“Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own.” – Oprah Winfrey
Recently I had sinusitis and bronchitis. Congestion, coughing, and difficulty breathing made me lethargic, and I laid around, reading cozy mysteries. A friend told me that colds happen in order to slow us down. At first I dismissed her comment because my life is not overly fast-paced, but then I decided that perhaps this illness was giving me time to reflect on my life.
Here is what I learned, along with questions for you to reflect on:
- I need to take better care of myself. Another clue to this was that my pants had become too tight, even though I lost weight from being ill. This past winter was particularly fierce in the Chicago area, and I did not walk as I do most winters. I realized that I’d gotten out of shape, and I started walking every day as soon as I felt better. I also joined Weight Watchers.
Are you taking good care of yourself?
- The week before I got sick, I did a couple of volunteer tasks that I didn’t really want to do. I asked myself why I had felt I needed to do that when I already do plenty of volunteer work. I realized I can say “No.”
Do you say yes when you want to say no?
- I have seasonal allergies, but they were under control until the day I was unable to breathe for a few seconds. I was choking, although there was nothing in my throat. My sister watched me gesturing and said, “Can you talk?” Somehow I reached deep within to push through a little air. This incident was frightening and reminded me of my mortality.
When have you thought about your mortality?
- I went to the doctor the next day who said my airways had probably been blocked by postnasal drip. She gave me an inhaler, but later I realized I had left without a plan to prevent this from occurring again. Instead I accepted my doctor’s statement that “Your allergies are under control.” My doctor is not fully to blame—I should have been more assertive. I am responsible for my health.
Are you assertive when talking to others?
- My symptoms kept getting worse, and I went to an Immediate Care doctor on the weekend. By then, I had developed a sinus infection and bronchitis. After a complete change of medicines, I started to feel better. I’ve decided to look for a primary care doctor like this Immediate Care doctor, who addressed all my concerns.
Are you proactive regarding your health?
- While reflecting on my sickness, I looked for bright spots. My daughter Katie tells me that while I lay in bed coughing, our dog was pressed against the gate that keeps him downstairs, listening to me cough. It’s nice to know that he and others care. Friends and family checked on me and sent well wishes.
Have there been any bright spots in your recent challenges? Have you checked on family or friends who are not feeling well?
- Finally, I reminded myself to put my illness in perspective. Before I got sick, my husband and I attended a Dance Marathon fundraiser that my daughter Mel helped run to benefit patients of a children’s hospital. More than a dozen “miracle families” told their stories at the event. There were few dry eyes in the room when parents talked about children that had passed away or children fighting for their lives. One 9-year-old boy has been through 35 surgeries and still is fed through a tube. Thinking about other people’s challenges made my own seem less momentous.
Is that true for you?
Have you taken time to reflect lately? What have you learned?