On Being Sick and Needing Rest

My family has gone through quite a few bouts of illnesses this season. (I love the ambiguous term that “season” has become. Not defined by any solstice or equinox, but a broader, more nebulous meaning of a time period.) Some have been more serious than others. One required multiple visits to multiple doctors and multiples weeks of medicine, while others I can’t even say for sure if there was an illness or if the person suffered from fatigue or overwhelm or laziness (which I suppose in their own ways are not hale).

I struggle less with the thought that serious illness may alter my family permanently in some way, because it seems like an impossible possibility to grasp (especially since I am not a natural worrier), than I do with how feeling unwell is its own blockage that keeps us from being productive, from living our lives.

The term toxic productivity has been thrown around more and more lately and it is a real concern. I don’t know if I suffer that extreme, though. Any guilt I feel about “not being productive” is not born from the thought that I haven’t done enough so far that day, but instead that I’ve done too much lounging. Does that make sense, that difference? To me, it is the difference between toxic productivity and a healthy amount of productivity. The toxicity comes from expecting productivity all the time no matter what. Healthy productivity is part of a balance and allows for lounging, if wanted.

But when I’m sick, I struggle with the feeling of obligation to be productive. To push through my headache to get my work done, to drag my tired body around the house to complete the daily chores. I struggle because it’s so hard to tell if I am actually sick or just letting myself be lazy. Headache? Pop some pills and chug some water. Tired? Have another cup of coffee or do some jumping jacks to make myself up! Or can I… am I allowed to… just… rest for a few days?

A few days! It seems like such a luxuriously lavish amount of time in this modern era. A few days every few weeks even? What?! Too much, no? Too much time taken to make sure I am healthy and balanced and… happy? Aren’t there too many deadlines, updates, releases, editions, things incoming every day to spare just one or two? Yes? No?

I suppose it comes down to expectations. I have expectations of myself for how I should live a normal day, which balances work and fun. I guess I don’t know what my expectations should be for a day I’m feeling sick. The same as a normal day? None? In reality, there should be a spectrum of expectations depending on how good or bad I feel on any given day because that’s a spectrum, too. Health isn’t black-and-white. Nor is productivity.

But, you know, on those days when I’m just not feeling too well, or a headache’s got my brain in a fog, it’s hard to do the mental work of determining where I am on the health-spectrum, where I should be on the productivity-spectrum, and figuring out the proper ratio for a well-balanced day. In reality, some days are just gonna suck, while for others I’ll feel like a rock star.

As long as I’m living what I believe to be a well-balanced life, I guess I can go ahead and get all the rest I want.

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