? So now I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to treat burns (from the laser) and a rash at the same time. So flipping frustrating. I even got a rash on my face my for my first college drama club audition because I was so nervous. Totally humiliating. Needless to say, I didn’t get the part.

    So there. You can be sure that you’re not alone in the annoyingly sensitive body department.Thanks for sharing and I hope your trip improves for both you and your husband.

    Oh, and one more thing. I’m so sorry you had such a crap experience in yoga. You should never be made to feel that way. I go to yoga classes at a local gym and, no matter what, the teachers are always respectful to the students (even the ones who struggle).

  50. Malisa responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Wah, wah. You got sick on your European vacation w. your rich, hedgefund husand. My heart bleeds for you. Man the fuck up.

  51. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    it sure sounds like it does!
    Are we really still thinking that Europe means “rich people”?

  52. Diana D responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    How awful to be ill while you’re traveling. I hope you feel better soon!!

  53. Lora responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 2:35 pm #


    You wrote:

    “This body that is not made for modern times. Or any times, at all. God, imagine me as a peasant. Wouldn’t have made it through the winter. Any winter. Pick a winter.”

    I feel you, sister! I have often said that if it weren’t for modern medicine, I would have been dead by the age of four.

    - get sick at the drop of a hat (colds, sinus trouble, flu-like symptoms)
    - have asthma/am allergic to all sorts of things (cats! dogs! ragweed! timothy grass! dust mites!)
    - get severe eczema flare-ups at the drop of a hat (my fiance’s mother’s scented laundry detergent = ugly horrid nightmare) and also get contact dermatitis so easily (beach vacations can easily take a turn toward the “good God!”)
    - have scoliosis, which makes standing for long periods of time painful and difficult
    - am *blessed* with chronic urinary tract infections

    My body and I are working on a truce…but yeah. I hear you. Blech.

  54. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    @San D
    I always wanted to at least be one of those people, like you, who can stave it off. Who can somehow keep going and then be sick, finally, at home. Maybe that comes with lots of responsibility? Like you were describing with your students. My mom is like that. She just keeps going. Whereas I am, obviously, wimpy :-)

  55. Malisa responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    @ Kate. Yes, we are. Most people do not have the privilige of a $1K flight or the ability to flit off w. their husband whenever. Some people have to work jobs w. limited vacation that don’t allow this kind of travel. Some people actually have to work at jobs, period. Europe is out of reach for a lot of the population. Acknowledge your obvious privilige. You are naive if you think everybody can afford to go to Europe.

  56. Alpana Trivedi responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Malisa, you are so hard-nosed and unsympathetic. You’re the reason Kate writes about stuff like this. Of COURSE she acknowledges that some people don’t have that luxury. I pointed that out earlier too. But when you HAVE privileges and the luxury of time/money, how should you spend it? On simple things or stuff that you “should” be doing but don’t really enjoy?

    And nobody likes to be told to “man up.” You missed the whole point of this blog.

  57. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    This is not a conversation about privilege, and you’re being really rude, and oddly judgmental right now. Are you angry at me for being sick while being able to be in Europe? I feel extremely lucky and thankful to have the opportunity to be here. I feel frustrated to be wasting it. That’s what my post is about. You seem to have missed that.

    Yes, most people have to work at jobs. Obviously. I work, too. I am a writer, which allows me to have a more flexible schedule than a lot of people. Another thing I am extremely thankful about.

    You don’t know how much my flight cost. And it’s not naivete, it’s experience that tells me that people who aren’t rich go to Europe. Students travel. Artists travel. Lots of people find lots of ways to travel. I’m sure you must know that. I’m sure you must know people who are not rich and have managed to fly across the world. Are they doing it all the time? Of course not! My mom waited for decades to get to go to Europe, but she got there! Another reason I feel really lucky (and also sad about the stupid sickness).

    But that’s really not the point. The point is, you’re angry at me, because I’m privileged. But I don’t think putting a disclaimer at the top of my post that says “I AM SO PRIVILEGED AND LUCKY TO BE IN EUROPE” is the answer. I think you will still be angry.

  58. Kate responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Just saw this. Aw, thanks!

  59. KG responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    Hi Kate,
    I really enjoy your blog, and I just wanted to second the idea of another commenter above. There’s a psychologist who writes about “the highly sensitive person,” those of us who can get a bit overwhelmed (both physically and emotionally) by stimuli. We tend to need a bit more downtime and need to take extra care of ourselves. But, we tend to be extra creative and intuitive, so that’s a plus. At any rate, her books and website have helped me a lot. Google The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. Feel better!

