I love getting sick.
It is one of my favourite pastimes.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t like getting seriously sick. But when it’s a cold or even the flu – when it’s something manageable – I take it as my body’s way of telling me to slow down. I’m doing too much and I need to stop. I love my body for telling me what to do and for putting me in my place. Not feeling well also has the unintended consequence of limiting how much I feel like eating, which forces me on a diet I could otherwise not maintain =).
Getting sick also provides a guilt-free way of getting out of commitments – everything from class to work to social engagements that you really want to go to but really shouldn’t – because your health needs to come first. If we don’t have our health, we cannot achieve all of the things that we hope to achieve in life, so I appreciate my body taking me hostage and making me rest.
Falling ill also means being taken care of like a baby again. Unfortunately, that trick only works when there are people who can actually be here to coddle me like a child…
It can be rewarding when you can successfully take care of yourself. Whether that’s the effects of Tylenol, rest, and orange juice when I have a cold; the effects of physio and hot yoga on my knees; or the general effects of diet and exercise on my cholesterol levels, I respond well to tangible results of my efforts to prioritize my health. It’s satisfying to be able to practice what I may preach as a potential future doctor, and it’s nice to know that I can take care of at least one patient.
Most importantly, not feeling well forces us to think about the underlying cause. For me, the underlying cause is usually stress, both because stress creates an unnecessary burden on the immune system and because stress leads to the loss of priorities like eating well, sleeping sufficiently, keeping in touch with loved ones, and exercising regularly. Obviously, the stress for me right now comes in the form of moving, and it means that I need to be realistic about what I can and cannot achieve in the short couple of weeks before I leave, and make action steps to achieve what I can. Once I write out all the tiny steps leading up to a big step, like moving, I try to completely forget about all the steps until Google Calendar sends me a friendly reminder that it’s presently time to deal with this bite-sized, manageable piece of the step. Planning to de-stress is the only way that I can.
Often, life keeps us busy, and our health becomes one of our last priorities. It is not until something happens to us that we take a look at how roughly we’ve been treating ourselves, and decidedly make a change.
When I had to get physio for my knees, I started doing hot yoga to make them stronger. When I found out I have high familial cholesterol, I eventually lost 20 pounds over the course of a year based on diet and exercise. When I found knots in my left rhomboid, I started noticing all of the right-handed things that I do (like using a mouse) and tried to alter habits so that I am less biased in terms of muscle use (such as by brushing my teeth with my left hand). Although these issues can be treated, treatment cannot compare to the effects of prevention.
My knees will always be so weak that I cannot run for an extended period of time, my high cholesterol has likely done its damage on my retinas and other parts of my body, and the knots in my left shoulder will need to be dealt with for at least a while.
Unfortunately, too often we wait until we get burned before we even realize that there is a problem, and I’ve been burned one too many times. There are some things in life we do not want to wait to see the consequences of before making a change. When one is addicted to nicotine, catches a sexually transmitted infection, develops clinical depression, finds knots in one’s shoulder, or realizes that existing relationships are not as strong as they used to be, one may find that the consequences of our decisions and actions (or lack thereof) may not have been worth the thrill of the risk, or the comfort of neglect, after all…