The Good of Ills #3: A Place of Rest

I’m sitting in hospital as I write this.

For the last 10 years the odds of my words reaching you while holed up in a hospital were high. In fact let me share a hot writing tip with you; struggling to find a chance to focus and hit that deadline? Search out a quiet corner in hospital, if you’re a patient you even get tea on tap!* It is only in the last 18 months that sitting in a hospital has become a rarity. Since starting the medication which has given me back so much health, hospitals are no longer a second home.

I have a confession, I like hospitals. After I went through a process of accepting the hospital as part of my life after my first admission 15 years ago, I came to value a lot of what it represents. I wonder if I will ever see them in the way that (I’m told) most people do. Unfamiliar, cold, sterile, scary even… the place they would rather be anywhere but?

Obviously I don’t enjoy every moment spent in a hospital. Admissions tend to come at what seems like the worst possible time. They bring tears and anxiety. Boredom and frustration. Sometimes, even anger. But I have always found hospitals to be fascinating places full of amazing people. How often do we get the chance to sit in one place and have a revolving door of interesting individuals – who by definition are people motivated to care – who we can chat to and learn from, without even having to get out of bed?

In fact, something strange started to happen over the last year. I actually began to miss the hospital. It felt wrong to admit that, embarrassing even. I wrestled with the idea that my identity might be so tied up in my health that I didn’t know who I was without it. But now that I’ve spent some time among these familiar walls again I’ve realised there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I’m reminded of the greatest form of healing that hospitals can offer. One that isn’t necessarily about treatment of the body. A chance to detach. To reflect, recover and reset. When you’re in hospital, the choice to keep going is taken away from you. You can fight it and focus on all the things you wanted to finish and didn’t get a chance to (especially at this time of year), or you can accept it and see it for the gift it is.

I have an uncomfortable relationship with detachment. After all, isn’t striving for more what makes life exciting?

But for me detachment is a silver lining of sickness. And it’s one I’m trying to hold on to very tightly right now.

It’s about the value in identifying and pursuing only what matters most to you. And in order to do that, rest is essential. 

Far better to dedicate energy to one pursuit and give it a greater chance of success, than to pursue five things each with diminishing chances of becoming a reality.

So even though in the past I used to see admissions as rock bottom, now I look back and appreciate what I missed at the time. Often I would go in, physically and mentally exhausted. Only to pick myself back up once I started to feel better, and use the enforced rest as a chance to dream up big plans and get excited about what could come next. I used to think that I did this despite being sick, but what if it was only possible because I got sick? What if recovery from illness actually gave me a chance to take not just a deeper physical breath, but a mental one too.

So while I certainly won’t be wishing hospital admissions on anyone (!) I  do hope you can find the permission to detach and rest. It’s been an absolute whirlwind of a year. Even though there is always more to do, you still have a choice. A pause now might give you something you didn’t realise you needed.

*Disclaimer: You’ve heard of humour as a coping mechanism? Good. Do not under any eventuality try to admit yourself to a hospital for some peace and quiet, you may have noticed the NHS is a little stretched right now. I feel so strongly about this and I wanted to write about it in time for the nursing and ambulance strikes but I wasn’t well enough. You can guess what the next Good of Ills will focus on!

For all the concerned folk who have asked: I will be fine! I have had a particularly antisocial strain of flu but I’m recovering in good time.

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