Fuzzy pajamas. Netflix all day. An excuse to ignore your email/phone/whatever. Have you ever wanted to feel sick? To just lay in bed with a slight fever and runny nose? Or to have a bad stomach or a gripping headache? Your quick gut response might be, “Heck, no! Why would I EVER want to be sick?”
I find that nearly every woman wants to escape the chaos of their life from time to time – and let’s face it – sickness is a fairly socially acceptable way to do so. Even a high-powered job understands taking off for a serious cold or flu (although some of us try to power through even that). I mean it’s not like you can abandon your life or just ignore it – whoa, what if we could? Just for a bit? So, illness is often the stand in.
Illness Can Serve As A Substitute For Our Voice
You’ve seen Bad Moms, the quintessential mom movie? Seriously, if I could get the G-rated version, I’d play this ON LOOP in my office waiting room all day. (But then, it would lose all of its glorious mom-driven badness!) Anyhoo, you know the scene where the three new mom friends head to the bar and Kristen Bell’s character, Kiki, talks about how she’d like to get in a car accident – just a small one – so she can spend two weeks at the hospital and get served a few meals a day and sleep some? And then the other mom says, “Don’t let me get into a car with you!”
We often use sickness subconsciously to substitute for OUR VOICE. As women, we get tired, we get cranky – ok, bitchy – and we don’t like to confront what is in front of us. FULL ADMISSION: recently, I wanted to get sick. With something minor, just a small cold or something. Something that would let me lay in bed and maybe drink some soup – like old-fashioned chicken noodle that my mom would make me (yeah, it was Lipton Cup a soup – but hey, I grew up in the ‘80s!). For a time, I could totally relate to Kiki’s desire to imprison myself far away…and use my health as the excuse.
Why in the world would I want this for myself? I had an employee that was awful at work – a toxic person that made the environment around them feel toxic…even just noxious. This person I brought on and was a friend of mine!!! Thus, I knew it was my responsibility to rid us of that “evil,” but the truth is, I’m not a confrontational person (despite what my husband might say). I struggled with how to say it. In truth, I wanted this to be amicable, although I knew that was nearly impossible with this women’s level of narcissism. I even wrote out different talking points. And part of me just wanted to escape, crawl into bed and leave my responsibilities for a short period of time. And I would have LOVED for someone else to come in and take care of ME for a bit.
Do You Have A Pattern Of Making Yourself Sick?
If I think about it, I’ve lived this pattern throughout my life…and my guess is you may have done it, too, although probably subconsciously. Your body has a unique way of slowing you down when there is “life overload-it is.” Ever wonder why you get a massive snot cold the week of finals? Or the worst case of the fro-yo poops when the kids have three different recitals across town? Or when your marriage is having a rough patch, and you get a nasty yeast infection? Yeah, I went there. 😉
I now find that my body doesn’t allow what I like to call the “mind screw” to happen like it used to, because I now recognize it’s happening. I know exactly what my 5-year-old mind is trying to do: it is trying to protect me. But chronic “I feel like ass,” and “I get a cold every year when my sister-in-law shows up,” is not a healthy way to deal with life!
So, what the hell do we as women do? What has worked for me – and for many of my patients – is a mindset technique to switch pre-illness back to a feeling of pure healthiness.
Here’s the gist; it’s deceivingly simple.
Acknowledge Your Feelings For Better Health
I acknowledge the feelings I’m trying to avoid (or at least what my mind is trying to avoid). This requires bravery and courage, both things women have in abundance! How do I do this? I face the feeling head-on. I look that bitch right in the eye, and I say, “I’m going to feel xx (sadness, anger, regret) for the next 60 seconds. And then it’s going to pass.” Because ladies, it does pass. We are so afraid of negative feelings that we shun them.
Have you ever tried to stop the feeling that you have to go pee? Maybe it works for a few minutes…but eventually, that bladder is going to tell you it’s not waiting on you any longer. And then the urge to purge overwhelms you…until you get to a potty, or you change your pants. The same situation happens with negative emotions: you may stave them off for a short while, but eventually, they will show up in not-so-pleasant ways…and your health is a prime stomping ground for those bad emotions.
Negative emotions ARE fleeting. Plenty of research shows they last for no more than 90 seconds. Can you hang on to it for about a minute and a half? By now, I can sense when the emotion starts to wane…but in the beginning, you may want to set a timer on your phone.
Some of my patients like to write for this minute; some just like to close their eyes and feel it like a wave coming onto the beach, and then ebbing back into the ocean. You could also have a jar of prewritten emotions that you can pick out and look at what resonates with you for the 60 seconds.
The key is just to start recognizing how your mind is affecting your health. Emotions can be to the mind what hormones are to PMS – they can really mess with your overall health! So, next time you come down with a cold, or a bout of bronchitis, or even the pukes, ask yourself, am I pulling a Kiki and avoiding something in my life? And just notice what your mind – and body – tell you.
– Heather Bartos, M.D.