  60. Alpana Trivedi responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Kate, I’m in France right now. And most people would tell me “You’re lucky. Not everyone gets to see France for free.” Well, this is what happened. After we pulled in, I asked a couple of potential buddies (we can’t go out on our own; a whole different rant) if they planned on going out. They said no, because they were beat after all that rocking of the ship and seasickness. I was beat too, but I didn’t want to stay on the goddamn ship. So I got in my civilian clothes and thought, okay, I’ll just use this free time to call my mom from the office phone. Well, the moment I walked into my goddamn office, my operations officer (who has NO life and didn’t go out either) asked me what was up with my equipment (all the rocking had made it go haywire and I had robooted it, but it still wasn’t doing what it should). Anyway, my original plan was to work on it tomorrow (since I have duty and will be stuck on the ship anyway). But since it’s MY equipment, he wanted me to do something now and I’m thinking “I just came in here to call my mom, not be put to work.”

    But I’m sure some would say “You’re SO lucky to visit France.” Not if I don’t get to see it and have to rely on other people to go out. But that’s MY privileged rant for the day (since I’m SO lucky to have a job while everybody else is starving).

  61. Madeline responded on 18 Apr 2012 at 1:11 am #

    Take good care of yourself, Kate and I hope you’re feeling 100% better soon. Being sick while traveling is awful. If you sit next to another sick looking person on your flight back, you can ask to get your seat changed! It could work. I am very sensitive too and try to steer clear of obviously sick people in public places, but unfortunately sometimes you end up exposed…

    Sending you good healing thoughts!

  62. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 18 Apr 2012 at 9:27 am #

    because sometimes walls turn into boomerangs…whatever you throw out there, will come back to you! :) hope you’re having fun today!

  63. notemily responded on 18 Apr 2012 at 11:49 am #

    YES, I relate to this. I sometimes refer to myself as having a “delicate constitution” because it sounds better than “a body that falls apart at the slightest provocation.” I get tired VERY easily, and I always feel like a wimp and a party pooper when I’m out with people and after one activity I need a nap, while my friends are still going strong. I need a lot of recharging time. I also feel like crap when I lose sleep. (You’re not alone or weird there–scientifically, we don’t know much about sleep, but what we do know is it’s closely linked to immune function.) I have a fucked-up digestive system that can’t handle a lot of things without sending me into the severe pain of an IBS attack. I have allergies that flare up at random times for no discernible reason. I get cramps, and if I’m not on the pill, I get DISABLING cramps. And sometimes I just feel like crap, all over, for no reason that I can identify. I just have to wait for it to go away.

    About the vacation thing, though–I heard some advice a long time ago that helped me with vacations. You have to assume that things will go wrong. If you go into a vacation expecting it to be all fun and the best vacation ever, you’re going to be disappointed. Travel means delays and inconveniences, that’s just the way it works. So if you make some mental space for things to go wrong, it’s easier to take a deep breath when they do and say Okay, I knew this would happen, and it’s not the end of the world. *Jedi hugs* Feel better soon.

  64. Layla responded on 18 Apr 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Mine is exactly the same. I have asthma, and while that in itself is well controlled, my immune system as a result is ridiculously bad. I catch everything. If I don’t get enough sleep for 2 or 3 days in a row I get ill with sore throats. It’s pathetic. I had a yellow fever vaccination and was really ill with it, while my grandma in her 70s had the same thing and was fine. It really frustrates me and makes me angry because I miss fun things all the time.

  65. Emily responded on 18 Apr 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    I can totally relate. I get so tired that I slept from 6pm to 8am one night last week and it wasn’t because I had been sleep deprived either. Some days I get this unknown thing where my whole body is randomly exhausted and I feel feverish even though I’m not. I always use up my 8 sick days plus a lot of my vacation days being sick. One of my doctor’s used to insist this is depression but it’s not, I’m actually very happy most of the time! So frustrating. As are the people who suggest I should change my diet or exercise more or that I’m “sleeping too much.” And I feel guilty about being unproductive and then I know stress makes it worse, and then I’m stressed about being stressed…

  66. Mandy responded on 18 Apr 2012 at 4:24 pm #


    I’m assuming at least one of your doctors was smart enough to check your thyroid function…

    Don’t feel guilty for being “unproductive!” It’s much better to listen to your body and give it what it needs, when it needs it–you’ll go back to being healthy much faster than if you try to work when you are sick or exhausted. It took me a couple of decades to figure that out, so be glad you’re at the front of the learning curve.

