Ahh 2017, truly a dumpster fire of a year on both a personal and global level. I’m leaving this year in a manner similar to how I entered it – sick, exhausted, and hopeful for a better year ahead (Spoiler alert: it was not a better year than 2016). I’ve spent the majority of this year being sick with a variety of illnesses ranging from the common cold to mononucleosis.
Apart from the indignity of contracting mono in my mid-twenties (WHY wasn’t I more irresponsible in college?!?!), mono destroyed my immune system and my emotional and physical well-being for well over 5 months. Before being officially diagnosed in March, I spent three months with constant joint pain, extreme fatigue despite sleeping for 10 hours a night, and the emotional anguish that comes with knowing that SOMETHING unknown was wrong with my body. As a millenial, I am quite familiar with the saying “I can’t even” in the context of the price of avocado toast, running out of quarters to do laundry, and my general annoyance at other humans. What I never expected was feeling like “I literally can’t even get out of bed, or find the energy to feed myself, or walk up this flight of stairs…” and that was both scary and incredibly frustrating.
The only remedy for mono is time and rest. Mono can take months to resolve, but the symptoms (fatigue, poor immune health, body pain) can linger and recur for over a year. Unfortunately, my job as a speech therapist requires non-stop energy, minimal time off, and constant exposure to germs. No matter how awful I felt, I had to put a smile on my face and use every ounce of energy to sound excited and engaged for each of my patients. In retrospect, I know I didn’t quite fake it as well as I thought I did and it took a huge toll on my mood, my work ethic, and my personal relationships outside of work. I didn’t have the mental energy to be fun or happy or compassionate. There were days after work where I would barely make it to my car before bursting into tears because not only was I drained, but then I had a 45 minute drive home before I could get back into bed. I started resenting the job that I otherwise loved doing and resenting myself for not being able to do my job well.
This year, I’ve been on 4 rounds of antibiotics, been ill for at least 8 of the last 12 months, and come to appreciate both the fragility and resilience of the human body. Despite working in healthcare and striving to improve and advocate for the health of others, I’ve spent this year being woefully dismissive of my own physical and mental health needs. I pushed myself to be physically present at work and social events when I was so sick that no one benefitted from my presence. I’m on the mend and I’ve had longer spans of being relatively healthy towards the end of this year (although seems like I’ll be celebrating the new year with a spot of bronchitis because of course I will 🙄). I’m learning to be respectful of my body’s limits as well as acknowledging that my mental well-being is equally important to my overall health.
I plan to end 2017 in San Francisco wearing my favorite silver sequin dress with (moderately) high hopes for 2018, and the following resolutions:
- Be kind to your body, you only have one. Go to the gym, eat healthy, drink more water, get more sleep. But also rest when you need to, eat that slice of cake, drink that glass of wine, stay up until 3am talking to people you love.
- Take time off from work when you’re not feeling well. Yes it will inconvenience some people, yes some patients may not get seen, but you will be a better therapist and a more pleasant co-worker when you come back healthy and rested.
- Set boundaries and speak up when those boundaries are crossed. Self-advocate and don’t silently stew over things just because you’re too afraid to stand up for yourself.
- Rules 1-3 of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules.”
- Dance more, dance often.
Happy New Year to you all, wishing everyone an exponentially happier, healthier, and more love filled 2018.