Thursday, 11 August 2011

What I Learned from Being Ill

Last week I caught ‘flu. Not an overblown cold but real, honest-to-goodness genuine influenza. I went to bed on Wednesday night and apart from staggering to the bathroom, didn’t get up again until Sunday evening.

Now that I am, for the most part, recovered, I have been looking back and trying to find something to learn from the whole painful experience, or something positive I can draw from it. I don’t want it to sound as though I was a philosophical adventurer, questing across the counterpane of my sickbed. I wasn’t; I was ill and it was horrible. But I might as well make those days of misery count for something. So here’s what I learned:

  1. Your health really is the most important thing. It may be clichéd, but it is true. Value it, protect it, and don’t take it for granted. That goes for mental health as well as physical. You may tell yourself that you’re tough, that you can do those late nights, push yourself that little bit further, but you have no idea just how powerful are the forces (and I don’t just mean viruses) which can suddenly and unexpectedly humble you. 
  2. Allow others to help you. As I languished in my sickbed, my six-year-old made me a succession of Get Well cards, my ten-year-old took it upon herself to bring me iced water every couple of hours and my fifteen-year-old got the little ones their meals. I think they all rather enjoyed their roles and responsibilities and having the opportunity to be useful. During a crisis, allow others to step up and show what they can do. In fact, why wait for a crisis? 
  3. It’s good to be ahead. Luckily I didn’t have to worry too much about taking a couple of days’ sick leave, because I was well up-to-date with all my work and there were systems in place to allow others to deal with anything urgent that might crop up. Not that I’m going against point 1, or advocating being some kind of super-lawyer, but if you can keep on top of your work and prioritise effectively, then it gives you some peace of mind when the unexpected happens. Perhaps each day you would do well to finish by asking, “What if I’m not able to come in tomorrow?”
I’m not completely recovered yet, and the post-viral fatigue stage isn’t much fun, but I am very much appreciating the little things – like being able to stand up long enough to take a shower – and hope to finally catch up on the housework at some point next week. Definitely getting the ‘flu jab this Autumn, though.

If you’re struggling with illness, whether physical or mental, remember that LawCare is here to offer you free and completely confidential support and advice.

LawCare’s free and confidential helpline is available 9-7.30 Monday-Friday, 10-4 weekends, on:
0800 279 6888 (Solicitors, Law Students and Legal Executives in England and Wales)
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