From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Getting Well After Being Sick
Getting sick has never been fun, but it used to be a little less complicated. These
days, you never know whether your health insurance will approve your health care provider,
the treatment, or even the particular brand of medicine being prescribed. However, when we
get sick, we are not only at the mercy of the insurance companies and busy medical
schedules, but also, we begin to think of ourselves as sick. This is a more insidious
source of change. Here are a few thoughts on the matter.
- Getting sick changes our personality. If you doubt this, ask your friends and
family. It is said that people usually talk about one of three things: ideas, objects, or
other people. When we get sick, we talk about our health, disease, treatments, and how we
feel. This is natural. However, once the healing process is underway, it is important to
develop other topics of conversation and become attentive to others again.
- Getting sick changes our physical body. Again, it is natural that when we get
sick, the focus of attention becomes our body. Suddenly, we begin to feel things we never
felt before, and it is very scary to not be in control of our own body.
Unknowingly, our postures may change in response to pain, and we may become more
conservative in our movements. Again, all of these changes are natural and normal
reactions to pain and illness. However, later on, we may not wish these physical
accomodations to become permanent physical features.
- Getting sick changes our relationships. While it is true that getting sick is one
way to find out who your friends are, we must acknowledge that even our best friends tire
of our being sick. An older friend of mine recently realized that as the result of caring
for an ailing friend during a two-year illness, she had lost touch with nearly all of her
other friends. Sadly, when one person is ill, relationships tend to become caretaking
relationships. While this arrangement is very functional when one is sick, it is also
important to re-establish a mutually-supportive relationship as health return.
Getting well takes personal effort. One of the problems with being sick is
getting caught up in the medical system. When this occurs, our lives begin to revolve
around apppointments and medications. Again, this is usually necessary in order to restore
health. However, along with our medical goals, we also must focus on returning to a
healthy state of mind. We each have a concept of ourselves when we are healthy. However,
that self-concept often changes when we become sick. Medicines and treatments can only
remedy disease. Once the disease is gone, only the individual can bring his/her
personality and lifestyle "back to normal".
- Wellness is a state of mind and body. Let's face it...no one should force another
to act well if they feel fragile as the result of illness. However, we can choose to help
our own minds and bodies to recover. Our unconscious mind tends to follow the
"roadmap" we choose. If we create a negative roadmap for ourselves by thinking
only in negative terms, it is easy to become depressed and continue to feel badly even
once the disease is stabilized or cured. If, however, we fill our minds with positive
thoughts and vividly imagine our bodies returning to health, this roadmap also becomes
Restoring health seems to be a partnership between one's self and one's health care
providers. Thinking of one's self as "well again" is a task we can only
accomplish for ourselves, although counselors are frequently called upon to assist in
regaining that healthy self-concept. In short, there is no doubt that illness changes us.
Hopefully, however, being sick is just a "temporary detour" on the way back to
ęCopyright, 1997, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon,