Emily M. DeArdo

writer

Why "powering through" illness is a bad idea

health, transplant, essaysEmily DeArdo1 Comment
Not a good idea when you're sick 

Not a good idea when you're sick 

Hillary Clinton is in the news, not because of her presidential campaign, but because she has pneumonia. Apparently, she's been sick for awhile, but the official diagnosis came from her doctors/her campaign yesterday. 

There was a lot of talk on Twitter (and I presume elsewhere on social media) about how women just "power through" illness. "We do lots of things when we're sick!" women were saying. "We're awesome like that!" 

Well, actually, no, ladies. It's not awesome. Trust me. 

I did a fair amount of "powering through" for the first 23 years of my life. And no, I wasn't running for president. I was trying to be as "normal" as possible. That meant school, extracurriculars, summer jobs. I went to school when I had a noncontagious form of TB and was falling asleep in my first period class because I was so tired. I had a summer job the summer after I almost died and spent two weeks in the ICU. I was so desperate to sing in my college choir's big Christmas Festival that I went from the hospital, to class, and then back to the hospital because I finally realized that, yes, I was way too sick to be in class, much less perform in a three-hour concert. 

There were times my college boyfriends had to almost hold me down to keep me from going to sorority meetings, or Student Government events. 

Some of this pigheaded Irish determination was a good thing. It kept me involved, it kept me active, and I had a great time in college. But some of it was really bad. I didn't know when to stop. I worked up until the weekend before my transplant. Seriously. I had to drag myself out of bed every single day, but I was there at my office. The only time I wasn't was when I was in the hospital. I might have come in a little later in the morning, but I was there

After my transplant, this all changed. Partially because I was much more susceptible to illness, including getting illnesses from other people. I had to learn to say No to going to things when sick people were there. I told my friends that if someone was at a party and that person was sick, I wasn't going to go. 

I had to make sure I got enough sleep. This is huge for me. I realized that I needed 8-9 hours of sleep every night. I definitely had not been getting that. And when I was sick, I needed to be sick--and not "power through." Because powering through only made it worse

I had pneumonia this past winter. I was in the hospital for almost a week, and it took me more than a month to recover when I was back home. Pneumonia kills millions of people a year. It's a nasty, nasty bug. And yes, I'm more susceptible to it, and always have been. But people over 65 are in the high-risk group, too--and Hillary Clinton is 68.  

Pneumonia isn't something that you can "power through." There is "walking" pneumonia--a milder case of it. But it's something that requires rest, and lots of it. You feel like you've been run over by a truck. It's Not Fun at all. And if you don't rest appropriately, then guess what? It lasts longer

Ladies, we have to stop "powering through." The world isn't going to end if we're sick. (OK, this might be different if you're the President. Or, even, Secretary of State.) But that's two people in the world. Listen to your body, and give it what it needs! Let yourself heal! Don't put yourself--and others--at risk for being sick. Do the counter-cultural thing, and take care of yourself. 

It's not easy. I know that. I spent 23 years resisting this entire idea. "I can rest when I'm dead!" 

Well, if you don't take care of yourself, you're going to be doing that sooner rather than later.