I’ve been sick for the last few weeks. Now, it hasn’t been some debilitating, deathly ailment that has left me functionally inept or incapable. Rather, the attack was more lingering in nature, most ruthless during my hours of sleep. A deep cough, lung hacking, nose running a stream of gunk, sore throat, you know, general grossness. This hasn’t made training any easier or work any more enjoyable. But, being a bit of a stubborn girl, I pursued both activities with the hope of quickly shaking the demons attacking my body.
Unfortunately, the recovery hasn’t been as rapid as hoped for. That said, the symptoms have changed, not necessarily for the better. The mucous still remains, everywhere, but the throat is no longer scratchy. The coughs aren’t as frequent but they still are throaty and sound like an old man hacking. I find a greater degree of ‘fuzziness’, especially at night as I fall into my slumber. I initially thought had become allergic to our household cat who I’ve caught snoozing on my bed during the day. I would sneeze throughout the night, my eyes would feel like a million eyelashes had fallen into my eyeballs. Sniffling, scratching, coughing, sneezing; my night snooze turned into a disharmonious orchestra.
Feeling pretty defeated I just accepted my body was having some trouble shaking off a persistent germ…until I refilled my bottle. Let me explain: I sleep with a drink bottle beside my bed. During the night, I wake up quite a few times and need to sip some water or electrolyte to ensure I’ll be hydrated during my morning training session. Recently I have started using a new bottle after my last one split. I don’t always empty the bottle before refilling it, oftentimes placing it in the fridge upon waking and topping it up before bed.
As I went to refill the bottle before heading back to bed a few nights ago, I noticed some darkening around the lid. As the bottle was a semi translucent red, the darkness stood out. As I rubbed my finger around the edge, I recoiled in horror as a sticky, sludgy layer became attached to my finger pad – EWWWW, MOULD ATTACK!
Now I’m no biologist, but I don’t think one has to be in order to identify mould. I was being poisoned! I raced to my laptop and good old Mr. Google confirmed my suspicions, the mould was causing the sneezing, itchy eyes and potentially, the delay in recovering from my cold. The bottle is now somewhere deep in the recesses of the local dump and my symptoms, I am elated to announce, have abated.
This experience did however, spark an interest in how exactly mould survive, and more so, how they effect their host. Once again, according to my friend Mr. Google, mould is actually a fungi, the single cellular version being a yeast. Sure, they may spoil our foods, cause massive discomfort when they appear between our toes (ewww), and spoil our nasal passage with their musty smell, but these guys are actually quite important. They are used in food production (think cheese and breads), help decompose dead matter and allow for antibiotic creation. It is the type of mould and our interaction with it that determines their utility.
My mouldy friend was not a helpful creature The spores released attacked my lungs, aggravated my eyes and generally made me feel like walking death. I was however impressed by the potency of these minute organism, their grand influence. It reminded me of some people in our lives, those that we find to be toxic, harmful, mouldy.
Whilst we are able to choose who we invite into our social circle, oftentimes we compromise our freedom of selection. The reasons are many fold; we don’t want to ruin our connection with mutual friends, there are family ties, we just don’t have the ‘balls’ to say goodbye. These mouldy people are tricky. They grow in the dense, damp underground of our sadness, our personal woes. They become empowered by our losses and thrive when we decline. We feel their effects, subtle initially, and attributable to a host of other causes. The spores are released and soon we are trapped in a symptomatic cycle of sneezing, sniffling, coughing – physical disarray. We can only hope to have an ‘aha’ moment, to identify the mouldy people that were secretly concealing themselves in our drink bottle, the item that we believed was bringing us nutritional value. We must act swiftly, sanatise the germs, or better yet, throw away the infested material – we must cut the ties.
When it comes to these relationships, this surely is easier said than done, but nonetheless it is necessary. When debilitated with poison, we cannot be there for others and in our diseased state, we compromise our holistic utility. We may feel mean by no longer communicating with these mouldy people, for declining their invites, and saying no when they repetitively call on never returned favours. What we must realise is that we owe ourselves the respect to say no, to value our persona enough to break away from the slavery of obligation. This is not a case of being mean, it is self affirming activity. To appreciate and love oneself is the road to helping and loving others. When afflicted with a mouldy infection, we cannot propagate health and positively influence others.
So I invite you friends, if something feels ‘infected’, if you just can’t shake that cold, reflect on your surroundings and clean your ‘bottle’. You may be surprised to find what is festering below the lid.