The rest cure

Do you know what? I didn’t realise the rest cure was an actual thing? I imagined it was just a generic term for enforced taking it easy, which is what’s happened to me since early January, thanks to an operation. I say thanks and I really mean thanks. And no, I haven’t got Munchausen’s Syndrome, “a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.”

(Factitious? A new adjective for Donald Trump? No, too kind.)

Here’s me at the moment:

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Why the thanks for a (painful) operation? (Is there any other sort?) Because I am completely hopeless about stepping back and saying no to commitments. It’s harder for me, takes more discipline for me, to take a rest cure than it is to carry on. I’m always telling myself I should do it – but never quite seem to manage it.

I spend money on self-help books like:

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…which I never quite seem to have the time to read…

 

For years, YEARS, I have been schedule-driven in a crazy way, thinking I must adhere to a timetable in order to get everything done. My alarm is set for the following times: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 6.15 am. Friday – 5.15 am. Sunday – the Big Lie In – 7.15 am.

I leap out of bed (or crawl out of bed) and start on a list of tasks too many and too mundane to mention here involving family, dogs, horses, chickens, pigeons and doves, work, domestic duties, networking, writing, university, seminars, activism of various sorts. Just a normal sort of schedule really BUT…

  • I’m tired all the time
  • Joy has gone out of my life
  • Creativity? What creativity?
  • Things I enjoy doing have become a chore
  • I can’t be that pleasant to be around

Here’s something Maya Angelou wrote in Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now:

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” 

Here’s something I wrote:

“One day is not enough.”

So – back to the rest cure. It was devised in the late 1800s by Silas Weir Mitchell, an American neurologist, to treat hysteria, neurasthenia and other nervous illnesses. (Yes, I often descend into hysteria.) Since my operation, until recently I’ve been (mostly) confined to bed; I’m not allowed to do anything at all strenuous, like lifting a kettle (ha!) and I’m not allowed to drive. If following Weir Mitchell’s rest cure regime to the letter, I would be fed “a fatty, milk-based diet, force-fed if necessary – effectively reduced to the dependency of an infant.” Thank goodness husband Peter didn’t read that bit! He’s been absolutely tremendous.

I HAVE RESTED. What’s more, my mind has rested, for the first time in forever. It was actually quite scary at first, not being able to do all those distraction activities that kept me from…thinking too much? There was a massive hole where chaotic mind used to live.

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The Chaotic Mind by MDK-Fractal (Deviant Art)

Hello, zen-like calm. Hello creativity. Thank you, operation. Thank you, rest cure.

My final words:

“Stay alert at all times, alert to any opportunity for rest.” (As miaowed by Ulysses Brave in The Wit and Wisdom of Cats and Kittens)

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