I've had the flu for the first time this past week, and what a hellish ride that has been. Thank goodness, after seven days, I feel like my old self again. Well just about- I still get strangely lightheaded at times, as if my brain has turned into a fluffy cloud. The Illness forced my life to stop for a week, and now that it's over, I don't really know what to do. It's alarming how easily the "essence" of an individual can be taken away.
When I was younger, books written from the point of view of a young female Holocaust survivor always captured my attention. I loved reading about an ordinary yet brave girl hiding out with her family, helping to hide other Jews, and somehow, she survived to tell her story. However, I didn't understand why all the captives became so resigned to their dehumanizing circumstances. I knew that politically they were powerless to escape the concentration camps, but why couldn't they band together for comfort and inspiration and tell stories or something to stay happy? I felt they were proving the Nazis right by becoming such lifeless, colorless, non-humans. I hated their living deadness.
That way of thinking shows a naive lack of understanding about the power of psychological and emotional tactics designed to strip people of their souls.
I can't say that I would have survived had I been a Jewish girl during that time period, when just getting The Flu caused me to lose three quarters of my personality along with all of my strength. I lost my ability to think clearly, my emotions were jumbled, I couldn't do anything except lie in bed. To make things worse, my joints felt inflamed and swollen (a sign that the body is fighting off the sickness) so that even lying on my back was excrutiating.
It was such a helpless feeling; I was just a shell of myself and there wasn't a bloody thing I could do to change, to pull myself back up. I just did not have the strength. This was the first time where I actually looked sick too: pale sallow skin, tired watery eyes, chapped lips, limp hair. I hated being around others. I just wanted to hide away until I started feeling more alive.
It made me realize that the way I look is determined not so much by my features, but by my energy, my personality - curiousity and humor, obstinance and defiance. Take those things away, and I can hardly recognize myself. Torture and suffering (along with similar haircuts and uniforms) erased all the individuality from the faces of the concentration camp victims too.
During my sickeness, I kept thinking "this must be how a really old person feels, only they have no hope of recovery except through death." What a lovely thought. I can't wait for 2050.
Conclusion: physical well being can be strongly related to mental and emotional health, and can affect one's personality. Bodies are relatively fragile and will progressively grow weaker with age. (Scary that my personality depends to some degree on the condition of my body.)
But to leave you with a more cheery conclusion, since we are more often healthy than not, and since we do still have a nice long period of youth ahead of us, we oughta make sure we use it well. ...How do we do that?
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