Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Art of Illness, A Consideration for the Chronically Ill During Flu Season- Admonishing Ableist Mindsets, and Convalescing

I love watching the light bounce off my sun decor in my room. It's one of my favourite views upon waking. I'm always stunned at how decor plays a part in my inspiration and helping me appreciate small moments. It also helps when I am sick. It's the small things. I have been run down with a bad cold and coconut oil has also been a soothing companion after my many nose clearing showers. It has helped my lips and face feel less cracked. If I have to be sick, I know I'm in the lap of luxury in my home. 

Being sick has come with a few reminders about the art of illness and considerations for those in our path. Our culture is not a warm one for ill people. We think we are indispensable and so are our children so we send them to school, hours after (or worse- during!), sickness. We thoughtlessly expose people with different immunities and issues. (for a
A docs suggestion of timelines CLICK )
The process behind this mentality is far reaching into facets of ableism and culturally accepted false beliefs on strength versus weakness, bravery versus cowardice, ability versus disability and most of all our own belief in our indispensability and worth. Yes, we are worth a lot individually but we are also replaceable for a time period of healing.

 I have been hit hard by this simple cold and it has been a reminder to me that my boundaries on having people over if they've been sick or exposed to people recently sick (within a two week mark) is not extreme. It was my lack of diligence that brought me here and yes sometimes sickness just happens but I know how I got this one. It's on me. Years ago, each time our children came home from hanging with one segment of their cousins we would inevitably be sick. Pretty much every time, we ended up sick within a week of hanging out. There was always a runny nose, a tummy bug or an intense cough. Because the family belief was that if you are sick, it's just part of community life and eventually you will get over it, thus spending time with people matters more. But what about the other people? Do they seriously want sickness? Is that truly community or is it simply believing in one's own worth a little much? What about the immune comprimised?

Maybe for some that truly is a form of love, but if you hold to that, be willing to support those you get sick when they come down with the same bug. If it's about community truly, then one would hope you are making meals for them or cleaning their home or taking care of their children because of the illness you passed on. There actually IS responsibility that comes with contagious conditions. Responsibility we trivialize as a culture.

Can school be caught up on at home? Is your child really that important to the team? Maybe it's important they learn how to play without them? Do you need to attend that function? Yes the child may be disappointed on missing that party, but there could be other children at that party who will suffer deeply for your choice. Your child also learns to respect others and make sacrifices for health by staying home. They can make up another moment when they are well.

 I'm sure most people can get by without you and you can make it up to them another time. For myself, this week alone I cancelled four appointments that WERE important. One was even a specialist appointment that took months to get in, but waiting an additional month will not kill us in this case, so I tossed it. Because I should be staying home, not passing my germs into the world, and building health to the best of my ability, so I can once again be my normal. I also can not be a caregiver to those in need, due to many factors including my body composite, so I make sure I come with fair warnings, considerate asking, and informing so that a person chooses what they can handle because I know I will not be holding their hair over the toilet bowl.

Contagions matter. People who are chronically ill are not contagious but when they come down with something that is, they follow these rules generally, because they know what it is like to suffer and be sick...and how an extra bug can take someone down quickly.

 People with chronic illness, cancers or different daily diseases are hit harder and sometimes have life threatening complications from bugs that may only run normal immune systems down. The bugs are no fun for anyone, but for most normal immunities they are simply the "common cold or flu." But speaking for all those who have different bodies and may not be as vocal as I am...If you know a person with a daily disease, cancer, extra health complications and chronic conditions and you actually love them, be extra careful when you have been exposed to something. Show up in other ways and wait the two weeks out. It sucks but it's infinitely better then sending your friend or family member to the hospital. 

Those of us who have chronic conditions need to be stronger in our boundaries. We want to get together sooner rather than later, so we say, "It should be fine." Sometimes this is true, but most times if we can, we should wait it out. If my cold gets much worse (and thus far I think it's only an aggressive cold) I will have to go get oxygen and IV. Not because I'm a baby but because already I am low on oxygen, dehydrated and my cell size is a quarter of what they are supposed to be so my body doesn't do this well. I'm staying in bed and drinking water and vitamin C all day. When I get up my heart pounds and it hurts (a common symptom of low ferritin and cardiac arrest is a possibility) but it's under more stress trying to breathe and recover. It's not that sufferers are trying to be pains or attention seekers... in fact generally we go out of our way to seem less high maintenance but the truth is that we have different bodies so we also need different rules of living. It's actually ableist of us to view ourselves as capable as everyone else. We are capable but it shows up differently.  It's also ableist of those that love us to ignore this difference.

