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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Being sick ...

I always think that it is good for nurses and other health care providers to experience pain, illness, physical weakness, despair. Humans have a remarkable ability to forget what existing in these states feels like; how eternal, solid, and all-encompassing pain, illness, and despair appear to be when you are in the crucible. Well, like most things that are ‘good for us,’ we would rather accept them in theory rather than in practice …

Last week found me recovering from a visitation of what would appear to have been H1N1. For a few days there, I found myself isolated in a crucible of fever, pain and flu. A very few days compared to the chronic illness crucible that so many others find themselves living within.

Your thinking changes when you are caught within that crucible, no matter how short term it is, for when you are in the crucible, time stands still.

Little things you take for granted: quick leaps of energy to do simple acts of life; appetite; flashes of fun, desire, laughter, all are moved beyond your current reality. Prayer takes on a different, more grim, dimension. Priorities change. People become more—and less—important. ‘To do’ lists lose their power over you, as do the powers and principles that rule the world: bill paying and moving money become an insignificant, easily forgotten chore. Water. Water is precious as is the ability to drink it and to keep it down. Food is simplified. A simple soup tolerated by a fickle GI system is appreciated like sushi is celebrated during times of reckless health. Silence is beyond precious. Air. Coughing fits, ‘bubble and squeak’ lungs, thickened airways impart moments of dis-ease and near anxiety; fatigue related to air hunger as coughing takes over the night.

I must admit, I am no hero when I am ill. This time was no different. I did not want to ‘live in the present moment.’

I prayed for the uncomfortable present moment to be gone and the blissful healthy future to emerge, shattering the crucible with joy, zest and normalcy. I wanted to feel good by virtue of feeling healthy. Still, I do want to honor the lessons of illness and have these memories fuel gratitude and thanksgiving as I move back to health and routine.

What are these lessons? I do think the shift in priorities that occurs while in the crucible is a lesson worth keeping. Finding joy in simple things. Laughing at the ‘less than hero’ within myself … all good lessons!

Keep well!

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