Nelson, New Zealand

10 Things I’ve Learned Through Illness

September 11, 2019

Imagine getting sick all of the time.

How disheartening would it feel to be constantly confined to your house, unable to walk up and down the stairs (let alone go outside) and recover one week, only to be struck down with another bug the next?

For those living with a chronic illness, this is exactly what life is like – and it’s so unbelievably challenging.

In the past few years, I’ve been poorly a lot. I’ve had viruses back to back, more than my fair share of bacterial infections and even one scary trip to A&E where I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

Being ill so frequently really puts life in perspective. It teaches lessons that you don’t really learn if you have a better quality of life.

Obviously, my situation is nowhere as severe as other people’s, but any kind of recurrent sickness is frustrating for those who are trying to cope with it.

Having said that, a recent bladder infection made me want to share the things I’ve learned through illness over the years, especially as someone who seems to be rather susceptible to infections.

What I've Learned Through Illness

1. A Healthy Mind Equals a Healthy Body

Things I’ve learned through illness 101: Mental and physical health go hand in hand.

Essentially, if you’re unhappy, stressed or dealing with a mental illness, then you’re more likely to become physically unwell too. (Or this is what I’ve personally discovered through my own experiences.)

For instance, I was recently in a toxic shared living environment which severely impacted my mental health. As a result, just before I was about to move out, I came down with my first virus. Then I contracted another one. And then when I was in the process of moving, I got a bacterial bladder infection which I needed antibiotics for.

This situation reiterated to me just how important it is to take care of yourself. If you’re surrounded by negativity, eliminate it from your life as soon as you can before your mind and body start to suffer from it. Be kind to yourself and then you can keep pesky illnesses at bay, or at least cut down your recovery time.

2. You Find Out Who Really Cares

Speaking of negativity, being sick repeatedly also teaches you who you can count on in your life.

For example, when I messaged ‘friends’ telling them I was sick in the past, only a few replied sounding genuinely concerned. A couple of them had no sympathy. There was even an incident where someone told me, in all seriousness, to man up.

Needless to say, I’m not friends with those people anymore.

Why? Well, they’re not my true tribe. My true tribe care about my overall health and wellbeing. And it’s easy to find out who those people are because they’ll constantly check in during those times of need with their kind words and well wishes.

(I’m forever thankful to you guys!)

3. Fluids Are Everything

Another one of the most important things I’ve learned through illness is to keep drinking water.

During a past episode with tonsillitis, I found it so painful to even swallow in the first 24 hours so I hardly drank anything. It was awful. I didn’t help myself at all because my throat dried out and became even more painful.

When I realised my mistake, I upped my water intake the next day and it wasn’t long before I felt so much better.

This rule applies to any illness: drink lots of fluids to keep your body hydrated and this will make you improve a little more each day.

4. There’s Only So Much Netflix You Can Handle At Once

Don’t get me wrong, your girl loves Netflix. She could happily watch Netflix for hours and keep herself entertained. But after the third or fourth day of Netflix, you start to wish there was a little bit more to life.

And when you’ve been bed-bound for so long, it’s hard not to go a little stir crazy.

You long to have your full health back so you can get up out of bed, move about and carry on living your life like the rest of the world. But it’s kind of out of your control, which is difficult to accept if you’re a control freak like I am.

You just have to trust that your body is doing its thing and give your immune system time to kick in. Feeling restless? I recommend mixing things up with other activities that you can do in bed, like arts and crafts, sewing and journalling. You’ve got this.

5. The Most Exciting Part of Your Day is Bathing

On the other hand, if you’re REALLY poorly, you’ll know the struggle of not being able to do anything but lay in bed and nap. Or stare into space.

You won’t be able to get out of bed for hours at a time (only to go to the toilet) and desperately crave any form of activity.

That’s why hobbling to the bathroom at the same time every day to bathe makes you squeal in pure delight as you realise that a) you made it to the bathroom, b) you’re going to be clean again and c) you get a break from doing nothing. Halle-freaking-lullah.

