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When I Wish I Could 'Choose' to Rest

I have spent all day in bed. Again.

I managed to walk to the mailbox, take a bath, reheat some leftovers, and write this article. I took breaks in between each activity to just lie down with my heating pad. Today my pain has been too much and I have had to rest. Today my chronic illnesses have taken away my ability to choose how I will spend my time.

Many of those who have a chronic illness (or several), have lost a seemingly insignificant aspect of life that healthy people often take for granted: basic choices. The healthy person looks forward to the weekend so that they can choose to sleep in, make a late breakfast and watch Netflix in their pajamas for a few hours.

The healthy person, usually without realizing it, makes choices about simple aspects of their day. Will they shower in the morning or evening? What day of the week should they go grocery shopping or do laundry? If a healthy person wakes up with a cold they can usually still choose to push through the discomfort and go to work or they can choose to call in sick and rest. These basic choices are not available to me on days of severe pain and fatigue, and on the good days I must think far more carefully about my choices than the average person.

Today my chronic illness did not let me choose when I would bathe. Instead, severe pain in my chest forced me to draw a warm bath that could help me breathe again, even though my overwhelming fatigue made it difficult to even walk from my bedroom to the bathroom.

I had plans to get some work done from home today, but my chronic illness prevented me from sitting at my desk or even using my laptop in bed.

I have spent much of the day berating myself for being lazy and unproductive because all I’ve been able to do is lie in bed listening to music and watching Netflix. Then I realized I can only be “lazy” if I choose not to accomplish anything with my day, and because my chronic illness has robbed me of my choices today, I have not been lazy.

To those of you who can relate, remember that laziness is a choice that can be made, while chronic illness chooses us and often robs us of any other real choices (especially on the bad days).

To those healthy people who might wonder if I am using my illness as an “excuse” to stay home in bed, know that after a long, boring and painful day, the thing I want more than anything else in the world is simply the ability to choose when to rest and when not to. But I might never really have that choice.

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