  67. Dana responded on 18 Apr 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Blech. I’m sorry. Being sick when you wanted to be doing something fun and exciting SUCKS. But sometimes it’s nice to be sick when you’re traveling if you’re willing to drop your other plans — no work, no obligations, you get nice clean hotel room sheets and room service if you like… :) You don’t have your usual house and usual life attacking your brain being like, “The bathroom is dirty! Clean it! The bills need paying! Pay them! CLEAN ALL THE THINGS! Why are you being such a lazy schmuck?!”

    I drove 15 hours straight, alone, to visit my girlfriend for a week over fall break when she was in college. Precious six or seven days, right? Well, we both came down with swine flu (first her, then me) and spent most of the time bringing each other tea and crackers and reading books out loud. It was a different kind of romantic and close than we were expecting…

    I also had a couple of weeks that went like this: go to dance festival and get no sleep, get high fever and aches and sore throat, work hard despite illness, travel on a train for two days with fever and aches and sore throat, sit at conference with fever and aches and sore throat, travel back on train with less fever and aches and sore throat but an aching tooth, get home, discover tooth is infected, have emergency wisdom tooth surgery, spend a week with gauze in mouth eating pureed stuff and taking antibiotics. :(

    Oh well — the secret to getting through is remembering that it is what it is, it’s just life, it happens, no worries, and life is still good no matter if plans have changed . . . plus whatever remedy (or remedies) makes you feel better.

  68. S responded on 18 Apr 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    The best thing for ears that I have found is Mucinex. It thins the goo and lets it flow. It is meant for coughs, I think, but I take it for sinus headaches and the like. Hope you feel better!

  69. Kate responded on 19 Apr 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Seriously, what is with bodies betraying us exactly when we need them to behave the most? Like…wedding days. And honeymoon. Because mine totally turned on me for both. I guess this is all a “good” lesson in flexibility. And, in some weird way, forgiving yourself. Because it’s a lot easier to beat yourself up about what you could have done differently to bubble wrap your immune system? Ridiculous, I know, but that’s what I was doing too. In the end, I had a blast at the wedding, burning throat and no voice regardless. I even managed to get through Ireland – damp, blustery Ireland, go figure – and managed to come home not with memories of blowing my nose and coughing up half a lung (ok, those are still sort of fresh) but of the road tripping and castles and live music and great food that I could sort of taste. I’d like to think that’s what will stick with me. And I think you’ll get there too. Even if it’s not exactly or even sort of what you expected, you’ll get good things out of it.

  70. Kate responded on 19 Apr 2012 at 9:49 am #

    I hear you loud and clear.
    Did you see my wedding post? http://www.eatthedamncake.com/2010/10/21/wedding/
    I threw up on my wedding night.
    Good for you for getting through it all! It’s the rest of your life that counts, anyway :-) My honeymoon was seriously lame. And also awesome, because, well, we were married!
    And I’m finding that actually it’s pretty cool just BEING in a different place, even if I don’t get to fully experience it. So I think you’re right.

  71. Eat the Damn Cake » terrible news: you might have been a loner responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 10:32 am #

    [...] To the commenters who recommended “ear planes” to me, when I was sick and traveling last week and my ears were being destroyed by being on a plane, THANK YOU. I found some, in Amsterdam, and [...]

  72. Rebecca responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Hyper-Sensitive Bodies Unite!!!

    I haaaaaaaaate that I can’t eat at *any* restaurant without getting sick or bloated,
    that I’m allergic to soy,
    that I can hear music from someone’s headphones ACROSS THE OFFICE,
    my eyes perpetually get fuzz stuck in them,
    if I sleep just slightly wrong, I will have back and shoulder pain for weeks, etc, etc, etc.

    It’s like the volume on my body is just turned up too high.

    I wish I came with a mute button.

  73. Eat the Damn Cake » win anything you want from eShakti! (a giveaway) responded on 22 May 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    [...] Note: You have to be in the US or Canada (I KNOW, I know, readers from the rest of the world! I’m sorry! I care about you guys a lot! One of you even kept me company in Amsterdam when I was finally feeling better) [...]