A Tickle in My Throat



It started out as a cold. Just a little, normal, boring cold – nothing to interfere with my normal day-to-day existence. My throat was quite sore, so I went and got a quick test to rule out strep. Doctor’s opinion? I had a cold. It would work itself out. (The cold was quickly attacked with every remedy known to science and voodoo.)

A few days passed, and the cold abated for the most part, leaving behind a tiny irritation in my throat. A “tickle” if you will. You’ve had one before – an itch way back where you can’t reach. The tickle has taken up residency precisely on a spot in my throat that triggers a cough reflex.

That itch. That infernal little tickle. I found myself clearing my throat constantly. I would be standing next to someone at work and I would clear my throat without realizing it. The conversation was repeated frequently.



“What what?”

“You cleared your throat…”

“I did?”

“Yes. Did you want to tell me something?”

“No. Didn’t realize it.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure – don’t mind me.”

The irritating throat-clearing was soon accompanied by a tickle-induced cough. The cough was not productive, other than giving people I live and associate with fears of contracting Ebola.

The coughing got more frequent, and more intense. It began making people around me uncomfortable. It began making me feel guilty for being around them. What started out as a mere tickle had become a larger problem that quickly became a major focus.

Cough syrup helped a little, but the tickle was still there, tickling. Cough drops, lemon drops, a variety of gargles, and even essential oils could do nothing to quell what had become a nasty cough.

Wednesday afternoon, I was in my office with the door shut. I had closed myself away so as not to bother others with my tickle, and so I could cough in peace without being judged. It was about 3:00pm where I had a coughing fit that surpassed all the others I had experienced: I coughed so hard that I gagged and almost threw up – then I coughed again. The coughing attack was so violent that I felt something go “twang” in my neck – and it hurt.

I went home and iced my neck, hit it with ibuprofen, and went to bed. My tickle was now impacting my work, and my sleep. I laid awake at night feeling the tickle – focusing on it, and trying to deny it the cough that it was trying to wheedle out of me, because every cough would send me through the roof.

8:00am found me standing outside, bleary-eyed, waiting for the Urgent Care doors to open. I had been up most of the night and was in pain from whatever had happened in my throat. I explained it all the details to the doctor, and was examined. Apparently, during my coughing fit, I had damaged a muscle that supports my larynx, and that’s where the pain was coming from.

And I still have a bit of a cold. The doc told me I would still need to clear my lungs. I was aghast, as this was code for “keep coughing.” I was doing everything in my power to not cough – to the detriment of my lungs. So now my little tickle had me in a Catch 22 – to get rid of the tickle, I would eventually have to cough – which at this time required pressure against the outside my neck, and post-coughing ice-packs. I will neither confirm nor deny that when the doctor had me “breath in and out” that I was reduced to a sobbing little baby, when it triggered a coughing fit. Yes, the torn muscle will heal, but “it might take some time.”

In the meantime, I have discovered that other than coughing, two things cause me the most pain: Swallowing food, and talking. Two of my favorite things. Another tiny victory for the tickle.

The doctor did help with the symptoms. I was told to take Mucinex, and given a prescription for a pretty strong narcotic to ease the pain, and to suppress the cough. It does its job, but at a cost. I can’t drive when I’m not the stuff, and I find myself a little goofy.

Yesterday I had to work a full day, and it felt like I had to do everything twice. My job requires attention to detail – and if you have ever thought that I have typo problems here on the blog, you should have seen my work product yesterday! Now the dadgummed tickle was effecting my livelihood.

(Did I mention that the narcotics make me feel goofy? For example, I am tying this at 4:30am because I can’t sleep. I’m not coughing, but the tickle is still there…waiting.)

I missed the ward Halloween party last night for the first time ever. I didn’t want to be around church people either buzzed or coughing, so I stayed home. So what did I do instead? I got cranky. I felt weird, and sore, and a little bit sorry for myself. And who got the great pleasure of dealing with such an attitude? My sweet EC. Yes, now the infernal tickle was negatively impacting the single most important relationship in my life.

Midnight found me apologizing to her for some things I said, and my attitude, as I took another pain pill.

I woke up way too early this morning – not because of the tickle, or because of the cough, or even because of the narcotics. I’m up because I needed to write this down. Not because I have a tickle in my throat, but because of where this tickle has lead me, and what it has done, and what it has caused me to ask myself:

• What seemly little “tickles” do I have in my mind and heart that have the potential to ruin my life?

• Do I have an issue, a disagreement, a doubt, a grudge, or an unresolved sin that sits there and festers, and itches?

