When YOUR body says STOP

As I write this, I’m laying in my mum’s oversized bed, with my Labrador sitting by my feet and the television on for a little background noise.

This is not the way I had envisioned spending a Thursday afternoon. Normally, I would be chained to my desk in the city, buzzing to finish my stories for that afternoon’s deadline. I would be making phone calls, writing emails and arguing with the sub-editors over grammar.

But not today. Today I woke up about 10.30am, had a nap a few hours later, and whenever I needed to use the bathroom, I would need to physically lean on my mum to help make the short distance.

A lot is made of how ‘busy, busy, busy’ we all are, but I never really thought about my own level of action before I woke up with a fever two weeks ago, and have been stuck in bed ever since.

I have Glandular Fever. I know it’s not a medical tragedy and that I’m fortunate it’s nothing worse. But when my doctor called to give me the results of my blood test, I burst into tears.

This simply wasn’t good timing; I don’t have time to be sick! I’ve got stuff to do! And at the risk of sounding like a competitive wowser, I’m really just too busy for this.

When I mentioned this to my mum, who has extraordinarily nursed me ever since I became sick, she looked at me like I had announced I was converting to Scientology and that, yes, Tom Cruse isn’t at all insane.

 “You’re joking, right? You’re too busy to me sick? Oh Lani, I’ve never heard anything so stupid.”

My first instinct was to defend myself and my little outburst, but I’ve got to admit she has a point. I’m sick, but I’m getting the best care, and with any luck, I’ll be back on my feet in a couple of weeks. But it’s so strange to be immobilized like this, to be so swiftly taken down – it’s like I’d forgotten I’m human, in a rush to be and do everything.

Four weeks out of action – away from work, friends and society – seems like a life sentence. I can’t help but think what I’ll miss out on. I’ve always been afraid that if I ever stop, I’ll somehow forever be trying to catch up again.

But being forced to stop – not slow down, but stop, completely – has me questioning how fast things are done now. Food is so fast an anti-movement, slow food, was created. Movies and television shows are downloaded in minutes and reviewed on Facebook within hours. News stories are broken instantanlessly via Twitter, leaving less and less time to gather information, and instead fed the hungry beast that is the public and also the competition. It’s so fast it makes me dizzy just thinking about it [and that’s not just because extreme dizziness is one of my symptoms].

Every time I’ve been sick in the past, I’ve arrogantly decided I didn’t want to be sick and I would rush back to work too soon, hang out with friends earlier than I should have. My health, I thought, could fit in with my life, and on my terms. Glandular Fever has been, as they say, my poetic justice. It’s forced me to realise there’s something even more powerful than a calendar filled up with social engagements and deadlines.

In the meantime, while I wait for the night sweats to go away and the overwhelming fatigue to fade, I’ve decided to not try and rush anything. I’m going to stay in bed and rest, drink as much water as possible and not exert myself by even watching too much television or read too much. It’s not something that comes natural, but I’m going to give it a go. As my mum would say, “there’s nothing more important than your health”. And at the risk of giving her a big head, I’m afraid she’s right. Again.

By Alana Schetzer a Melbourne-based journalist and writer.

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