Ableism also applies to mental differences as well. It's huge in the disability and disease community. Most people aren't even aware of the term ableism. Exposing ableism is the current human rights movement.  Ableism is just as ingrained as prejudiced mindsets. A small example is that often we view those who don't get ill as strong and that they are doing something " right" and we view those that are sick as making bad choices or wrong. Basically it's discrimination in favour of able bodied people. I know a gal who can't do a lot of things or speak on her own - she requires 24/7 care but she can type and her blog is one of the most beautiful things I have read. The perspectives she owns are because of her unique condition. To read more on ableism click HERE.

I wrote a post last winter about the Art of Convalescing and Intentionally Engaging in Hygge (CLICK) Hygge is a Danish concept that our family tries to practice. Our Christmas Eve day is also based on the cozy, winter idea. I highly encourage you to click on the links in the cited post and learn about convalescing and Hygge. 

We have generally forgotten how to be a patient. Patient literally means to wait it out. Convalescing is about honouring the body during illness. We push ourselves and threaten our communities by exposing ourselves too early when we are recovering. It is important that we learn how to be sick properly. That we take time to rest and honour the vessels we travel through life with. If everyone actually stayed home and convalesced for the appropriate time, the sicknesses that circulate around would probably be cut in less than half. In general, the time we would take for our children and ourselves would pay off with less days of suffering in the end. Not only that but if we believe in any aspect of hospitality or grace, the concepts should extend to how we conduct our bodies when sick and how we expose others. Our choices with small illness, the common cold, flu bugs and stomach bugs affect lives. I know sometimes after a long illness we just want to get out. If that is the case, go for a walk in nature where people are not exposed to you. Don't go to the local bookstore for a break after your child just threw up on you. Find respectful ways to both yourself and those around you to find respite. At the very least, give those you love the option of hanging out and warning before hand, and if they choose to still hang out- that is on them. The consideration is key. Individuals in families may decide to take care of each other despite illness and that is something to applaud. They may risk a bug for someone else and as long as they are taking care of themselves in the mean time and not exposing others in the process, this is commendable. The choice aspect and for warning are crucial. It's a completely different story to sacrifice oneself for another if one is able.

I'm thankful to those who know the rules in my life to keep me healthy and give me the choice to hang out despite the illness or to gently put the option in the future. The pre warning when our children play is huge. Playdates can always be postponed. Friendships can carry on at a later date. Many events we think are so important can often wait while we or others recover. That is the ultimate consideration. The consideration of time and individuality.  Give yourself grace and nourishment and extend that hospitality to others. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/3189364/Learning-the-lost-art-of-convalescence.html)
I don't actually have a song that comes to mind currently. My brain is fuzzy from illness, however I do have a new christmas song I love this year by Kacey Musgraves for a listen:


Ashe said...

Ugh, colds. When I get one, I end up living off of hot tea with cinnamon and honey, and menthol like Vick's Vapor Rub and cough drops. That "nipple butter" for breastfeeding mothers also does wonders for your lips and nose. I usually apply it at bed time so my head feels a bit better when I wake up in the morning.

Hope you get well soon, Miss Kmarie.

S said...

I have just read the telegraph.co.uk article. I went through the exact same emotions and phases like the writer herself.It was a long journey for me. It is very important to take rest and take time out to listen to the needs of our body and soul. Many people do not understand this and they want us to lead "normal" lives. Over a period of time, I had to draw boundaries with those who "demand" too much of my time. I can't give myself to others. I simply can't. Moreover, my concept of beauty,home, happiness is different from others. So, I feel best when I am rested and when I am doing things that I love and not when I am doing things that the whole world loves. Sometimes, giving too much also leads to stress particularly for those people who are more sensitive and more prone to stress. I had to find ways to stop giving myself emotionally to a lot of people. I save those emotions for myself and a few near ones. I like Scandinavian countries exactly because of this reason. They are more individualist and know how to have fun and relax in a cosy manner. Other countries are more competitive and achievement oriented. To each his own, but for me, I have found a place finally where I need to be myself and listen to my inner voice more. I hope your recovery period is peaceful and the transition from this phase to the next phase is gentle.

Kmarie A. said...

Ashe: Yes to tea!!! and Cinnamon. I am ridiculously purest when it comes to my body so I don't even have vicks or tylonal but sometimes I think I really need to be less stringent and maybe I would suffer less...so last night I actually took tylonal because the fever was a little high and the nose was on fire:) I love the nipple butter idea...I forgot about that stuff...I think its called Lanolin or something? I have been using pure organic aloe vera without alcohol in my nose and around it and for the first time, despite a 7 day cold, my skin is not chapped or dry! Really works well but the key is that it is pure aloe with only one natural preservative...most aloes that say 100 percent have alcohol which would dry it out...Great idea! thanks:)

S: Yes sometimes health is a long journey. I think its tough to be chronically ill and then also have an additional bug...talk about being wiped! Listening to ones inner voice is key. Some need to have less down time and some more. Thank you for wishing me both peace and gentleness which are lovely concepts. I hope that is the case:)