Illness affects most of us at one point or another, whether it's from an allergy a cold, or having to stay in bed for months — if not years — on end. I was in the latter category, having being diagnosed with M.E. (commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS) when I was 18. Spending so much time in bed gave me a lot of time to think, and I’ve definitely learned a lot from this experience.
Now that I've been CFS-free for three years, I often think about all the time I spent in bed. I used to hate being stuck there; I felt like I was wasting my life and missing out. I was in the same spot, staring at the same four walls, with the same thoughts I had yesterday.
But every cloud has a silver lining. Although being ill in bed is incredibly frustrating, here are a few things to remember while you recover:
1. Don’t feel guilty for one moment.
By taking the day off sick, you're prioritizing your health and well-being. Give yourself a huge pat on the back. When I first started working full time, there was no way I would take a day off for anything. I thought that by dragging myself in when I was on death’s door, I was doing my colleagues a favor. It turns out that I really wasn’t, as not taking that single day off actually meant eventually taking another four days off because I was so sick. Prioritize your health and you’ll feel glad you did it further down the line.
2. Let other people help you.
This was a big one for me. People would volunteer to do my shopping for me when I was ill or run me to the doctor’s office. But in my complete haze of stubbornness, I was determined to do everything on my own. The last thing I wanted was for people to know I was ill.
Let others help you if they offer. You get no extra points for being a martyr. You’ll be doing others a service by accepting their help — people just want to know you’re OK.
3. Take each day at a time.
I know this is incredibly difficult, especially if you have a chronic illness. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is incredibly difficult when you have no idea how long the tunnel is. The only way you can do this by living in the moment. This term often gets thrown around a lot, but trust me, after years in bed, reliving the past or throwing yourself into the future is not giving your body what it needs.
4. Don’t push yourself.
If you have CFS or a chronic illness, you’ll hate those words, but this goes for anyone who's had to take time off sick with the flu. Even if you think that going out for a run will make you feel better, tune in to your body and listen to it. Are you really going to feel better after running, or do you really need to just rest up? The little energy that you do have is for your body to repair itself. Your body can’t do its job if you’re completely ignoring it and pushing it. It took me years to learn this lesson once and for all.
5. Enjoy your recovery.
I know, I know — you feel awful and I’m telling you to enjoy yourself. Crazy, right?! I don’t mean throw a wild party; I’m just talking about really sinking into your recovery. When I work with clients, this is the main thing that gets them. They feel guilty for enjoying a DVD or for diving under the duvet with a book and not surfacing for a few days.
Stop the guilt. Your mind sends signals to your body that cause stress and therefore really hinder your recovery. You want to lie in your pajamas all day? Do it! Slap on a face mask? Go for it! But whatever you do, do it with your whole heart and really enjoy it. As soon as you feel guilty, all of your good healing work goes to waste.
Do you feel guilty when you’re ill? I’d love to hear your comments below.