How strep throat reminded me I overwork myself

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This past Friday, I was diagnosed with strep throat. This could not have happened at a worse time.

On a Wednesday night after practice, I had just begun to realize that my throat was extremely sore; however, having gone through the whole night yelling without a microphone, I just thought the sensitivity was an effect of overuse. So, I went through that night expecting relief in a few hours. Spoiler alert: it didn’t come.

The next morning I awoke and realized my throat screamed in agony every time I attempted to swallow. Red flags went up in my head when I remembered back to a few months ago, when I felt similar pain and was diagnosed with strep. I refused to believe I could get infected with the same illness in just a few short months. So, I went to school, went to practice, did my homework, and was hoping that it was just a cold and I would be back to normal in a few days. I did, however, express my concern to my mother, who insisted I go to the doctor the next day. I had a sinking feeling that the appointment would have a negative outcome, but I swallowed my complaints and listened to her anyway.

The next day during my lunch period, I left school to get my throat swabbed (0/10 do not recommend) and waited anxiously for the results. When the doctor came in to tell me my results, I immediately knew that he was the bearer of bad news. He told me I was a “faint positive” for strep, and I would have to be put on antibiotics immediately.

As I heard the word “faint,” I became hopeful that I may not become bedridden and quarantined, but instead be allowed to pretty much go about things as normal. It was a very busy time of my life AP exams, extra homework, weekend practices, not to mention the small tasks I would pick up along the way in order to help those around me not drown in their own responsibilities. However, my dreams were crushed when the doctor saw my hopeful face and told me bluntly that I would need to stay home from school for the remainder of the day, as well as skip out on practice for the night. This news was like a boulder being dropped on my shoulders while my ankles were already weighted– stress, on top of stress, on top of stress.

I was not pleased, to say the least.

Yet, I still managed to make it to practice that night. I also still managed to do most of my schoolwork that I had missed out on in the comfort of my own home. Not to mention, during the weekend I would manage to go to a practice exam session, as well as compete in a weekend event that I was required to attend. I was thrilled with how normal I felt. My parents and those around me, however, were urging me every waking minute to go home and go to bed. I, of course, being an all-knowing teenager, ignored them.

While my actions of ignoring my parent’s advice hasn’t had any detrimental effects on me yet, this experience has opened my eyes as to how much I truly overwork myself.

When I am ill, I still expect to do the same amount of work I always do, because who else will do it? My workload is probably what got me sick in the first place, given I had been running on less than five hours of sleep a night and pure determination for a majority of the week.

I have recently learned that I need to prioritize and teach myself that it’s okay to say no– I can’t do everything for everyone. Regardless of if I am ill or well, my ability to take on responsibilities should be based on my ability to do so, not anyone else’s.

While I may not truly learn this lesson for awhile, maybe not even ever, I do know that I will take into consideration how I can very easily overwork myself. My diagnosis could not have come at a worse time, nor a better one– I may not have needed the stress of being sick at such a busy time, but I needed the gentle reminder that I need to take care of myself before overworking myself into oblivion.

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