Guess what? I still have the flu! Today is day seven of lying on the couch, taking Gravol to keep food down, and boring the pants off my puppy. Yuck!
I said to my friend S. the other day that I should be better by now. After all, isn’t this the formula for getting well?
Liquids + rest = wellness
No? Okay, how about:
Liquids + rest + Vitamin C + chicken noodle soup + flat ginger ale = wellness
Whenever I’m doing something that “should” be working but isn’t, I have this magical belief that I actually need to do something totally random to get better. Like the universe wants me to chew bubble gum while brushing my hair and listening to Radiohead. That exact combination will equal kicking this cold to the curb! Unfortunately I don’t have the energy to try every combination of activities under the sun while I’m sick.
I know that if I went to the doctor and ask her how to get well, she would say almost the same thing as my formula above:
Rest + liquids + time = wellness
Ah, yes, time. Time and patience, those slippery things. Maybe some faith doesn’t hurt either. And so as I lie here staring at the ceiling, I have to remind myself that even though I’m doing everything that I “should” be doing to get better, my body is only going to get better when it decides to. I have to let go and wait.
The same thing could be said for depression. When I was first diagnosed I was told:
Medication = mental wellness.
Well, that didn’t make me better. I tried another combination:
Medication + therapy = wellness
That wasn’t the quick fix I was looking for either. Adding time to the equation didn’t fix things either. Now, after eleven years of trying to get well, I have learned a formula that kind of works for me:
The right medication + intensive psychotherapy + routine + eating well + getting enough sleep + social time + alone time + writing + grounding myself + humour + pets + time + patience = the start of wellness
What a ridiculously long formula! And after all that, I only get the start of wellness?
Unfortunately, yes, and I could have added a lot more into that equation, too. In fact, I add new parts to it every day. Sometimes I take away pieces but usually I add them back. And to make matters even more frustrating, the formula is different for every person. It’s common for certain parts of that formula to work for other people, so much so that doctors pretty much always recommend medication, but it doesn’t mean that medication always works for everyone.
It sounds really unfair, and it is. As human beings we don’t like unpredictability. We like things to fit in neat little boxes that we can sort and pile and then put away. But even the things we can measure EXACTLY don’t always act like they are supposed to.
For example, take time. There are 365 days in a year, twenty-four hours in a day, and sixty minutes per hour. Nice measurable and neat! Think back to what you were doing a year ago. Does it feel like a whole year has gone by since then? Not for me, it feels like spring of 2011 was maybe four months ago. What about when you’re really looking forward to something? Time slows right down, so that kids waiting for Santa cannot believe how long it takes for those 24 days of December to go by. And when we’re dreading something, time seems to travel faster than ever before.
So time is measurable and immeasurable. Same with illness, both physical and mental. If I were to go to the doctor today and tell her my symptoms she’d probably say that I have the flu, but there are no blood tests or breathalyzers to confirm that diagnosis. Same for depression and many other kinds of mental illness. Medicine isn’t an exact science. Life isn’t an exact science.
Luckily for me, I was never really a math or science person. I passed those classes fine but man, were they boring! Now the arts, they overflow with unpredictability. I loved drama and English and art. Pretending and writing and painting all make my feelings more manageable without putting them in neat little boxes. In drama and English and art, there are rules, but it takes more than following those rules to create something artistic. It takes heart. It takes life. It takes unpredictability.
So, back to me beating the flu. I’m still going to keep downing liquids, resting on the couch, and taking Vitamin C but I need to add some more faith that those things still will work, but on their own time. I’ve read two books in the last week, and maybe a third will bring my wellness to the surface. Maybe I’ll try walking Digby a little bit today even though I still feel nauseous.
The beauty in the unpredictable formulas is that we get to participate in our remedy. We get to stretch our comfort zones and try what we like and try what we don’t like and by process of elimination we get closer to what we really need.
What is your formula for wellness?