My back hurts. My face is… full. I’ve lost my appetite (which never happens. No, like, actually never).
I have the goddamn flu and no one cares nearly as much as they should.
It’s been widely described as the worst flu season in years, and if you haven’t been struck down yourself in the last few weeks, it’s likely you know someone who has. And while we’re all aware of the flu-ey symptoms that form the backdrop of every winter, this year I’ve noticed something different: mood.
While I’ve been sick, I’ve also felt more miserable than I have in years. I want to cry all the time. I don’t want to leave the house, I’m sleeping all hours of the day, and there’s absolutely nothing I can think of doing that would give me joy.
At first, I was genuinely worried. And scared. My mental health was taking a deep dive and I felt like I wasn’t able to do anything about it.
But after speaking with family and friends, I discovered something interesting – feeling seriously, seriously down when you’re sick with the flu (and even for the period immediately after) is fairly common. And there’s a fascinating reason for it.
I spoke to Dr Brad McKay, an experienced family doctor, about what he witnesses in his patients, and why the flu seems to have such a profound impact on people’s moods.
"I frequently have patients coming to the clinic not only suffering from influenza, but also feeling incredibly depressed," he said. "Fortunately in most cases, once they start to feel physically better, their mood returns to normal after a few more days."
There's actually physiological reason for feeling depressed when you have the flu.
"Influenza viruses are identified by your immune system which stimulates white cells to start producing inflammatory proteins called cytokines," McKay explained. "Cytokines help fight off infection but also make you feel terrible in the process."