• Does that “tickle” have the potential to derail my work, sleep, family, or kill my faith?

• Has it already caused collateral damage?

• Do I lie awake at night, obsessing about the tickle?

We often talk about “that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6) but, just as importantly, we need to recognize that it works both ways – small and simple things, unresolved, can lead to our personal ruin.

MMM logo small




About the author


  1. Way to take a bad situation and turn it into a teaching / learning experience! Well done. And I hope you’re on the mend now.

  2. My husband has a tickle due to some nerve damage. (He frequently has such severe coughing fits that it frightens people who don’t know him.) Hope you have a quick recovery because it is really not fun!

  3. Love the anaology…… if I was a pintrest person, I’d pin this for future talk or lesson references. The “tickle” is the worst ever, and sorry about your neck. There’s an analogy in there too, I feel it.

  4. Sounds like you’ve got a new “worst Halloween ever”. So sorry that you aren’t feeling well, and I hope the tickle, and all the collateral damage it caused get fixed soon. Nice analogy. 🙂

  5. True story. I’m reading (again) Covey’s “The Divine Center” – he delineates a similar idea. That which we focus on, gives us our center, our power, our gratification. IF it is worthy (Christ alone) it will suffice and bring us joy and success, if it is not (Worthy to BE the center – Anything or anyone else but Christ) – it will bring unrest in some area. Your ‘tickle’ has become your enemy. I also relate on another level, and I’ll try and NOT make you sleep in terror. . . I’ve been coughing like this for two years. It won’t go away, it won’t abate, and no matter what the doctorS say, nothing seems to find the cure or reason. I just cough. I have phlegm in the back of my throat and as they said, “post nasal drip” that won’t cease with any medication no matter how strong. Some of which have caused muscle atrophy. SO. . . I clear my throat, apologize to my voice students when something comes out impossibly squeaky, from time to time completely lose it (The voice) – and apologize often for throat clearing and coughing with the caveat that it isn’t contagieous.

    I figure in there somewhere is a lesson, but I’ve stopped going to the Dr, stopped trying to focus on it, and just continue to live with one more physical ‘irritation’. I hope yours goes away soon. If you find something out, let me know!


  6. Just hate it when you are miserable and acquaintances start “one-upping” you with their historical ailments? Last time I had a persistent nagging cough (12+ weeks) it turned out to be cardiac dysfunction, causing my lungs to start filling. I hate the meds, but…

  7. I’m so sorry for your tickle in the throat. I hope you feel better soon. Thanks for the lesson though. I love how I always find answers that I didn’t even realize I was looking for!

  8. I LOVED this post. I have waded through the muddle of a nasty virus this week, and I have been a combo of drugged or irritable, or both. Then I was hit between the eyes with the point of your post……lots of food for thought. A BIG thank you for both your post and a reminder to pay attention to those pernicious things that can ultimately bring us down if we are not aware. Here’s to your speedily arriving good health!

  9. Twenty-one years ago (1993) I was in the throws of a full-blown cold with a horrible sore throat. My EC had no pity. There was a honey-do that needed to be done to the insulation in the attic, and it was up to me to do it. I put on a dust mask and went up. Forty-five minutes later, the job was done and I came down and the throat was no longer sore. Since that time I have kept a dust mask around for when I get a cold or flu, and as a result I have not had a sore throat for more than a half hour for the last twenty-one years. The neat thing is that it also works on a cough, although not quite as well. The bad side effect is that until you get used to it ( 5-10 minutes) you feel as though you are suffocating.

  10. AuntSue
    Oh it is true, there is always someone worse off than me. I feel for you, that pain must be terrible. If we had a chance to change circumstances with anyone else, we would look them all over and pick up our own. Hope you feel better soon. I need your wisom to help balance my perspective.

  11. Oh, I am sorry for your terrible plight. I was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s last May, and what you said about not being able to talk or eat (two of your favorite things) has become my daily fate. I go to bed, and sleep pretty soundly, and then wake up and the nightmare starts all over again when I eat or talk. We should be so grateful for our daily blessings. Who knew that one day I would be struggling to do the most basic of things done from early childhood.
    God bless you, I do enjoy your wonderful blog.

  12. I get the feeling you’re slightly goofy already, so the the thought of meds making you even more goofy is making my mind boggle with delight.

    You sound sick, grumpy, and in pain. I’m so sorry, and hope you feel better soon. This, too, shall pass. Hopefully quickly. I do hope tonight brings you a full, restful night of sleep. That always helps somehow.

    Thoughtful questions making me go “Hmmmm”.

