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Confessions of a Sick Person

Truth be told: Nine confessions about life while sick.

Public Domain

Eva Gonzalès 1849-1883.

Source: Public Domain

Some of these are lighthearted, some are not. It may not be in my best interests for the people in my life to be reading this, but I’m in the mood to confess, so here goes.

My bed is my palace

Until I got sick, I never realized that a bed could serve so many functions.

First off, it makes a great office. There’s plenty of space to spread out books and notes, and a laptop fits nicely on my reclined body. I’m writing this piece from my bed. I wrote all my books from my bed. And, in all my years in the workforce, I was never able to create such a comfortable space, complete with personally arranged pillows.

My bed is also a great dog playground. I can play "pull-toy," I can play "tickle the dog." The possibilities are endless.

And, of course, what better way to eat than in or on the bed?

Office and playground and eatery. What else could a person ask for?

I worry that I’m no longer competent out in the world

I'm reluctant to put gas in my car because I don’t understand the new procedure. Do you swipe your credit card before you put the gas in? Afterwards? How do you hold the card so as to assure a proper swipe? How do you get that nozzle to stick in the tank without holding onto it? How to you take it out without spilling gas all over the side of the car? I feel incompetent just putting this in writing.

Then there was the time I took my friend, Kari, to an early dinner as a thank you for editing the manuscript for my book How to Wake Up. The bill came and I took it out of the folder. Looking it over, I was puzzled. I said to Kari, “I don’t see a place to add in a tip.” She politely pointed out that I had to put my credit card on the folder and that, after the server swiped the card, I’d get a new bill with space for a tip. Wow. I used to know that. On a bad day, this worry can escalate into fear that I’ll be treated like a child if I’m not right on top of an interaction—infantilization is the ugly word for this phenomenon.

I don’t shower every day

Nope, I don’t. And you know what? My skin seems to appreciate it!

My dresser drawers are a great alternative to following all that You Tube advice on how to declutter my living space

Do you want less clutter but are too sick or in pain to wrap your mind around all those You Tube videos on how to declutter your living space? For each problematic item, we’re supposed to carefully consider whether to: give it away; toss it; or keep it (in which case we’re to find its one and only proper place). Well, there’s a fourth alternative: shove it! (into a drawer). Yes, out of sight is out of mind.

I’m sometimes grateful to be able to use illness as an excuse for not going to a social event

Most of the time, I’m sad that I can’t go. But I can also be glad to get out of it. The likelihood of the latter increases in direct proportion to the likelihood of getting stuck in freeway traffic (even though I’m not even the one driving).

When I’m alone, my eating habits are fit only for my dog to see

When I’m alone, I often lick the bowls or plates after I’ve eaten from them. Not only is there food to be had there, but every dish licked is a dish that’s easier to wash.

I sometimes park in a disabled spot as a favor to the non-disabled.

I have a disabled parking placard. Unless I’m feeling very sick, I don't take up a disabled space since I’m able to walk short distances. But there’s one parking lot in town where it’s usually impossible to find a place to park unless you have that placard. Then I use the disabled space so the non-disabled can find a place to park. Why does this always make me feel guilty and altruistic at the same time?!

I cut my own hair

No, I don’t know what I’m doing, although I did find a You Tube video on cutting bangs that helped. And it helps that my hair is wavy, so mistakes don’t usually show unless they’re egregious. My bonus is that, once in a while, someone compliments me on my hair cut!

The author of How to Be Sick doesn’t always know how to be sick

A few months ago, I began feeling worse than usual. I considered whether there’d been any changes in my life that might have triggered this downward spiral, but I couldn't think of anything. Then I realized that I'd simply stopped taking good care of myself. I was overextending myself in every way: visiting with people for too long, pushing against my nap time and my bedtime, staying on the computer too long. I’d forgotten “how to be sick”! Within days of beginning again to take care of myself, I’d returned to my baseline.

Would you like to confess? Unlike me, you can do so anonymously! Just join the discussion below.

See "More Confessions of a Sick Person."

© 2012 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. I'm the author of four books:

How to Be Sick: Your Pocket Companion (for those who've read How to Be Sick and for those who haven't). May 2020

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers (Second Edition) 2018

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide (2015). The theme of this article is expanded on in this book.

How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow (2013)

All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon,, and iTunes.

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You might also like "10 Things I Didn't Know Before I Got Sick" and "8 Things I Miss Most as a Result of Chronic Pain and Illness."