In recent years I have developed a fierce respect for my health. Not only my mental health – but my physical health. Whereas before I had little patience for the times when I was sick, there are times now when I fear it. When I am sick I just use more sick days at work – which raises more questions and more suspicion: “what is really going on?”. I feel disgusting. I break all of my carefully laid down routines and maintenance plans. I have to take more tablets. And all too often it drags on for too long thanks to poor immunity and a system that’s already struggling with every day and brings me – if not to relapse, then certainly to the brink.
When I am sick, the dog often thinks he is allowed to play.
It makes sense. There is less energy to be on top of my game with my thinking, so if I’m not ultra careful I do forget to reality test my thoughts. I get lazy and don’t practice mindfulness. My appetite is lacking, so unless there is someone else cooking for me and serving up nutritious food, I’m not eating well. I’m exhausted and sleeping all the time and not maintaining my routine. I’m too sick to exercise. My medication is going in – but that’s about the only maintenance activity that is actually happening – and if I have a gastro bug even that gets out of kilter.
Short term bugs aren’t so bad. A day or two and I get back on top of my game without too many problems. No, the one that I hate most of all is surprising to some people. The thing I dread most is the common cold. It drags on forever. It saps my energy. It robs me of the desire to prepare decent food, to look after the house, to keep much of a routine. Sound like anything else you know? I live in fear that the head cold will go to my chest and then I will finish up coughing for weeks on end which leads to fear of aggravation of an old back injury – and so my thoughts become dominated by dismal and negative themes and the black dog leaves his rightful position at heel and begins to circle again. Thus it is that I find that a cold, if I can’t get rid of it quickly can be a trigger for relapse.
So – what do I do? I stay rested. I eat well. I have my flu shots – which I know some find controversial – and that there are also people who are not convinced that this helps, but as a health worker I find that it has left me less vulnerable and in Australia health workers get them for free. I wash my hands regularly and use hand disinfectant. I dress to the climate. I’ve given up rain walks in cold weather. Some people use vitamins, but to be honest I couldn’t face taking any more pills and don’t want to spend the money and would rather just eat the vegetables. I try to avoid spending a lot of time with people who are sick. If you look back a couple of posts to ‘Beyond Medicine‘, you will find that these are the things that will keep you physically healthy as well as mentally healthy. If you want to keep the bugs at bay these are the things you go to. Some I have already mentioned, but lifestyle habits and strategies that reduce stress are also important. Support is important. Hope is important. Sunshine is important. Recognising the early warning signs and triggers of physical illness is important. Our mental health and physical health are inextricably linked.
If I get a cold, I do start taking cold and flu tablets early when I get symptoms of a cold – particularly at night, and I use airway clearing aromatherapy oil before I go to sleep so that I can breathe clearly. I also sleep propped up slightly. Usually these things stop the cold from getting to my chest. Usually.
This year has gone well so far. I’ve stayed mentally well enough while I’ve been sick that I’ve still been able to use my mindfulness and cognitive behavioural techniques to keep the dog in line, so he hasn’t really challenged – even when some of the other important stuff has fallen by the wayside. It’s still going to involve work to get the rest back in place, but hopefully not as much as usual. So just for the moment while I get a bit better…
Sit, Dog… Sit.
I find that simple stress is enough to make me physically ill, especially migraines, and as I work without a salary and by the hour or assignment, I carry on working even when it would be better to stay home. I have my last week of teaching this week and my lest trip at the weekend. Then…..nothing. I figure I can be ill then, when I am not losing pay by doing so.
Of course, this means I debilitate myself enormously in doing so. I need a job where I have rights and so on.
You sound much more sensible than me; I admire that.
I think what this means is that you need someone to help you with stress management and/or maybe you need to see your doctor about the frequency of your migraines. I got to the point where I was affected by migraine 4-5 out 7 days a week and eventually I gave in and let my doctor give me some medication to prevent them. Now I only get occasional migraine and they’re nowhere near as severe. Have you tried seeing anyone for help with stress management? If you can’t fit it in or can’t afford it, why not try one of the CBT courses that I’ve got linked to my site? It might give you something new to work with. I found it helpful when I worked through things using this way with my Psychologist and that’s how I’ve learned to do a lot of what I do now. I think it’s amazing that you can work through your pain. It was one of the things that I could never do and so I always ran out of sick leave and nearly lost my job because of it. The hard thing is finding balance because noone can stop everything every time they get sick. The thing that I struggle with most about wellness is the amount of self-discipline that’s involved, because it’s not in my nature to be self-disciplined. It’s something that’s taken me eight years of constant relapse to learn that I really don’t have an alternative if I want to function.
I’ve been to see a neurologist recently and have just had an MRI scan; am awaiing results and a consult with GP about medication.
As for stress, well, any sort of therapy is beyond my pocket.I’ve looked at CBT but there are issues way beyond a self-study course.
Good luck with your follow up from your scans. Sorry to hear that therapy is beyond reach at the moment. Sounds like things are pretty complex. While your waiting and looking for a way to be able to move forward I hope that you have/find people to support you.
If you feel up to exploring ways to give yourself permission to just take a breath and be so that you can regain your balance before you start walking again sometimes, take a look around the topic of Mindfulness. A therapist would help more, but you would start in the same place doing self directed practice and it’s less about analysing and working with issues than CBT. But alas. No more suggestions or advice because that’s not really what I’m here for.
I wish you all the best and hope that you find some good supports around you and that the migraines can be brought under control.