Just before Christmas, I began to admit to myself that I was exhausted. I was working six days a week and on my day of rest my switch-off time consisted of feeling guilty about switching off.
Even when I thought I was relaxed, my shoulders were perched at my ears and my mind was whirring with ideas and things I should or shouldn’t be doing.
I never felt rested.
Now I’m not one to moan. But even I was boring myself with the mildly negative outlook I seemed to have developed during my lethargic state. I bore myself thinking about it, typing this now.
I found myself being honest with people when they asked me how I was. I was frank and told them I was feeling in need of a break. I felt that I was becoming confused about my path and was on the way to losing my purpose.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be perfectly happy if my purpose were to lie on a beach sipping fresh coconut water infused with gin and eating (gin-infused) melon prepared by a tanned, ripped Adonis. But that ain’t goin’ to happen. I’m realistic and actually very happy. Just tired.
No sooner had I said the words “I need a break”, I was overcome with flu and I don’t just mean a case of the bad sniffles here – I later found out I was suffering with pneumonia. We’re talking wiped out. Don’t give a f***k about my lady garden. Out like a light. Johnny Depp couldn’t have roused me.
I didn’t get better. In fact, It got to a point where I found it a challenge to breathe. I was bedridden and at 45, felt very old and frail. A trip to the loo felt like climbing Everest. But still I convinced myself I’d cope and get through it. What is it about us women that even at death’s door, we think we ‘should’ cope and struggle on?
One night I said to my partner – genuinely because I didn’t think I’d survive the night but just wanted to see how I got on – “‘If I’m still like this tomorrow (not dead) you’re going to have to take me to hospital.”
I went to hospital. Within five minutes of my chest x-ray I was in A&E expelling the contents of my lungs over a nebuliser. The radiologist didn’t know how I’d coped for so long. I wonder, is that because I’m a woman or because my lovely mum taught me to be martyr?
Anyway, here’s what my month in bed watching six series of The Good Wife taught me:
- Listen to your body. It’s telling you stuff all the time. Ignoring it only causes its voice to weaken and your body’s energy to be sapped away. If you’re tired, take a break, whether it be half a day taking a walk in the countryside with a close friend or an hour sitting in the park counting the daffodils and hearing the children chatter and laugh. I like having a glass of wine on my own in my favourite restaurant having steak frites and writing stories on my laptop.When a machine, like my Mac, wears out and breaks down, it can have parts replaced or indeed BE replaced. You, my dear, are not a machine.
- Find your rest time and don’t feel guilty about it. When did this happen? When did we learn to feel guilty about resting our busy body? Most of us don’t even sleep soundly so getting our rest is even more important. Find what makes you feel completely ‘you’ and rest. I know I’m not very good at it so I’m going to start painting again, because I know that’s when I am in my own little world. And I think a couple of hours in your own world can only be a good and restorative thing. Lose the guilt. That’s something we have subconsciously inherited and is not how we are meant to exist.
- Sleep well. I know I’m rubbish at this too. I drink far too much alcohol to relax and I stress too much about what I should be doing. I worry about scenarios that aren’t even going to happen. So, I’m going to make efforts to prepare myself for a restful night. I’m going to switch off my phone and TV an hour before bed. I’m going to turn the lights down to prepare my body for sleep. I’m also going to down a couple of cups of Pukka Night Time tea and have a lavender and camomile bath. OK, I’ll do the tea…
- Appreciate the value of a healthy you. When I was lying in my bed hoping I wouldn’t die, and thinking it might be easier if I did, I thought about my son being left without his mum. I thought about my partner preparing my funeral. I thought about my business and my clients and everything I’d strived for. I thought about how all my achievements would be wiped away and disappear just because I didn’t take care of myself. How quickly life can change. Without you, my love, how happy and healthy would the people you love be? Without your health, how useful can you be? All the good things you want for the people around you, you need to want for yourself.
I know some of you reading this won’t have your health. And that sucks. But you’re here and reading this. That means you can do something for you, no matter how trivial it feels to you.If it makes you smile it’s worth it.
Two of my favourite saying are:
There’s always a blue sky above the clouds – literally there always is…
If it makes you feel special, it’s worth it.
Pneumonia made me stop and value what’s important to me. It might not be my parent’s view, nor that of my man, friends, family or son.