Fighting this wretched c difficile bacteria hasn't been a pleasant experience to say the least. Some days - okay, most days! - I've been an absolute mess of anxiety, worry, guilt and fear. I honestly don't know what I would have done without my steadfast husband, my encouraging sisters and my amazing mother-in-law, who have all taken turns steadying me when I felt I was about to crash, nurturing me and loving me without fail. My friends - especially the newer ones I've made up here through my Mums' group - have been unfailingly supportive. They send me daily email check-ins and offer help every time. Thank God for family. Thank God for friends.
Having been very ill for over four weeks now has given me lots to think about. There isn't much else to do when you're fighting near-constant nausea, the shakes and lethargy and have been confined to bed for most of the day. Sometimes one's brain goes in some pretty dark places, but there are also moments of sanity-preserving clarity that I am deeply grateful for. Here are a few that come to mind:
1. Sometimes it's only when you are at your most vulnerable that you discover how much you are loved. When I'm feeling really sick, and I have absolutely nothing to offer, my husband still makes me feel beautiful and beloved. He and my sisters can still make me laugh. My mother-in-law is still thrilled to see me and the kids, even when I spend the entire day moping on her couch or dozing in her guest bed. It is an experience that both swells my heart and humbles me.
2. Be thankful for the things that are going right. My kids are healthy. My husband is healthy. My mother-in-law is recovering well from her recent surgery. I have a doctor who takes me seriously and listens to my concerns. I live in a country where medicine is readily available. My house is warm and snug; we have a fridge full of nutritious food, even though I can't eat it! The sun sparkles on the snow, even though I can't ski in it. My daughter's laughter is as wild as ever; my son greets me with a smile every morning, even though I haven't been able to spend as much time with them as I want to. My husband's arms are warm and safe at night, and he holds me tight when I am too weak to reach out for him myself.
3. Give yourself permission to be sick. This is the best advice a doctor has ever given me, but the hardest advice to actually follow. I have been overwhelmed with guilt - the house is a mess! I look terrible! My kids are going to get disconnected from me! My husband must be going crazy and wish he didn't marry such a weak woman! - but I am learning, very gradually, to try and let go of the guilt and just face the fact that I. Am. Very. Sick. Period. The hardest thing for me has been to accept the idea that I may need to lie in bed for another few weeks and rest, and to give myself permission to do so. I'm talking excrutiatingly hard! But really, what choice do I have?
4. Find your happy place. Like I said before, the mind can go to some pretty dark and disturbing places when your body is failing. I'm teaching myself to acknowledge the darkness, then steer my brain into some happier thoughts. A counsellor once taught me to create a vision of a "safe place" and use it to combat anxiety, so I use the original one I created all those years ago: it's a warm summer night. The sky is scattered with stars. I walk down a sandy beach path into a clearning beside the water; there's a small bonfire burning and a large log beside it where my Babushka sits, waiting for me to join her. I've also created several new ones - my husband and I gently sway in a hammock on a deserted beach in Hawaii; my husband and I hold hands on a porch, watching our adult children and small grandchildren play a game of soccer on the front lawn of Someday; I'm driving the mountain highway towards Banff, where I'll spend a week writing. They are strangely comforting and help keep me grounded when my mind wants to think terrible things.
5. Be brave. Not much else to say, really. (0: