Sometimes when people ask me what activities I do, I jokingly include my health as an activity. I either say, "I get sick a lot" or "and I have chronic health problems" or something like that. Often it's kind of awkward and I make a mental note to never say that again (until the next time of course). But here's the thing: being ill, or disabled, or whatever label you want to afix, takes a LOT of time.
I was socialized into a culture that tells me I need to work hard and constantly get ahead. (Someone asked me what my motto was last week, and my first response was "work hard." And then I couldn't think of a better one.) This sounds good in theory, but it can lead to problems, especially when you have health problems. I'm getting better about trying not to do everything I used to. I'm "active" in student activities at my university, but not nearly as active as I used to be. Or I feel I should be.
When I read amandaw's "Second Shift for the Sick Post" (which can be found here, and which I highly suggest reading), it was like a light bulb went off. I mean, I knew dealing with my health takes a lot of time, but being able to put it in feminist and sociological theory really helped.
Sometimes, usually when my health is going through a lower point, I get to the end of the day and wonder where the time went; I'm exhausted, in pain, and nothing in my planner has been finished -- yet I feel like I've been busy trying to be "productive" all day. I used to beat myself up on those days. And I won't lie, I still do. But I've gotten better, because now I realize that what I have been doing is my "second shift for the sick."
What am I spending my time doing? There's prescriptions to be filled, doctors to be contacted, insurance hoops to be jumped through, etc. There is also the time I need to spend on self-care: stretching, heating pads, eating at the right times, etc. And finally, my brain and body is spending a lot of time simply being ill--I need to be in bed, my brain too closed-down to be "productive," everything has to be dark, etc. And this all not only takes time, it takes energy.
When I really sit down and look at it, there's a lot going on. I'm not so lazy after all.