Monday, March 10, 2014

What Being Sick Taught Me

I don't often feel bad. I mean, I don't often feel bad physically. Emotionally? Ha! That is a different story. Sigh. But I am not one to get sick very often. Oh, for years I would get the annual cold but sinus irrigations and antibiotics and treatments of all sorts were just not part of my life.

Somehow though, the older I get, the easier it seems to catch whatever is out there. Last October I turned 50 and this winter I have managed to be sick more often than not. It may have something to do with my own miniature, adorable, live-in germ factory (at 20 months she is learning to share . . . at least share her germs . . . well), but whatever the cause, I have been sick. A lot.

(When doing research on what decreases the immune system, I could come up with only one culprit that is really an issue for me, and interestingly, it's the first reason on every list I read: Stress. Bwahahahaha!)

This last bout of illness was the worst. The flu. For you people out there who wonder if you have the flu, well, based on my experience, if have to wonder, then you don't have it. It is like having to decide if you were just hit by a tricycle or an 18-wheel semi.

I used to actually LIKE getting sick. Especially as a mom. Getting sick, especially REALLY sick, was a Get Out of Jail Free card. A mini vacation of sorts. Guilt free. When I had my hysterectomy back in 2007, people asked me about it. Was it bad? Heavens, no! IV morphine and the History channel? Fantastic!

But I digress. This year has been different. When I haven't been sick—and I must add that some of my bouts have been mostly of the common cold variety—I just haven't felt good. And because of the string of cold upon cold, mixed in with the stomach bug and then topped off with the flu, I have grown ever so weary of just not feeling good.

I hate it. I hate feeling physically weak. It makes me feel useless. It makes me feel worthless. It makes me feel vulnerable. It makes me feel like there is an entire world going around out there and people going on with their lives and it is all passing me by.

I don't understand why God does things. I still try to figure that out even though experience has shown that that is a useless pursuit. But one thing that I have gained through the past few months is a greater empathy, admiration, and respect for my friends who suffer physically with chronic illness.

We live in a world that idolizes physical health. We are told that we can write our ticket. That by exercising the right amount and eating the right foods and taking the right supplements or avoiding the right (or wrong) chemicals, we can be guaranteed a long and healthy life. We are told, sometimes by inference and sometimes outright, that if we are sick or if we suffer from some chronic medical condition, well that is our own damn fault. (Excuse the language but somehow it is fitting.) And that is a lie from the pit of hell.

Before you get all funkied up about what I just said, yes, it is true that a healthy lifestyle can prevent a number of diseases but GOODNESS, PEOPLE, we don't have THAT much control and it is time we admit it. Quit being so arrogant as to assume that your health guru has the truth or that because your health regimen works for you, it will be the savior of somebody else. There is so much we don't know and acting like we do doesn't help anybody, least of all those who suffer and who have to wade through all prescriptions and recommendations and treatment options for themselves.

Dang it! I digressed again. What I am trying to say is that I now have a glimpse (and I understand that it is only a glimpse) of what my suffering friends face on a daily basis. And I want to say to those friends . . . you people out there with lupus and Crohn's and various other autoimmune diseases and cancer and diabetes and debilitating back pain and all those other conditions that are too many to name . . . I respect you more now, and more than you know. You are not weak to me, you are strong.

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