When you are suffering from a chronic illness, there will be times when you require looking after. This ‘care’ can come from nurses, doctors, your partner, or family and friends. Maybe even your cat. (Maybe all of the above). There will be occasions when you are out of action against your will and you can’t do things as well as you used to. This might be temporary or long term. The way you react to being thrust into the role of being ‘patient’ depends largely on your outlook of your disease and lifestyle.
It can be a hard pill to swallow (often literally) if you are someone who cherishes their independence. It’s something that can be very difficult to adjust to, particularly if being ‘cared’ for is something you haven’t experienced since you were too young to realise it was happening. It can stick in the throat when you are forced to sit back and accept help. On the other side of the coin, some patients relish the pampering. They enjoy being cared for and take full advantage of having someone to order about.
Personally I find it uncomfortable. I don’t like having to ask someone else to help me with what should ideally be simple, everyday activities.
After my surgery, due to my own pig-headed determination to DIY my recovery, I probably set myself back a good few weeks. I showered alone (a MAMMOTH TASK), I made 80% of my own meals (a challenge when you can’t lift so much as a kettle), I walked up and down stairs unaided (well the bannister helped) and generally started to get out and about well before I was ready. Don’t get me wrong; there were plenty of wonderful people around me who wanted to help, and offered their hands and ears to aid me, I was just too rash at turning it down. I don’t beat myself up about this fact, anymore anyway. I know now I was naïve in thinking I was somehow superhuman and that everyone else who’d told me my recovery would take at least 4 months were just wimps who really needed to stop overreacting.
The other potential problem in being cared for is the feeling of loss when said care is inevitably taken away. There will be times when you are well enough to look after yourself – hopefully more often than not – and that can be difficult adaption to make in itself. Suddenly you have to be a grown-up again who relies solely on his/her self. The attention alone can be a habit that’s hard to kick. I mean, much like Beyonce, I’m an independent woman [throw your loo rolls at me] yet I can sometimes feel very alone when I’m ill. I often revert to my childhood and just want a cuddle. I just want my Mum. Pathetic as it may seem, it’s not uncommon. If you are stuck in hospital for any length of time, you are obligated to be cared for. It’s why you are there in the first place; to get better. So strangers will surround you and feed you, medicate you, maybe even clean you. They will change your sheets and wake you up, they’ll tell you when its lights out and when you can and can’t have visitors. They will basically turn you back into a TEENAGER. Therefore it’s strange to be released back into the wild and be expected to do adult things, like pay your mortgage and renew your car insurance. YAWNFEST.
However if, like me, you pride yourself on doing it all yourself because you’re a big girl, then having the care of others thrust upon you then pulled away like several CM of your intestines, can be distressing to say the least. It can cause anger and confusion, and give the feeling of having to start over again and again. In short it’s a bummer when your bum is no longer the centre of everyone’s universe. But although, again much like Beyonce, I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings, I am not Beyonce, and in the long term I wouldn’t want my rear end to be the subject of such daily scrutiny.
I’m learning to accept help when I need it and look after myself when I don’t. I still find hospitalisation uncomfortable but a lot of that probably comes down to how I perceive it; having a ‘don’t help me’ attitude doesn’t go down too well in the very building MADE FOR HELPING. The bottom line (pun always intended) is to find your own happy medium. Don’t play the martyr, take assistance when you require it, but don’t lie down to your disease. Fight back when you can and don’t play the victim. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Also if someone offers you chocolates and/or flowers; take them; if you are allergic to chocolates and /or flowers, I’ll take them. I’m caring that way.