I’m sure there has been much written on the effect of physical illness on mental illness and vice versa, but having been unwell (albeit not seriously) for a few days now, I’ve been noticing how much my mental health declines when I am under the weather. For some reason, everything else spirals out of control when I’m ill, a tsunami effect over which I feel I have no power.
When I’m physically ill, even if it’s just an annoying lingering cold and rattling cough (like now) or a sickness bug which will no doubt be short and not so sweet, I begin to catastrophise for some strange reason. Everything else in my life seems shit and I can’t see the wood for the trees. Strange behaviour I know, and a tad dramatic.
Wherefore art thou bigger picture?
Now I know us women are meant to soldier on regardless; no matter how many times our pelvic floors let us down upon a forceful cough or unexpected sneeze we are supposed to rally and keep the troops moving on through. But if that is the case then I am a useless ill woman, undeserving of a coveted place in female martyrdom. When I am ill I am pretty pathetic; life grinds to a halt and I just want to sleep the days away until the inevitable return to health dawns and I can begin life again. Then I am like a butterfly emerging into glorious Spring sunshine, smelling the glorious fresh air as if for the first time, with a spring in every bouncing step and the wind in my sails!
This might sound like I’m being sarcastic, but it’s actually how I feel when I get over any illness, however small. Even worse though, is that I seem to inflict this sense of stiltedness on my children also when they aren’t well. Right now my youngest has chickenpox, an obligatory and innocuous illness I know, but still bloody fucking annoying! And so life has stopped again, and amidst the constant itching and moaning, sleepless nights and douses of calamine lotion, and the desperate plight for childcare (thank you dad!), nothing can proceed as planned.
So, why all the drama?
I’m not sure why I act like this when myself or the kids are ill, and I’m ashamed to admit that when the husband is ill I am less than sympathetic; he should just get on with things of course, it being just a simple cold/cough/violent bout of food poisoning. I’m also aware that every day many people suffer through much worse and probably complain less than I do. But I think for some reason I have a pathological fear of illness, which is wholly out of proportion to the short-lived and harmless nature of most everyday ailments.
I’m not a hypochondriac as such, as neither myself nor the kids go to the doctors very much; nor do I necessarily think we are dying at the first sign of unexpected snot. My mind just can’t seem to handle illness and almost shuts down, like it can’t process the fact that everything is still ok, and as Buddha says this too shall pass. It worries me that I’m not getting any better at being ill or seeing illness as I get older, like I’m still a child who thinks any ill health is a harbinger of impending doom. I hope one day I might grow up in this respect though, although I’ll not agree that women should be expected to soldier on throughout illness. Women haven’t even been allowed to be soldiers for very long after all!