When we get physically ill, most of us recognize the need for a day of non-productivity. A day of simplicity, of simply living, to bolster the body’s ability to recover and to heal. We take a day, call in sick, and go back to bed. We dutifully take our medications, sip tea, and regain strength to begin again.
But when we get emotionally or mentally ill, most of us simply imagine that we need to walk it off. Push on through, straighten our shoulders, and cowboy up. Focus on what we need to get done, leaving our inner turmoil and pain to ferment until some future point.
And when we recognize the wound – when we’re in recovery from addiction or other mental illness – we’re even more likely to try to be tough. We should know better, we messed up again. We suppose there’s no need to sit and dwell with the pain because we know it so well.
But if we keep pushing through stress when we’re physically ill, we stay physically ill.
And if we keep pushing through stress when we’re emotionally or mentally ill, we start down the road to another relapse.
Dear hearts, when you’ve had a rough day and did what you shouldn’t have done, don’t brush it off. Or if you had a fight or had a panic attack or whatever – don’t just pretend it didn’t happen. No, that’s illness like any other. Even if it’s an old companion, it’s said something new.
Clear the schedule. Take some time and sit with it. Welcome this wounded part of yourself and recognize it, validate it, and re-unite your divided self into a single whole. Go through all the emotions, feel the pain and grief. Expose the wound to the air so that it can dry out and become a scar like your many others.
Emotional illness is just as real as physical illness. Mental illness is just as real, too. And both are just as unreal – for you are not your body, your mind, or your emotions. But these layers of self are your gardens here, and you must tend them. Whatever the form of illness, if it arises – take a day, go back to bed, and sip some tea.
Whatever the form of illness, recognize the need to begin again.