I have been ill for the past week or so. It feels like forever. On Sunday, I thought I was getting over the worst of it. Hours passed when I felt like myself again and the wobbliness that had undermined me the previous week subsided. That night, I got hit by some other pretty nasty germs. Back to square one. Minus a little bit.
I have not written about being ill before. Partly cos it doesn’t happen that often, partly cos it doesn’t strikes me that there’s much worth saying, partly because I have been taught not to complain about these things.
After sitting in bed for another three days, I have little else to write about. I realise the situation could be infinitely worse but –
It is funny how you can’t imagine being better when you are ill. How you become acutely aware of the things that you would usually take for granted. Walking from A to B, hunger, the freedom to go where you please, an unquestioned sense that you’ll be okay, energy. I write about emotional vulnerability a lot, physical vulnerability seems to get less thought.
Maybe it’s because we like to hear about good things rather than things that are unpleasant or remind us of where we can fall apart.
Maybe it’s just that it’s boring to write / read about days in bed or those spent wrapped up in a blanket in front of daytime TV.
Maybe it’s because we’re taught, as a society, to present a strong front and be brave so it feels like whining when you complain about something that hurts. I have certainly been more hesitant in writing about this than about a trip to cabaret…
Maybe it’s just because, practically, you don’t have much energy to write about anything when you’re ill and, then, when you’re better, you can’t remember quite how it all felt.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It does leave me wondering, however, about whether we have a language for talking about these experiences, a way of talking about illness or physical feelings that is balanced rather than extreme. About whether there’s a need for this or, actually, it’s preferable to keep these things to yourself. About how lonely it feels when you can’t share what you’re feeling.
I don’t know.
On the more positive side, a week in bed has got me back into reading (The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is wonderful), lazily watching films (Ted is also great, though in a very different way), and finally listening to when my body says “sleep please”. It has probably given my liver a much needed rest and definitely left me with a renewed appreciation for how amazing our bodies really are (when they’re not full of lurgy) and, also, an understanding that every now and then they need a bit of proper care.