Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Illness, depression, and doing what you need

For more than three weeks, I've had a virus in my chest. It seemed to go from cold to bronchitis to pneumonia in about 2 weeks. I did all the things I knew to do on my own: clearing my calendar, taking my herbal remedies, resting, drinking lots of water. I never had a fever or felt particularly sick but the cough got worse and worse and I got more and more tired. Although I'd occasionally feel I was on the mend, I never really was. A week ago Monday, I saw the nurse practitioner at my doctor's office, he diagnosed pneumonia and put me on an antibiotic. The change was slow but positive and I saw him again that Friday and he said my lung was clear and I'd turned the corner. He didn't however listening to the hacking cough and by Sunday, I was worse again. Now I am on the second round of antibiotics and hoping this will do it. While this second antibiotic has some unpleasant side effects, including insomnia, it does seem to be working. I am coughing less often, less violently. And I've become cautiously optimistic that I am on the mend finally.

Several things have come out of this experience. How much I take for granted that I will heal and be well. I know that many people have to give up on that belief and I have been depressed by thoughts that I might be joining them. Bronchitis can turn chronic and lead to COPD, a nasty acronym for battered, scarred lungs that don't work well. Second, that my body needs my love and tenderness, not my fear and resistance to what is.
Third, that illness is depressing and my spirits have sunk quite low in the last couple of days, especially with the antibiotic-induced insomnia.

It is a curious phenomenon, the bleak thinking that comes in the dark hour when we cannot sleep and feel alone and vulnerable. How quickly I could go to thinking I would never be well, I would be on a respirator, I would die. That my books would never sell, that my writing is terrible, that my life has been a waste. Fortunately, my thoughts became so out of control and so gloomy that I had to laugh. And last night I didn't let myself go there.

I also recognized that I desperately needed an AA meeting, that it had been over a month since I'd been, perhaps the longest time in all 22 years of sobriety. Normally I go once or twice a week but I had not felt up to driving, to leaving the house, to coughing for an hour in the presence of others. And when I don't get to my meetings, eventually the sanity starts to wobble.

I went to a meeting at noon today and talked about some of these things. Within three minutes of sitting down, I felt better. My chest wasn't any clearer, but my mind and heart were. I had forgotten that meetings are a medicine that I need. I was glad I remembered.

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