by: Staci Stallings
Last time we talked about how the physical trigger of sickness might set off your default responses– how some people buckle down and refuse to “be sick,” and about others who whine about how they never get to do anything fun because they’re sick.
Today, we’re going to get a little more serious than a cold or a headache.
Let’s talk a bit about default settings when what you’re facing isn’t just a passing illness.
Next time we will talk about chronic and terminal illnesses.
For now, let’s talk about major illnesses — those lasting more than a week that probably aren’t going to kill you (though they might if left untreated) but are going to require more than rest and orange juice.
I’ve actually been through a couple of these, so I know a little about my default settings in this area.
One of my default settings is to not run to the doctor right away. I usually try to handle the illness on my own if at all possible. Lung stuff gets Vicks on the feet. Stomach stuff is begging my daughter to rub my feet. Migraines is Excedrin migraine and sleeping it off.
I do, however, sometimes wonder if my aversion to getting right to the doctor might be a bad thing in certain circumstances. This last bout with a major illness had me contemplating that issue a LOT.
At first it didn’t seem THAT bad. It started as a headache, a bad one that moving my head was not advisable. By morning it was far worse (and no, not a migraine. I’ve had those. This wasn’t one.) With my kids in school, I had to reroute people to drop off and pick up because I could hardly get out of bed. So long as I was in bed, I was fine, but stand up and… WOW! The pain was unimaginable.
So with my default of not going to the doctor, my first plan was to simply lay, rest, and do nothing to disturb it. I figured in a day or so, it would go away, and I would be back to running my normal life.
When that didn’t happen, after day 2 1/2, the “what ifs” started. What if this is spinal meningitis? What if I wait too long to go to the doctor? What if I don’t go now and it gets worse?
By that morning, I knew it was time to go in, which we did. Only to find that it was really bad swelling and some bone spurs in my neck. They gave me meds and sent me home. Unfortunately the pain meds made me sicker. I went from a headache to vomiting to the point I could hardly hold my head up at all. Shaking and panicked, I went back to the ER, and after an interminable wait, I found out that I have adverse reactions to that type of medication (no kidding, Sherlock!). They took me off of that and put me on Tylenol and Advil and sent me back home.
I have to tell you if you’ve never experienced a major illness, when you do, it will test you to the depths of your spirit because when you’re in that bed, flat on your back, there is nothing to do but think. If you are prone to negative or disturbing thoughts, I can’t imagine because I’m usually a pretty positive thinker, but WOW! That was a challenge!
It got to the point that even reading or doing much of anything to distract myself for that night was more than I could do. All I could do was lay there and think.
This is, I think one point where it really helps to have set up some go-to default settings BEFORE you get into that situation. Why? Because when you’re there, you really won’t be able to think of new ones. You will go to the ones you know.
For me, some of my defaults were taking a shower, reading if I could, and praying. I did a lot of that. A LOT.
And interestingly, looking back at the other major illnesses I’ve faced, prayer is probably the one and only constant in all of them.
When I had nickel poisoning so bad I couldn’t walk, I read and prayed a lot.
When I had pneumonia from the nickel poisoning, same thing… read and pray.
When I faced multiple surgeries due to the nickel poisoning and nearly died from an allergic reaction in the middle of my kitchen floor… I prayed.
My other default setting is to keep trying to find an answer to fix the illness. I am not the best patient in the world because I’m not overly patient about finding an answer. Oh, no. I’m going to work and research and read and do whatever seems possible and logical to fix the issue. I don’t roll over and play dead.
And often, it is this doggedness that does enable me to eventually find the solution. However, very seldom is that answer easy. It takes digging and stubbornness.
I will tell you that there are few tests like a major illness. If it’s yours, it will test your faith like few other things on the planet. If it is someone you know, it will test your faith, your hope, your love, and you in ways you never thought possible.
So what are your defaults when a major illness happens? Do you fall apart? Get determined? Shut others out? Open up to others? Pray more? Or get mad at God?
Look at your defaults today. See which you might need to bolster in case you need them down the road. See which you might need to rethink or tweak. Remember just because it’s been a default setting doesn’t mean you have to accept it forever and always. You can always choose new ones, and with God’s help, new, more positive defaults can make all the difference in your life–especially when a major sickness hits.