How being ill makes me ill

I write this from a weird place (not my bedroom, that’s just my bedroom. It’s weird, but that’s normal). A mentally weird place.

I am currently signed off sick. I am unfit to work, according to three different healthcare providers. The Job Centre have accepted this so far, though the stuff that follows will no doubt be a whole new topic.

Today, though, I’m going to talk about what being ‘ill’ has meant for me. It has meant weakness, defeat, and emptiness.

Now, I can fully understand why I’ve been signed off sick. It’s logical really. My joints are getting worse, to the point where I can’t walk without limping most of the time. My mental health is in the gutter, singing sad songs and crying into an empty pint glass. It isn’t getting up any time soon, and even when it does, there will be issues to contend with as it drunkenly stumbles about getting in the way of traffic (my mental health is nothing to do with drinking, by the way, it just seemed a nice metaphor). I need time to recover, and time to attend the variety of medical appointments which I have every week.

However, I do not cope well with being ‘ill’. I have been back from my short stay with friends, and back to being ‘ill’ (as opposed to ‘away’) for almost two weeks, and already I have noticed the change in myself.

Before, I was self-employed. I had a struggling, yet busy startup business of costume design, and two sidelines of clothing and writing. I was not making much, but I was scraping by. I wanted a new job, something not self-employed, but at least it was a start.

Now, I’m unemployed. Unemployable, even. I couldn’t get a job even if I tried, basically. I’ve even had doctors say that if I did get a job, I would fail within days and make myself feel worse.

My small amount of money from self-employment might not have afforded my luxuries, but at least I’d earned it. It was also more than I’d get on sick benefits.

Now, when someone asks what I do, I stammer. I pause. I freeze, almost. I don’t actually do anything. Without the routine of work (albeit my weird, work-when-I-can/want routine) I’ve realised I’ve stopped doing anything. I don’t just not work, I don’t relax either. I don’t play games, or play music, or draw, or do the million other things that I filled time with when I should’ve been working. Because in my mind, people only care if I’m working or not. If I’m not working, I worry I’ll be judged harshly, and then shouldn’t be doing fun things. And, of course, I ask myself what the purpose is in doing hobbies, or doing things for fun. No-one cares what I do, if I’m not working (at least, in my brain that’s how I see it), so I don’t see any point in doing anything – and for someone who sews, writes, plays music, plays games and enjoys TV shows, that’s terrifying.

So being ‘ill’ has made me ill. It has actually negatively impacted my mental health, scarily.

I’m not sure what the solution here is. I know I’m not well enough to dive into work properly. I can’t work part-time self employed while being ‘ill’ because then the Job Centre will be grouchy and I won’t get any help – and I do really need all the help I can get (in theory they’ll help me get back into more mainstream work once I’m properly on their books, and that’ll be fantastic – one day, when I’m ready).

It worries me that mentally ill and physically ill people are in fact left to their own devices and told to heal magically somehow. So far, being ill has just made me worse. Here’s hoping I get on the mend soon – I don’t know how much longer I can stand being ill.

(At least I managed to write this post. That’s a good sign)

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