What I've Learned Through Illness

6. Having Your Own Personal Nurse Makes You Recover Faster

Whether it’s my other half, friend or family member, I find that having someone to help me out when I’m sick really aids my recovery.

After all, if I rush around trying to do everything I normally do for myself, I just end up prolonging my recovery time.

I also have a bit of a bird brain when I’m physically ill, and this doesn’t bode well if I need to take antibiotics at a certain time of day. Hence, having someone by your side is ideal to share the load during those days where you feel particularly out of sorts.

7. Antibiotics Always Seem to Take Ages to Kick in

Another of the top things I’ve learned through illness is that antibiotics (which can be used to treat bacterial infections) always take longer to kick in than you want them to.

Most doctors claim that it’ll take between two and three days for you to feel better, even though the medication actually begins working straight away. However, this feels like a lifetime when you’re sick. Am I right?

There have been times when I’ve had bacterial tonsillitis where my throat has felt like it’s about to close up, my eyes have been watering in pain and thoughts of “I don’t know if I can get through this” have polluted my brain before the meds decided to kick in a few days later. And boy, does this test your patience!

8. Staggered Painkillers Are Your BFFs

If you’ve got a super painful infection (all my fellow UTI sufferers, please stand up), sometimes it’s impossible to get through a sick day without painkillers.

For that reason, ask your doctor which painkiller is the best for you and your illness. Paracetamol is notorious for bringing a fever down and ibuprofen is anti-inflammatory.

(Sometimes you may be permitted to take both at staggered intervals because they have different jobs, but always consult your doctor BEFORE you take ANY medication. And don’t exceed the recommended dosage.)

In essence, it’s hard not to be thankful for these miracle meds as they can really help you get through the tough times of your sickness period.

9. It Makes You Emotionally Vulnerable

Speaking of tough times, being ill can make you incredibly emotional. (Or it does with me.)

For instance, I know I’m ill when I’m crying at an episode of Kardashians because Kim hasn’t got the marble tiles that she wants in her new house. And omg how can life be so unfair? (But not really.)

There’s something about being poorly that makes me feel constantly on the verge of tears until my physical health returns to full normality. It’s like my body feels weak and consequently so does my mind.

I can’t argue with anyone, I can’t debate and I can’t even muster up the energy to have a proper conversation half of the time. And do you know what? It’s crushing.

But you’ve just got to have faith that you’ll get better soon and be able to do all the things you usually can. A positive mindset is EVERYTHING if you want to speed up your recovery.

10. If You Don’t Have Your Health, You Don’t Have Anything

Being bed-bound for so long really makes you appreciate your physical health when it’s at 100% capacity.

We’re all guilty of taking the little things for granted sometimes, like being able to go for a walk, drive and live a full and active life.

If you’re severely poorly, it stops you from doing anything. You literally have to put your life on hold and ride the illness out.

Thus, it really puts things into perspective. And sometimes this is needed when we’re lost in the repetition of our everyday lives.

Things I've Learned Through Illness

Embracing Things I’ve Learned Through Illness

As someone who seems to have a weak immune system, I try my best not to take my health for granted anymore.

Gone are the days where I run my body and mental health into the ground. I’ve learned from my past mistakes, I listen to my body now and I care for it better.

And as much as it sucks, being physically ill always helps me to slow down and check back in with myself, which can be difficult to do when you’re a busy business owner travelling the world.

Plus, I always find that my state of mind always improves when I rest, as well as my physical health. I mean, there’s nothing like being laid in bed all day to allow you to reflect on your life, your current position and your future goals.

Above all, catching illnesses frequently has significantly changed my outlook on life. All I want to do as a 29-year-old is live every day to the fullest. No matter how sick I get, I’m going to wake up every morning and be thankful that I still have a life when others aren’t so lucky. And that’s the best thing illness has ever taught me. 

Things I've Learned Through Illness

What do you think to the things I’ve learned through illness? Do you have anything that you’ve learned from times that you were physically unwell? Let me know in the comments!

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