by Ilana Jacqueline
(As originally published IG Living Magazine for Ilana’s column regular column)
Getting back to your life after a flare is a hardship in and of itself. Actually waiting to get to the point where you can begin the steps of recovering from a flare is like watching paint dry.
Will you ever get out of bed? Will you ever have to stop taking the medication that makes you want to both laugh, cry, and pass out at the same time? Will you ever get back to your job, have a chance to put on lipstick or have an occasion to wear a bra ever again?
These were my concerns as I battled my second blood infection and port removal. Just when I thought I’d be ready to recover—I would need another surgery, or have a complication that would add days to an already epic hospital stay.
Patience has never been my strong suit, even when it comes to doing things I don’t necessarily want to do. So during my downtime I tried to find ways to entertain a brain that was addled by pain medications when I couldn’t use the rest of my body to do anything useful. I had survived the crisis, and now I was preparing to survive The Great Wait.
The following are a few suggestions for coping with near-traumatic periods of uselessness and boredom.
Watch Mindless TV and Movies
Several years ago, I had about a week of bed rest after a surgery. I watched the entire series of Gossip Girl. Thanks to the mother load of painkillers and anesthesia working its way out of my system, I have absolutely zero memory of what happened in that show. The main character? She could be a tree in a fancy dress. The plot? There was gossip. There was a girl. That’s about all I can recall. Moral of the story? Entertain yourself with shows you won’t necessarily care if you need to recall at a meeting of the minds a few weeks later.
Do Your Digital Spring Cleaning
Once a week my husband finds me on the floor of my closet, organizing my clothes and shoes and bags. Twice a week he finds me organizing the cabinet under my bathroom sink. I think I had closet and cabinet organization withdrawal during these last few surgeries. This activity is soothing for me, but between lifting and hanging and shuffling—it wasn’t an activity I was physically up to.
I decided to do a digital clean up instead. I emptied out my laptop of old photos, files, and programs that didn’t need saving. Which freed up my screen and allowed me to watch old sitcoms with no current culture relevance.
Check In on Everyone Else
It’s nice when people bring you flowers in the hospital. Knowing people are thinking about you during their busy lives can make you feel loved and appreciated. Bed rest is a great time to return the favor! Go through your social networks and reconnect with people you haven’t checked in on in a while. Ask your cousins about their recent vacation. Get a run-down on your friend’s baby’s sleep schedule. Your days may be boring without much to talk about—so take some time to listen to the people around you. Give them that feeling of being loved and appreciated. Some days during recovery you may feel especially useless, but being there for someone else as an ear to vent to can give you a new sense of purpose.
And a few last words of warning:
Don’t take up a hobby you have to learn (like knitting) during recovery. (Learn to knit before the flare, enjoy the activity when it’s second nature.) Learning is hard enough when you’re not trying to remember what day it is and whether or not you’ve showered in the last week.
Don’t take on any activities that will create a huge mess. You hardly have the energy to bake a new recipe, let alone wash the dishes.
Don’t dive into serious work or work-related tasks before you’re ready. The last thing you want to do is send in an incoherent document to your boss that made perfect sense to you while you were in the OR’s recovery room.
Remember, your life, your family, eight baskets of dirty laundry, an empty pantry, and 412 missed emails will all be waiting for you when you’re ready.
So take your time!