When I was a child, my mother told me about how strong of a child I was.
“I breastfed you for 2 years! That’s why your immune system is strong and you never get sick lah.”
The mindset that my body is “naturally resistant” against germs and even common diseases in children makes me care less about my body, let alone my health.
Whenever I get a bit of flu or headache, I don’t bother going to the doctor. I don’t do regular medical check-ups. I’ve only been to the hospital to visit a sick relative or get a vaccine. Even when I fell and bruised my knee severely, I just treated it with generic medicines I have at home. It hurt, but I tried to ignore it, thinking that it will heal itself. It did, but it took weeks.
I was basically cocky about my immune system.
Well, thanks to my immune army, I get to try so many dishes from many different countries which consist of so many random ingredients without getting hospitalized afterwards. In fact, I never paid attention to how or where my food is coming from. I just feel like eating something delicious or challenging (like fried bats, yes I’ve tried it and it didn’t taste so bad!)
However, it turns out that my immune system is not a sort of renewable energy like sunlight. It’s more like forests. If we cut down on trees without growing back new trees, the land will completely be clear of trees. If I constantly sacrifice my immune army without training new ones, I’ll be out of immunity army!
The first time I got hospitalized for actually being sick, I felt like my immune army betrayed me. I got dengue fever at the time and my blood pressure sunk. It was one of those fevers that if it had gone too far, you might actually die. Like, die. For real.
For the first time, I had to seriously fight for my life. I was forced to drink 2 litres of red yeast rice my mom told me to, just so my blood wouldn’t drop. If it keeps dropping to a seriously low level, the person could… well, pass.
I just hated that I need to put so much effort into my health where for years I’ve convinced myself that I could slide effortlessly past diseases.
Unfortunately, the experience was only enough to get me disappointed. I still couldn’t care less about my body. I kept eating recklessly, forgot to wash my hands before I eat and even exposed myself to extreme temperatures without much protection.
I finally realized that my immune system cannot fight everything. They have limits and they need to be recovered regularly (after wars with so many germs and viruses I expose myself to).
It started when I began living independently. I was less supervised by my mom and get more takeouts than homemade foods.
One Saturday morning, my body gave in. My stomach, to be exact. I had serious stomach twists and diarrhoea which led to a hot fever. I’ve had diarrhoea before and fevers, but never to the point where I feel like all the liquids in my body is drained and I couldn’t move. I didn’t get out of my room for a whole day. I only managed to eat two apples even though I was hungry because those are the only foods I have left in my room and I didn’t have the energy to go out.
Since then, my body keeps being prone to external things I stuff myself with (foods, beers, even generic medicines) and the environment I’m exposed to. I always suffer a painful headache after a long day of outdoor activity under the direct sun. I have food constipation from street foods (I’ve eaten a fried bat before and was fine with it!) and a sore throat from certain drinks.
Thinking that my immune army could take any threat was a mistake. I just wish I had known my body better, especially about what it’s capable of and what it needs. I realize now how important my body is to keep me going on and about; being a good daughter, a loyal friend, a useful employee and maybe create small miracles for strangers. Point is, I wish I cared about my body so I didn’t have to learn the hard way of how crucial it is.