How to Keep Sanity When You’re Laid Up for Weeks

…or Months

You may have noticed I haven’t been updating my calendar lately.  : /

I haven’t been doing much lately. It’s far time I explain myself, for those who wonder if I fell off the planet. It wasn’t that extreme. I was in a pile-up on the Interstate a couple months back. I’m still under medical visits and physical therapy. Among my injuries are numerous back and neck traumas including ribs that had been separated from my spine, whiplash, a jammed hip and a dislocated knee. I’m hobbling quite hopelessly. But I’ve been a songwriting machine. Now if only I could get well enough to earn some coin so I can afford to file copyright for all of these new tunes…well, I have irons in the fire. And I achingly miss performing, but am having an awful time getting up onto certain stages for lack of good access. At least it’s temporary, and I’m always able to keep myself busy in the meantime. Mind you, all this followed two months of that nasty flu, which I got before I had a chance to get a flu shot. All better from that now.

So…I’ll likely be posting another (unrelated) post here in a bit later, that’s been waiting a long time for me to deal with its complexity properly. Now I have time…that’s a gift. Who knows; I may post more than two. Also, I have a lead on a couple of website commissions I have the ability to work on in this condition…that’s a gift too, but they haven’t started yet.

Several times in my life I’ve been laid up and precluded from normal life: when I had cancer, when I had foot and ankle surgeries, numerous times I’ve had flu, pneumonia, Norovirus, even shingles. My computer and ukulele and sketchbooks don’t let me down at such times. Sometimes we knew I was going to have a surgery sufficiently ahead of time to allow us to prepare, as with my foot and ankle surgeries, and we set up command central directly at my bedside, with as much remote control (and grabber sticks) as possible:

Be prepared! Or overly prepared!

 

Whatcha got there? Click for details.

Careful observers will see in this photo that not only do I have my (old) computer and printer but also a microwave, nuke-able salmon and rice, snacks, a sketchbook, colored pencils, a sharpener, various office supplies including a pen and paper and scissors, paper, a lap desk, language books, meds, napkins, plastic flatware, paper plates, fans for temperature control, the ubiquitous lamp and clock, speakers, cords, keyboard, rechargeable batteries and a charger, my camera, a trash can, wind-up toys to tease the kitties with…and you can’t even see the cooler and tissues and books we just put on the bed next to me during the day, or the flowers folks sent that Greg put around the room to cheer me up or the medical TENS unit or automated icer for my surgical sites the surgeon provided. It seems excessive to have a whole office and half kitchen by the bed, but it was quite necessary for the time involved, especially as we lived in a tri-level house and I couldn’t navigate the stairs to reach the kitchen let alone the office, studio or den. I didn’t miss the TV though. There’s “never anything good on”. But I did have an arsenal of Brit-com DVDs to tickle my funny bone. Nothing tragic or melodramatic allowed!

Of course, if you have no notice before an illness or a sudden severe injury, it’s hard to pull this off once on the sick list. You’ll have to find a kind soul to help you. I happened to have married one.

Wallowing in your misery won’t help you get better faster. Doing something constructive at least makes the time bearable and distracts you from the pain. I went off the hard painkillers to common store Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen within 5 days – sometimes 2 – on any surgery I’ve had, because I knew people fighting addiction to them. I don’t care for pain any more than the next person, but pain is useful and built into you for a reason: it warns you when you’re about to hurt something by trying too much too soon, and you can’t tell if you’re feeling better if you’re drugged into oblivion. Doctors always ask you what pain level you’re at; how can you give an accurate answer on painkillers? I also think it’s good to build your pain tolerance, because you never know when you’ll need some. You’re free to disagree but I’ve amazed people with my ability to withstand gross discomfort. (It’s the frustration, not the pain, that gets me; it’s a mental battle and that’s why I attack it this way.) We’re only getting older…we’re going to face more of this, yet still must think, function, and forge on.

Hobbies and side hustles via the Internet are fantastic ways to keep your attitude up when your body is down. I’ve used times like that to study foreign languages, read through the Bible, write or learn new songs, design outfits, do some good old-fashioned foundational drawing practice (as opposed to studio painting), study how to build websites, find new recipes, tour the world on Google Maps, do brain-training puzzles, catch up on news and business trends, clean out my email inboxes, and do small approved exercises that can help my condition at the time. Sometimes I research whatever ailment or injury is vexing me to be in the know and have some sense of proactive control (or at least what not to do). Many times I’ll post videos on my Vimeo channel since I have time to edit, or write in a blog on one of my sites–if I don’t have a client or two needing attention on their sites. Rarely I tweet…I can write a novel of a blog post about being sick (usefully at least), but who wants tweets about being sick? There’s no limit to what you can busy yourself with. Sometimes I plan my next painting(s) or series. I’m also verrrry slowly working on a couple of books. …Often I cuddle a kitty or two. For example:

 

(Pictures reposted by permission of YetiTheCat.com, since it’s MY site.) Got that, cats? MINE.  : P

Some folks will devour reading material; others will crochet; others will try their hand at poetry or felting or jewelry making; some will call old friends; some will tweak their abilities at macro-lens photography; heaven help them, some will get sucked into toxic social media…some will just watch TV. I never have a TV in the bedroom, but I have never regretted getting a laptop instead of a desktop. Mine’s on its third life (hard drive) and it’s worth its weight in gold to my mental productivity and self-education. For a change, my husband streamed a series or two from cable while he was recently sick, when he wasn’t (wisely) sleeping to aid his recuperation (most of the time; they said it was flu but we still suspect strep throat because of his symptoms and the fact that sometimes cultures give false negatives – we just learned that). Personally I don’t find shows or video games to be a good use of time from which I can derive later benefit, so I make stuff or study. It makes me feel better.

Being bedridden or limited in activity is a real downer for a nature-hiking enthusiast (oh it’s winter anyway), but there are plenty of ways to keep your sanity in the interim, and you may reclaim or discover pastimes that will stick with you long after your recovery, because you’ve deepened your knowledge and expanded horizons.

Science supports that keeping one’s mind nimble and learning new things is incredibly beneficial to the body, and vice versa. I have certain immune and arthritic issues that in some ways negate that claim, but I’m (ask anyone) not normal. Still, weight training and stretching are so helpful for my arthritis (plucking ukulele completely eradicated it from my hands), and getting out and active does help my immunity when I can get there. Part of my immunity issue is vitamin D deficiency, because after so many radiation treatments I’m not supposed to be in the sun…for the rest of my life…and the protection required is nearly prohibitive, especially in hot weather. Conversely, my mom is an octogenarian and is very physically active for her age (or for twenty years younger for that matter) and is still sharp mentally and curious to learn more, always. Physical and mental training actually support and complement each other.

So if you’re normally sporty (or even if you’re not) – and down for the count, don’t cheat yourself by wasting away while in convalescence. You can shorten your recovery time both literally and perceptively by being proactive in your physical therapy (or other doctor’s orders – I follow mine for best results…I hope), and by keeping your mind occupied along with whatever else in your body safely still works. (That doesn’t mean eat the place out of house and home, though; you can’t work it off yet).

You can still do great things!

Do well. Get well. Be well.

♥ – Eilee

 

 

 

 

 

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