7 Things to Remember When We’re Sick

Don’t let anyone tell you that there is no shame in being sick. That’s simply not true. We may feel sadness, sympathy, empathy, or hurt for those who are dealing with illness. When it comes to ourselves being sick, we are not usually as kind. These past two weeks, I was reminded of the shame that can come from being sick and the importance of taking care of ourselves.

As a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator, I’m obviously a fan of Dr. Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame. I understand that there is an underbelly of shame that we can contend with in most experiences. As a therapist, I know that there are times in my life where I am faced with a crossroads where I have to practice what I preach. We all have lessons that we learn in our lives, and things that we value. I love the work that I do. Since becoming a therapist, I have always valued working hard and helping those who need help.

However, I also know that there are lessons in my life that say “you should work hard, no matter what.” The “no matter what” has even included illness.

Over the past two weeks, I was reminded of the shame that can come from being sick. There was no doubt that the best thing for me was to rest and get better. Despite this, I felt ashamed of contacting clients to tell them that I needed this time. This made me aware of the comparison that we often do when we’re sick. We can tell ourselves that others would be able to push themselves through, and that this would be better or stronger.

At the same time, I would never judge someone else as harshly. I would respect that they need the time to rest and feel better. That inspired me to come up with these following seven lessons about self-care and being sick.

  1. We need rest, and that makes us question ourselves. There is only one treatment for any type of illness. This is rest. However, it’s natural to wonder how others would handle a similar situation. The key here is to recognize when that comparison process is beginning.
  2. All bodies and minds respond differently to illness. People handle pain, fevers, and nausea in different ways. This is why comparison to others is unfair. It’s important to remind yourself that how you feel is real.
  3. Some people will judge you. The sad truth is that everyone isn’t always understanding about illness. Some will one-up your struggle. Others will downplay the symptoms that you’re contending with. Regardless, it’s important to ground yourself to the importance of the reality of your needs.
  4. Know what lessons you learned about work and perceived strength. We link meaning to how we handle illness. How we feel about it is based in what we learned about it. Understanding these lessons can help to make that difficult decision to take the time that is needed.
  5. It’s hard to let people support you. There are people who are willing to offer you support, and encourage you to take care of yourself. Utilize them. Tell them that you need them to remind you of the need to take care of yourself.
  6. There is vulnerability in being sick. Taking the time that you need adds risk to your life. You might alienate people. Your supervisor might be one of the people who judges you. Or it could be your co-workers who judge you. This doesn’t erase the need to take care of yourself, and it doesn’t erase the risk either. Be sure to have those grounding forces at home and at work to remind you to care for yourself.
  7. Find some subtle pleasures. There can be some small, yet significant things that can make you feel just a little better. This means that you’ll have to look for them. They’re not going to stand out and be easily identified. These small things might be a feeling, something funny, a deep breath, etc.

The last two weeks have reminded me that being sick is tough. But taking care of yourself when you’re sick is even tougher. Doing the right thing for yourself doesn’t always feel right. In fact, it usually feels uneasy. As I gratefully feel better while writing this, I also remember the importance of taking the time to rest, make appointments, and identify my own needs. Along with this, I am humbled for my clients, and how difficult it is to take care of yourself when it counts the most.

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