I hate getting sick. I hate the ache at the base of my neck that never seems to go away. I hate spending so much time sleeping or functioning at less than my best simply because my head is pounding and my eyes hurt or I can’t breathe properly, or my stomach is turning over, or…
I was a sickly child, and as an adult, I get sick fairly often. I don’t have a chronic illness, there’s no one thing that I can point to and say “Here. This is what’s broken.” Instead, there’s just a laundry list of little things that seem to crop up over and over again. It’s rarely enough to have me entirely out of commission for more than a day – I don’t have a disease, like I said. I’m just prone to picking up issues.
I’ve said that I wish I could simply trade my body in for a new one. I don’t feel like that too often, Alhamdulilah. I don’t really feel like I have a body, often. Perhaps that’s a subconscious effort to dissociate from what can feel like a broken shell for me. Perhaps I’m simply absent-minded.
I don’t have a good relationship with my body, for various reasons. I don’t feel much attachment to it. This is the form my soul has been encased in, not much more. At least, that’s how I’m prone to think of it. I don’t believe that’s normal. It certainly isn’t the truth. My body is a part of me, no matter that it’s not my favourite part of me.
The hardest thing for me is to lose control, and the illusion of control over my body is shattered when I get sick. I haven’t chosen to be ill and yet, I am. It’s a sign that I am never going to be able to have things exactly as I like and want them, because life simply doesn’t work that way.
Uncertainty is an unavoidable part of our lives, but this particular truth is one that I’ve tried not to look too hard at. It’s strange… When I look outward at the lack of control I have, when events don’t go as I want them to or I don’t get what I want, it feels like a comforting reminder of the truth of my existence; that we are all at Allah’s mercy and only by that mercy does good happen to us.
When I look inward, I just feel uncomfortable and powerless. It’s hard for me to admit to being sick, now. I’ve been conditioned to expecting probing questions and disbelief, because how can I be sick again? I just was sick, after all. There’s no real reason for it, and perhaps it’s simply that I’m looking to shirk work.
Some variation of those thoughts are what I was up against when I was still in school and while that has changed – no one can really doubt me (out loud, at least) when I still take myself to work despite being sick.
I feel impatient with myself though, and sometimes that manifests as me refusing to go to a doctor or take medication and leaving my immune system to handle things by itself. It makes absolutely no sense to do that. Medication helps, when I let it. Doctors do too, perhaps not always, but when they can figure out what’s wrong, they’re great.
Still. I’d rather not. Despite knowing that I’ll take longer to recover without medication, I’d rather not take it.
The only reason I’m writing about all this is because I’ve recently been what I would have previously called burnt out, but I’ve continued to work. I pared down as much as I could, and then I kept working. And I did not get better until I finally gave in and took some sick leave.
I have allergies, I’m high-strung and I carry tension in my neck. I’m often tired and want nothing more than to lay somewhere quiet. I’ve been ignoring all these things and pretending they’ll go away. Some of that is because we’ve somehow created a ridiculous mindset that by going to work when you’re ill, by not listening to your body and pushing on even though you’re getting all the signals that you need to stop, you’re showing yourself to be loyal and committed.
I don’t know how widespread this mistaken belief is, but I do know that when I got sick right after I’d gotten my job, I was warned not to take sick leave. I know people who pride themselves on having never taken a sick day. I was at a school where children often came in sick and spent the day miserable and basically just sleeping at their desks for the day. Those children were praised for their commitment and good work ethic.
It makes me wonder that we praise the visibility of a body in a space, even if that body is unable to function and the person clearly needs to be in bed, recovering.
I really hate getting sick, and I hate talking about it even more, and that’s just not okay.