Such is life

I have a thing about taking sick leave. It feels cheap. I can justify it when I’m so sick that I’m dysfunctional. In theory I can even accept it when I’m not sick at all – the so-called mental health days people take. There’s a brazen honesty in that I can accept a lot easier than those in-between days (though I don’t recall ever taking a mental health day, though I’m sure I have). It’s the days when you feel unwell, a bit off, but seemingly well enough to work still that trouble me.

That’s always my criteria. I stand there and ask myself can I work like this? If the answer is yes then I go to work. It’s not always a wise decision, and much too simplistic. There are always other – very sensible – considerations that should be accounted for. Like, will I last the day out? Am I better off resting now to get well than prolonging it by working? And, is there a chance of infecting others?

I know these things, and once or twice I’ve been smart enough to make a decision based on them, but rarely. I’ve been working this week feeling crook. Like I said, on Tuesday I could barely talk. I was in a stupor for much of the day. Yesterday I was okay until in the afternoon I developed a fever which had me breaking into an uncomfortable sweat every 30 minutes. I’ve been told pretty well to stay away until I’m right, and so I’m home today.

This reluctance to take sick leave is not because I have a particular sense of duty, but because it feels in a way like weakness to succumb to it. It’s one of my many old school notions. There is something personal about it – feeling sick can feel a direct challenge that I can’t help but resist. There’s a deeper reason than that though.

In general terms I’d rather be at home than at work. Most people are like that. There have been jobs I’ve had that I’ve really enjoyed, but even so an odd day off is not unpleasant. In recent years there have been no such jobs, and a day off is a blessing. That’s why I’m so reluctant to take a day off sick when I might.

I’m old school to the extent that I believe you have to be true to yourself – even if it might be to a warped version of that self. Waking up and feeling a bit crook naturally leads to speculation as to whether you should attend work or not. You know in your heart that you’d rather not, and here ready for you is an excuse. It puts temptation in your way, and temptation becomes weakness when you give way to it. I can’t abide that. I’d be ashamed if I gave in to such base temptation. I’d feel as if I cheated myself and rorted the system. There’d be no pleasure in spending the day home then because I’d feel as if I was there on false pretences. And so I’m hard on myself and ask the simple question: am I capable of working like this? Unless the answer is an emphatic no I go to work.

That’s what happened yesterday. I’d slept poorly, along with most of Melbourne, and felt weary – but there was reason for that. I tried my voice and found it was stronger than the day before, and there went any excuse to call in sick. Turns out I was still a bit weak and woozy, but sometimes you don’t recognise that until you begin exerting yourself.

Today I’m home because I’ve realised that I need the rest. I’ve been wearing myself out, and a day doing little will likely be of great recuperative benefit.

In actual fact I feel pretty run-down, and there are signs of it. My cough has caught up with me, which is a large reason I’m home today. I feel generally weary and old at the moment. I’ve developed splotchy rashes on my chest, and one beneath my left eye. No amount of sleep is enough.

It’s hard not to believe that this bout was not precipitated by a debauched weekend. I drank for 12 hours straight on Saturday, and had a whale of a time doing it. I’m not as old as I used to be though, and I think it weakened my defences enough for the bug to get hold of me.

My health is frustrating me. There have been small things for a while that I’ve accepted, but which concern me in a broader context. I saw my specialist the other week about my leg. Nothing to report there really, except that she wants me on this daily medication for the next two years. Problem is that I couldn’t afford it. I delayed it for three weeks before I found sufficient penny to fill the script.

My stomach muscle – or whatever it is – still troubles me. It’s not nearly as debilitating as it was, but I still can’t do any strenuous exercise, and I wonder when I might be able. It’s been nearly a year. We know what it isn’t, what we don’t know what it is. My doctor directed me to a sports physio for treatment, but I can’t even begin to afford that – and so I go untreated. When I think about it it’s greatly frustrating.

It’s times like this you wonder how you can live like this, and for how long? The answer is, because you must, and as long as it takes. It’s not healthy though. I eat poorly, and not always regularly, because I can’t afford to eat better. I sacrifice and cut things out of my life, but some of them are necessary. You do it because there is no other option, with the idea that one day it will get better. It probably will – but when?

And so this too buys into my decision-making about staying home or going to work. It’s better for me to be crook and earning a day’s pay than being home and earning nothing.

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