I’ve written before about the most gut-wrenching aspects of living with a chronic illness; seriously, I’ve written about it a LOT. So if you read my ramblings regularly, or are just like me, you should know by now there are many horrible day to day obstacles we have to overcome in living the life of a chronically ill person; from pain, medication, nasty drug side effects, stupid uninformed comments, the list really is as long as a lifetimes’ worth of loo roll. And what a DREAM that would be.
But one of the most seemingly straightforward issues we face is the one which personally causes me a veritable bucket-load of anxiety and guilt. That’s being forced to miss work, and the supposedly simple task of phoning in sick. It’s an undertaking which causes me incomprehensible worry, embarrassment and guilt and I’m still not entirely sure why. I know, because I’m the one doing it, that I only miss work when I have no option but to. And I know that I’d never become one of those awful people who uses their condition to gain time off, or uses it as an excuse for poor attendance. I know all of that and a million other things but it doesn’t stop me feeling useless and ashamed by the fact that I can’t drag my diseased carcass out of bed.
I’ve been through all the various stages of poor attendance, warnings, 2nd warnings, being forced to pledge your allegiance to your employer through blood, but then haven’t we all. I’ve never been sacked (touch wood) due to my sick-leave, and I know I’m currently not anywhere near that stage, but it’s a constant nagging doubt in the back of my mind which grows arms and legs with every day I am unable to make work.
Today is one of those days. I’ve been in intense pain for over 24hrs and have barely slept thanks to nausea, headaches and a night fever that would put the Bee Gees to shame. I can’t really remember the conversation I had with my manager as I was absolutely up to my eyeballs in painkillers and ready to pass out. The strange thing about phoning in sick is the sense of instant relief at knowing you can now relax safe in the knowledge that your employer doesn’t think you are M.I.A, is almost instantly replaced with the guilt that you should be working. (At least for me anyway). I start to mentally talk myself into the idea that I’m not ‘really that bad’ or that I could maybe at least make up the missed time later in the day, or that I could actually just get up and face it like a (wo)man and stop wimping out all the time – but by that point I’ve either projectile vomited and/or collapsed to the floor like a broken-hearted 1950’s actress clinging to her beloved’s ankle as he walks out the door. But with less make-up and more dramatically. This guilt is compounded by the feeling that you are relaxed and comfortable at home and therefore should be at work. If you can feel better sitting at home then you should be absolutely fine sitting at your desk shielding calls, waiting tables, walking around in a boob-tube down at the docks or whatever it is your Mum does for a living.
Having been an employer myself, I can understand this sickly situation from both sides. You have to know what is wrong with your employee in order to establish how long they are expected to be off, and how you can best support them whilst they are off and when they return. That’s the theory anyway. But how much do you really need to know over the phone? As a patient, having to explain yourself when you already feel at your worst can be upsetting and distressing, especially if you feel there is a lack of trust or that you are not being believed.
Leaving the world for a day or so is sometimes vital to be well enough to step back into it.