Illness

I have a healthy body. Apart from a few, minor, chronic issues that have hung around from the occasional, previous illnesses I have endured (none serious), or that are a result of simply living my life and ageing, I enjoy good, physical health. Sometimes I see others come down with an apparently endless stream of minor ailments that seem to demand attention and medication, and catch myself thinking that they are making an unnecessary fuss. With a more robust attitude, they could push through the discomfort without intervention and allow their bodies to heal naturally. I catch myself being unsympathetically smug and self righteous; sometimes I realise that I have a very unpleasant person inside me, lurking in the shadows. I cannot know of other’s needs or how they are feeling.

A week or so ago my youngest son developed a cold. He was feeling a bit achy and tired but kept going and didn’t fuss unduly; my kids know better than to expect much sympathy for such things. Inevitably, I picked up the virus. It settled in my sinuses and caused discomfort but was, quite simply, a cold. No need to talk about it or stop normal activities. I expected my son to continue with school and I was determined that I could continue with my routine.

Except I couldn’t seem to shake it off. The sniffles and the achiness developed into chills and sweats; headaches and nausea ensued. I was feeling very unwell so decided to give myself a break and have a day of rest to allow my body to heal. I snuggled down under a duvet to read my book and catch up with blog posts.

Is it the time of year or can we catch stuff off the internet? It seemed that every other blogger I follow was suffering from some sort of illness, most of them considerably more serious than mine. And a lot of these women have little kids to look after. Sure, I still had to get up in the morning to see that my family started their day as they should, I had to put a meal on the table each evening, but for a lot of the time I can properly rest. These other mothers had no such luxury.

Every last one of the writers sharing their thoughts was feeling seriously under the weather, and guilty as hell for not being able to keep going. There was no fussing or indulgence going on here. They had been physically floored yet felt that they should be trying to drag their bodies through their working day for the sake of their families.

It has made me think about differing attitudes to occasional sickness. There seem to be those who will turn to the doctor and expect medication at the slightest sign of a possible issue. Then there are those for whom the doctor is a last resort, who will wait for a full blown, debilitating illness before thinking of seeking medical intervention. And how we respond ourselves seems to determine how we regard other’s behaviour; talk about being judgemental!

I try so very hard not to judge others, yet time and again I fail. I feel more sympathy for these people I have never met, whose lives I know only through what they write, than I do for many of those around me. Of course, there are friends who suffer serious, and recurring health issues; who do their best to soldier on with whatever medication can help. Why do I admire this stoicism yet fail to dredge up sympathy for others whose illnesses may be debilitating but, in my eyes (and what do I know anyway) not serious?

I admire and envy those who always seem to be able to naturally respond with kindness and empathy. Too often I am awkward and tongue tied, spouting platitudes that reek of insincerity even when that is not what I am thinking. I too easily show irritation or impatience; it is as if the gentle kindness that I would prefer to offer has been buried too deeply to be seen.

I wonder how much of the way we react to others is affected by how we are treated ourselves; how much is a reflection, learned behaviour. Is the brusqueness that I inadvertently convey a part of me or a reaction to how I have been treated? What traits am I encouraging in my offspring?

I am saddened when I do not think kinder thoughts or react in a less than empathetic manner. Given the way I act, I do not expect to be treated gently myself. This illness will pass, hopefully without inconveniencing my family. If any of the bloggers that I follow and who are ill read this, I wish you and yours a speedy recovery too.

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