There’s a lovely old-fashioned word, which is not heard much in conversation these days, it seems. That word is ‘Convalescence’. Originating in the late 15th century, the translation from Latin meant, “to grow fully strong”. According to the Oxford Dictionary, today’s definition is “to make progress toward the recovery of health”.
In times gone by, it was not only acceptable to convalesce, but actually expected. It wasn’t that many years ago that women were actively encouraged to stay in hospital for up to 7 days after a straightforward birth. And now?
While there are many reasons for hospital stays being shortened, we must surely also acknowledge that, these days, taking to one’s bed is, amongst busy women, more likely to be done only when our body gives out in some way, thereby forcing us there, rather than it being seen as a viable choice or an appropriate option to aid and encourage our wellbeing.
Discussing this topic with a Ripenist recently, I realised that in order to manage others expectations about the need for a period of convalescence, effective communication skills, along with the courage and confidence to self-advocate, are key. Because in our results oriented working world, there seems to be less awareness or acceptance, even intolerance of that necessary gap between illness, surgery and/or treatment and getting back to work, particularly if the person recovering outwardly “looks fine”.
Why is this? Do we think convalescing seems somewhat self-indulgent? Do we conjure up images of the convalesce-ee languidly lolling about on the sofa catching up on their favourite TV shows, while others are working hard to pick up the imagined slack or extra work created by their absence? Really?
On the flip side, why do we feel guilty about insisting on the need for our own convalescence? Are we concerned that the world won’t handle our absence for long? Or is it more about our own need for currency, perhaps a sense of belonging that urges us to resume, with haste, our place in whatever fold(s) we are part of?
There are several points worth us pondering here:
- Convalescence is the transition between illness and wellness. Without taking time for it, the efficacy of our recovery is compromised. Ask anyone who ‘boxed on’ at work with a seemingly endless string of winter colds.
- By midlife, we really should know our body well enough to genuinely intuit what we need by way of recovery. That’s if we slow down and/or be quiet for long enough to pay attention to its truth.
- Convalescence has its place. Recognising its existence is neither selfish nor an option. It’s a genuine need (some may even say it’s a right) and we do a service to ourselves, and ultimately the others we share our lives with, by allowing its place in enabling the longer-term benefits to mind, body and soul.
So, rather than rush back to a fully engaged full-on life, tough it out, wear a self appointed badge of honour because “while the Doctor said you’d need 6 weeks to recover, you thought you could get back to work after only 3”, would you at least allow yourself the possibility of recovering once, properly, taking just as long as it takes? And would you also give a convalesce-ee the grace of allowing them to do just that?
Caveat: I appreciate that everyone’s wellbeing beliefs and circumstances re sick leave, medical or income protection insurance, caregiving and LIFE are different. Needs must, but still…
Ripenist Reckoning: Where is there opportunity for you to re-think your view (and actions) about making progress towards the recovery of health?