How Will You Handle Being Sick?
Yesterday, as I was experiencing my first cold of the season, I had a difficult time admitting I was ill. The symptoms were all there: intense nasal congestion, watery eyes, sinus pressure, but it wasn’t until this evening I let myself say it: I. am. sick. Ugh, I thought, I hate being sick! I eat so many veggies! I exercise all the time! How can this be? I don’t deserve this! My self-loathing goes on and on, but I won't make you suffer.
My behavior has made me reconsider the way I’m treating my oh-so-slight illness. How can I possibly tell patients to be careful about how they think about illness, if I am not viewing it with optimistic eyes? Why should I tell patients that admitting their diseases exist can be therapeutic, if I am in denial? How can I tell patients (who have curable maladies) that the way they view their disease is intimately connected with how (and if) they heal, if I myself turn into a blubbering baby each time my immune system flairs up?
It’s natural to get sick when the weather cools. It’s logical to have diabetes when you consistently overeat. It makes sense that you’re cholesterol is high when you eat saturate fats and never exercise. If you symbolize illness as a punishment forced upon you by some ominous third hand, it’s almost impossible to take control. If you look at the body's response, instead, as a red flag, the results will be different. For me, instead of despair I will use this as a chance to prepare for the winter ahead. My immune system is strengthening and this cold (and the antibodies that will form because of it) may prevent me from a more serious illness later on. I'm grateful.
What will your illness do for you?