I recently had a minor operation and was required to stay on bed rest for approximately 3 days. Being the WARRIOR that I am, I didn’t bother with that so on what should have been my third day of bed rest (which was actually my third day of walking-around-the-house-hopped-up-on-painkillers-thinking-I’m-invincible) I was in excruciating pain. So like the anti-Soulja Boy that I am (in more ways than one, but that’s a story for another time), I hopped back into bed and reluctantly turned my swag resolutely off for a few days. Needless to say, reader, I was bored out of my mind. Imagine what bed rest must have been like in the days before the internet.
Luckily, I had my laptop, aka “The Web Stalk-o-meter 3000” which allowed me to live vicariously through Facebook and Twitter updates, and spend hours with my poor, over-heated laptop balancing preciously on a pile of cushions next to me so that I could stream episodes of The Simpsons (I watched 22 episodes in one day, I’ll leave you to work out how many hours that adds up to) while being brought tea by my epic dad. It was almost enough to help me forget the searing, agonising pain I was in. Almost. When I wasn’t watching cartoons I was sleeping or wishing I was watching cartoons, until I had realised I needed to do something different otherwise I was going to go insane. Here are my tips on how to survive bed rest and emerge without a speck of crazy on you.
1. Do something creative without technology
This sounds kind of vague, doesn’t it? Well no, actually, it doesn’t. Turn your fucking computer off once in a while and you’ll realise that your brain isn’t connected to the modem and you can function fully without being online.
For me, it was about a feeling of dependence. It really got me down that I had to rely on my parents and brother to bring me things to my room – especially as my bedroom is on the second floor of the house (let’s face it, my room IS the second floor of our house – jealous much? Please don’t hate me), and in the same way it really pissed me off that I was relying on this little rectangle of metal to keep me entertained all the live long day. If I’d been on bed rest ten years ago, it wouldn’t have mattered to me – sure, I’d have been annoyed at being confined to my bed, especially during July when school is out and everyone is meeting up and having fun. Although even back then I didn’t actually get invited to stuff, it was more that I found out people’s plans by eavesdropping during bus journeys home and then following them to wherever they were meeting and turning up with a picnic basket, trying to ease myself into the situation by emerging from behind a bush and laughing along with a joke that I didn’t fully understand only to be chased home by all the gang who, incidentally, kept my picnic basket and never gave it back. But traumatic childhood memories aside, I would have been okay with being on bed rest at the age of 13. I had my books, I had my guitar, I had a notebook for doodling and writing down shitty ideas that would never become anything substantial.
There is a great sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something completely devoid of electronics and modern technology. I started knitting; I learned the basic stitch a while back and realised it would be an idea to start knitting some stuff to give to friends at Christmas. So far I’ve not even finished one sodding scarf, but I’m getting there, and it feels brilliant to do so.
2. Write a letter
A number of my friends have remarked to me in the last few years that people just don’t seem to write letters anymore. Given the stupendous price of stamps these days, it’s no wonder; but there is something romantic and wonderful about letter writing. Most letters are typed up now, and emails are just letters you send online, right?
Mmmm, not exactly. You can knock out 1000 words in an email in 15 minutes if you need to – and as with most text online (and I’m fully aware that this article is included in that) people tend to skim read words on a screen. I personally find reading from a screen quite jarring, and don’t like to spend too much time doing it. The popularity of sites such as Twitter have remedied that by having a character limit, meaning your message is never going to exceed a certain length so you don’t have to concentrate for – hey let me just check Twitter for a second.
Let’s face it, our generation just can’t concentrate for shit. Nicholas Carr’s book ‘The Shallows’ explores the effect the internet has on our brains, and one of those is the ability to concentrate. He describes how he used to be able to read long novels and articles but now finds himself having to re-read passages and take a break after a short time. In a similar way, hand-writing letters has fallen out of fashion because it takes time and effort; for someone to commit to writing a letter, they need to sit down and think of what they want to say and how they want to say it, then spend their time actually writing the goddamn thing out.
So I started writing a letter to my cousin in America. Sure, it would be quicker to send her a quick Facebook message or drop her an email… but somehow, I think a letter will mean so much more.
3. Make plans
I don’t mean an evil plot for world domination – or maybe I do, but like I’d give away my epic plans here, pfffft! – I just mean that having a break and being on bed rest has been a great opportunity to take stock of things. I don’t think that we do that very much these days either. The plans can be for anything.
Personally, my plan was “Helen, get off your arse once you can get off your arse”. This applies to my job, my fitness level, my level of social interaction – everything. Being confined to my bed made me want to be out of my bed, which was an unusual emotion for me, I’ll admit. Something my parents always used to say to me when I was younger and just as lazy as I am now was “If you suddenly lost the use of your legs, you’d wish you’d walked more when you had the chance”. Now, my bed rest is for nothing as serious as losing the use of my legs, but it really hit home that now I was stuck in my bed, I wanted to do more – so I researched plans on how to ease back into exercise, things like couch to 5k plans. It’s going to be a few more weeks before I can actually do those things but if I can get it drilled into my head now, I’ll be ready to do it when the time comes (that’s the theory, anyway)
4. Get off of Facebook
This relates back to the ‘tech-free hobby’ idea, but is more specific – don’t spend all day on that godforsaken website. Just don’t do it. For two days, I knew exactly what each of my friends on Facebook were doing, which depressed me because I couldn’t do a damn thing. But it isn’t just during bed rest that Facebook can depress you.
Think about it; how many times have you made your life sound more interesting than it is? Be honest. I bet even now you’re lying to yourself about how often you do that. Now, consider that everyone on Facebook does it (and I mean everyone). When you log on, doesn’t it piss you off to see people you went to school with 7 years ago and haven’t spoken to since are going our and having fun while you spent Saturday night organising your puzzle collection, first alphabetically by subject and then by number of pieces? You’re getting wound up over something that’s most likely made-up.
And then there’s the fact that being on Facebook achieves nothing. Literally nothing. I don’t care if you organise your party on Facebook, or use it to say ‘happy birthday’ to people that you actively hate but pretend to tolerate. It’s a total waste of time, if you consider that those things could be done by phone or by hand.
I took a six month break from Facebook earlier in the year and only recently went back on because my phone broke, and I would otherwise be completely out of touch with the hundreds of people who are always interested in what I have to say and care about me *bursts into tears* LIES, IT’S ALL LIES!
During my time off from the site, I realised that people rely so much now on Facebook to keep in touch. I would text someone to find out how they are and the reply would be along the theme of “Hey I’m fine, how come you’re not on Facebook anymore? Is everything okay?”
Everything was okay, but I’m glad it took my text for you to realise that I wasn’t in your digital world anymore. My favourite thing to hear (which I heard many times was) “How are we supposed to invite you to stuff if you’re not on Facebook?” Well, how about using the same method that you just used to send me that mildly insulting question – by text?
It’s not just Facebook, it’s a general dependence on the internet that I think really holds people back. And if you can break the habit while you’ve got little else to do, then when you’re back on your feet you’ll find it much easier to minimise your time on there.
Simple as it might sound, bed rest means what it says on the tin – you need to be resting. Given the nature of my operation, walking around the house was a painful effort but I managed it, because I thought that lying in bed was a bit of an exaggerated suggestion.
Should had stayed in bed. How many times do you really give your body a chance to rest, even when you’re fully well? Most of us stay up too late and don’t look after ourselves at the best of times, but when your body needs to rest up and recover you need to let it do so. Take the opportunity to just relax, and soon enough you’ll be back, sitting on your couch writing things on the internet that no-one will ever read.