I don’t like feeling weak or low energy or dependent on others. I don’t like to limit who I can see or where I can go or what I can do. I don’t like taking pills, and I avoid doctors and hospitals as much as possible. Most of my life I have been strong and healthy, so when I get sick, I usually try to just ignore it, or work through it, or get over it as fast as I can.
If I can’t do that, I tend to mope and complain, and generally act as a whiny, negative, grumpy patient.
I feel sorry for those who have to live around me or care for me.
(…and worse, I’m not much better caring for others. Let’s just say that mercy and compassion don’t come out very high on my strengths lists!) Ask my family!
However, as I thought about it this weekend, laying in bed, unable to do much else, I realized that over the years being sick has been useful in my life.
Being sick teaches me empathy for others who are ill, sometimes chronically or seriously. I have experienced – maybe just a little – of the pain, limitations, and frustrations that they have. I am less likely to criticize or judge because I can relate to what they are going through.
Being sick reminds me that rest is good occasionally – not lazy, coach potato, bring-me-a-beer-honey, all-the-time-rest, but regular, reflective, restorative, away-from-the-routine, Sabbath-kind of rest… A few minutes a day, a day per week, a more extended time each month and each year does a person good.
Being sick helps me build healthy, reciprocal, interdependent, it’s-ok-to-ask-for-help kinds of relationships. I tend to be very independent and self-sufficient… And if I wasn’t weak now and then, I would lose out on the important character building elements of vulnerability, honesty, and need for others in my life.
I learn to better care for others by experiencing care from others. Since care isn’t my strong point, I’m not always confident about what to offer or what to do or what to say. As others do thoughtful things for me… run errands, bring food, or send a card, I get tips and ideas of how I can help others. When I am smart, I mentally file away those things to use later!
I have also grown to have a lot of respect and appreciation for those who are care-givers. I’ve been blessed a few times in my life by doctors, nurses, family and friends who did an incredible job when I, or someone I love, needed special care. Their work is so important and their willing, servant attitudes, add a ray of sunshine to a gloomy day.
So, honestly, I still don’t like being sick…. Who does? At least I can I handle it a little better when I can see some good in it… and that turns out better for everyone involved!
How do you handle being sick?