  13. Russ, I’m a long-time editor as well and I noticed the same errors. But dang it — MMM was sermonizing on his “tickle” — he’s SOOO good at finding analogies in the least and in the most of his life’s experiences. I truly enjoyed his post. And the errors just emphasize what he was saying about his performance in his workplace.

    And Moise, the EC bit? Good grief!

    MMM, I got it! I, too, have “tickles” that cause insomnia — unresolved “small and simples” as well as the “big and baddies”! Here’s to the resolution, conducted in the proper way, of all our tickles, thumps and thunders. And I appreciate your ruminating post, composed in the dead of night for our contemplation and enlightenment.

    Please get well,
    Spooky Friday huggies,
    Scurrying to Catch Up

    1. Yeah, my second comment is a bit confusing without the one that preceded it. I was happily reading along, someone whose words I often admire and take to heart, someone whose words bring comfort when my testimony feels a little shaky, and I happened upon this sentence “Cough drops, lemon drops, a variety of gargles, and even essential oils could do nothing to quell what had become a nasty cough.” And my honest response was “Essential oils?! MMM, really?! Come on, man. That stuff is snake oil!” I kept reading, enjoyed his message, and posted a link poking fun at EO, and then came back to wish him well, and note that despite being distracted the EO bit, take the message to heart. He didn’t approve the snark (which is fine; his blog, his rules) and I, because apparently can’t let anything go has to point it out, and now I look like I’m criticizing WAY more than I intended.

      It was a little bit like when you meet someone new and having a great time, and think you’re totally clicking and then find out they collect Pokemon cards as an adult or something. Major side eye. This is far beyond the realm of distracting that I meant to do. Sorry.

      1. Funny that. I feel the same way about oils as you do. I was just trying to help make it so that the comments had something to do with the oat, rather than turn into a battle over essential oils.

  14. Your stories are like comfort TV, like Ozzie and Harriet, or Leave it to Beaver. Great stories with a moral to the story at the end. I miss those great old TV shows, but you are a wonderful replacement. You’re like putting on a warm sweater on a cold day. I hope you feel better soon. You make me feel better immediately.

  15. I really enjoy all of your postings, and have been very happy I discovered your blog. Your analogy here is excellent and gives me pause to think carefully along the line of your questions. You mentioned making typos. As a long-time magazine editor my old proof-reading habits seem to always be in play, and since you brought it up, I found seven cases where you made either a typo or the wrong choice of words. There’s an old rule in the field of writing – never proof your own material. Perhaps your EC could help. Mine does a lot of proof-reading for my writings. I don’t mean to reduce the merit of your comments by seemingly being picky-picky; just a thought. I hope you’ll soon be free of the tickle and its damage.

      1. I appreciate your perspective. Since you said you were a detail person, I just thought I’d point out what I did. Keep up the good work. I can also overlook the typos in favor of the content. End of comments.

        1. Russ: I do appreciate the feedback, but this mornings post was written in a Percocet haze, without being proofread. I was just happy to get it typed up. (Very low bar here)

  16. Sounds familiar. Mine turned into Bronchitis…the cough I still have, not as severe. Will be one year this coming December. Beautiful analogy. Get well soon. Happy Halloween 🙂

  17. Geeeeeez. Sorry you aren’t feeling well. I just said a prayer for you, so be expectin’ things to be on the up!! 🙂

  18. You’re not going to publish my comment poking fun of EO? Apparently a neck spasm and a head cold are enough to rob you of your sense of humor. I really really hope you feel better soon.

      1. It’s a lovely post with a great message. It’s just a little distracting knowing that you are not feeling well and the affect it is having on your life. I KNOW everything you described, and maybe I am a sissy, but to me.. that…really….bites!

        I hope you are able to get some rest this weekend. After all.. “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t gotten anything.” -Princess Bride (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUKO_Y6RqEk)

        Hope your Halloween is happy, despite.. xo

  19. I remember in 8th grade we had to write an essay based on the poem that started with “For want of a nail”. I don’t remember the rest , but the jist of it was that the small things really do matter in our lives and if we don’t take care of those things, then the big things will really cause us grief. The nail in the poem was for a horseshoe that somehow caused a chain reaction that was very difficult to handle. So, take care of the tickle, get some rest, and maybe BYU will play better tomorrow. Now there is a case of needing to take care of little things so they don’t snowball!

  20. I can make you a mean hot toddy for your throat. It won’t make you better instantly. But you’ll feel so much better. 🙂

  21. Also, I got distracted after the EO bit so I am going to try and take your message to heart. Feel better soon.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)

%d bloggers like this: