I got the flu shot this year. Early, I might add. Because the last thing I wanted to deal with was the aches and pains, the sniffles and sneezes, and all around general grossness that is the flu. Getting the flu shot was practicing self care. I felt good about it!
But getting the flu shot is not a guarantee against getting the flu. Unfortunately, I caught the flu anyway. My wonderful husband picked up a strain of the flu that neither of us are immunized against (he got the flu shot too!), and both of us got sick at the same time.
These past few sober months, I’ve learned a lot about myself. This week, I learned that being sick drives me into mania. I haven’t been able to sleep for the last five days for more than one or two hours at a time. My thoughts feel half-wired, and nervous energy vibrates in my bones like a barely contained explosion. It’s as though I have all the energy of a star inside me, but I don’t dare let it out for people to see.
Maybe it’s the Mucinex-D…or the overwhelming anxiety and sense of guilt I feel for being sick. To relieve the anxiety and guilt, I get up and “do.” Anything. I cannot simply allow myself to be sick. I cannot rest or slow down. If anything, I speed up.
The day I checked my temperature and discovered I had a fever – I made cookies (which involved two trips to the grocery store – first for chocolate chips and then for baking soda, which I could have sworn I already had).
Instead of accepting that I was sick and allowing my body to rest and heal, I fought it with every fiber of my being. I’m on the mend now, but as we move into the new year, I’m taking a moment to reflect on my inability to simply rest.
Learning how to rest
Resting is more than just vegging out in front of the TV or sleeping all day. Rest is not just stillness – it is the awareness that you are being still and that you are okay with being still.
The body cannot rest while the mind is busy. Both have to stop. So playing on your phone (or blogging about resting) doesn’t count as resting.
Being sick is a signal that your body needs mega-rest while it fights off an infection. What is it about me that ignores this clear signal?
When I came down with the flu, I was actually on vacation from work. (I had an entire week off between Christmas and the New Year holidays.) Was I planning to rest? Of course not. I planned to catch up on a few work things (some training that needed to be finished before the end of the 4th quarter and some busywork that I’d been putting off) and start my little freelance writing career.
Getting sick should have slowed me down. It should have forced me to rest. Instead, I found myself awake for hours at night, worrying about my first freelance assignment and whether I would finish the work training in time to earn my quarterly bonus.
Resting is not automatic for me. Sleep happens and is sometimes restful, but lately I’ve been having to force the issue with melatonin. And I don’t think I would get as much sleep as I do if not for my husband’s routine (which makes it pretty much impossible for me to get up at 3:00 am to work on the laptop).
PsychCentral.com has an interesting article about how to really rest. After reading this article, I can see that I am in a state of extreme stress. My body will stop, but my mind keeps going. I’m sleeping, but it isn’t truly restful. The article makes some suggestions that I plan to follow in order to help myself become better at resting in the new year.
Accept that you must rest
So much of my tension and stress is caused because I do not accept people, places, and things as being exactly what they are supposed to be. Instead, I try to control them and make them what I want them to be.
I do not want to accept that I must rest. I want to go – go – go. Never stop. Always do more. I can’t just sit and watch TV. I’m almost always on the laptop too. And if I’m not, you can bet I’m thinking about at least 10 different things besides what’s on TV.
I expect myself to be able to multitask (even though I’m particularly bad at it) and get everything done at the same time. Accepting that I must rest gives me permission to clear away some space in my head for mindfulness. Once I am mindful of how tired I am, I’m more likely to accept the gift of true rest.
Set your intention
Last night, after the ball dropped in Time’s Square, I found myself wide awake. My thoughts were racing, but I was trapped in a body that was physically exhausted. Laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, I could not bring myself to close my eyes – not even after taking 10 milligrams of melatonin.
It can’t hurt to try, I thought. Breathing deeply, I quietly gave myself permission to sleep. “You are going to rest now,” I said to myself. “You have had a long day. You have earned rest. You can stop thinking for a little while and just rest.”
I was asleep within two minutes.
Explore why you’re failing to rest
Why am I so obsessed with staying busy? What is driving this urge? Personally, staying busy keeps me shielded from feelings that I don’t want to feel. When I slow down, I feel a lot of fear – fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of judgment.
And I don’t want to face these fears. I don’t want to confront these monsters. It’s easier to stay busy – stay active – stay stressed.
This is something that I need to start a journal about because staying this active, staying this close to mania, could easily lead to a relapse for me.
Of course, I’m being hard on myself. I shouldn’t have had to get sick to learn that rest is not automatic for me and that I feel guilty when I rest. I’m sure this is part of my co-dependent nature.
I need to learn that rest is not something to be earned. Rest is part of being human. Rest is a tool that I must use if I want to stay sober and healthy.