When a Doctor Told Me to 'Be Sick'


“Be sick.”

The words reverberated to my core. “Excuse me?” I questioned my new doctor. I had heard good things about him, which is why I had driven all this way to see him. The handsome, slender and “healthy” looking physician was speaking a foreign language.

I started at him. And he repeated himself.

“Be sick.”

“I don’t think I understand.”

You are sick. Your blood work is a mess, and you can barely raise your arms over your head. I want you to submit to this. Be sick and rest.”

“Well, I can’t!” I begged. “You have to help me. I can’t just give up.”

“I didn’t say give up.” He sat on the rolling stool and handed me a stack of scripts. “I said be sick. Be still, and rest. Admit you are sick and then be sick. Your body is requiring you to rest. To be still, to sleep until you can’t sleep anymore.”

“But the kids…”

“Will be fine.” He opened a bottle of water and handed it to me. “You need to drink lots of water, sleep and let your body and the medicine work.”

I had nothing to say. He didn’t understand.

“I know you think I don’t understand.”

“You don’t.”

“I don’t, not exactly. But if you want to get well, you have to be sick. You will have to ask for help. You will have to say no. You will have to delegate. You will have to be sick.”

A lump rose in my throat, constricting my ability to argue with him. It ached and tightened. A tear escaped my eye. I didn’t want to fall apart in front of this man. A part of me wanted to argue some more, another part of me wanted to wholly acquiesce to his counsel. 

“You said that you believed in God?”

I simply nodded yes.

“If God created you, he created the parts that communicate to you – you are sick.” I never lifted my eyes. I just listened and stared at the full bottle of cool water.

“Do you believe you are sick?”

This time I answered and barked, “You know I am!”

“Well then,” he patted my knee, “be sick.”

I took a swig of water, half to distract and half in hopes that I would actually be able to swallow. 

Another tear escaped and I looked out the window to my left. I could see tree tops and blue skies and little tufts of white clouds. More tears fell. I wanted to be well. I wanted him to tell me how to be well.

“I want to be well.”

“Then be sick.” He stood. “I will do things on my end, you follow the instructions I have given you and be sick. I’ll see you back here in two weeks.”

And he left. 

I methodically dressed, sniffling and wiping my wet face. I called my husband. He answered with a twinge of hope in his voice.

“Well?”

“He said I need to be sick and come back in two weeks.” I waited for my husband to start to rant and rave at the wasted cost.

“Jami!” he yelped, “He is a genius! That is brilliant. I am serious, come home. We will take care of you. You need to be sick, so you can be well.”

I filled my lungs with the relief of breath, closed my phone and picked up my purse. I had permission to just let go and be sick. A doctor had told me to just “be sick.” A wave of relief washed over me. I opened the heavy, hospital white door. 

I stepped into the hall and the nurse said, “Well?”

And I smiled and said, “Well, I am sick.”

Editor’s Note: This is based off an individual’s experience. Please see a doctor for medical advice.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share a conversation you’ve had that changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Chronic Illness

Twitter Enables Alternative Text So Images Are 'Accessible to Everyone'

On Tuesday, Twitter announced it will enable users to add descriptions, also known as alternative text (alt text), when posting images. “As a core part of the Twitter experience, it’s important that images shared on our platform are accessible to everyone, including those who are visually impaired,” the company said on its blog. “With this update, we’re [...]

When I Talk to My Kids About the R-Word During This Presidential Election

The R-word is, or at least it should be, obsolete. Yet here I am, sitting in a gymnasium with 200 or so people, including my 5- and 10-year-old daughters, hearing that word. An elder in the league is giving the end-of-season speech. Several of his key points have grated on my nerves, so I’m already frustrated. Twenty or so minutes [...]

12 Rights I Had as a Parent When My Child Was in the Hospital

I have been wanting to write this post for a very long time. My daughter who is 2 years old has been in the hospital nine times (that’s the inpatient number, that doesn’t include the many emergency room visits), and many of these hospitals have been all over the country. She has been inpatient in two children’s [...]

To Moms Like Me Whose Children's Special Needs Are Emotional

Moms who have said yes to a child whose early years were full of brokenness, I know the hard road you’re walking. We welcomed our daughter into our home through adoption in 2009. She was not quite 3. She’s now almost 10, and though years of love have allowed many wounds to heal, there are [...]