When doing the right thing is wrong

I want to write about something else, but there’s nothing else to write about right now. I’m officially on sick leave now. It comes after another night when I was woken by head pain. It’s the same every night lately. At about 2am, when the latest of the painkillers has worn off, I wake with jolting pain. Much as I don’t want to, I now take another painkiller, so I can get back to sleep.

I live on painkillers. Every 4-5 hours, I pop another one. Unfortunately, they seem to be slower acting these days and not as effective as before. I suppose that’s because I’ve taken so many many. The most effective have been Nurofen, though I’ve stopped taking them now for the damage they can do. Panadol is barely effective, and the supposedly extra-strength variety prescribed by the doctor does nothing but make me sleepy.

I used the term head pain before, rather than headache. That’s because, while some of the pain is like a headache, other pain isn’t – in my cheek, in my teeth and my gum. That pain feels as if there’s something bad inside me which reverberates with rottenness.

The pain has got worse since the weekend. I was encouraged coming into the weekend because it felt like the symptoms were becoming less severe. Then, from Monday, the pain ramped up again. Yesterday was a painful day. So is today. The painkillers don’t take away the pain. They take the edges from it, diffuse the sharpness, numb it to some extent. But it’s always there, which is half the problem. Throughout the day, the sense of pain ebbs and flows according to where I’m at with the painkillers. There are times, such as now, when it feels no more than a dull inconvenience – but when it sharpens, I don’t want to move.

I see my GP tomorrow, and I’m going to ask for a different prescription painkiller. I’m also going to ask if it’s possible that my surgery can be brought forward. It’s awful living like this.

I’m on sick leave because it’s easier, and probably because I should be. I’ve got some of that silly macho attitude that if it’s only pain, then I can work through it. You can’t, though, really. It’s distracting. You can’t think straight. You get worn out trying to sit straight and concentrate. In reality, you can do bits and pieces of work, but then you need a break.

That was the original arrangement, but it didn’t work. I wish it had, but I feel a little resentful too. It would be nice if someone checked in with me when I’m so clearly struggling. I get the odd platitude, and in the next breath, they’re asking me to do things I don’t feel comfortable committing to. I can only do half a job currently, but if I’m there, they figure I can do a full job, and in the end, it’s easier to do no job at all.

I was telling a friend of a memory that came back to me thinking about all this.

About 20 years ago, mum had a working bee organised to work in the garden on the same day I had a wedding to attend. It would have been February and a bloody hot day. Rather than skiving off altogether, I joined them in the morning to work. It must have been about 40 degrees by 10am, and it was bloody hard work. I worked for a couple of hours and then had to leave. I went home, had a shower, put my suit on, then headed off to the wedding in Brighton.

For years afterwards, the guys I left behind – my two brothers-in-law – would give me a hard time for abandoning them to the hard work while I went off to have ‘fun’.

I got pretty pissed off by this. I had an obligation to be at the wedding, and that was that. I could easily have skipped joining them for a token couple of hours, but I did it from a sense of fellowship. I did all that I reasonably could but was resented for it.

The irony is that after the wedding we went back to the reception centre to find the air-conditioning had broken down. We sweltered through a hot meal in close proximity of a hundred others sweating in their fine clothes. It was memorable for the wrong reasons.

I sensed something similar to this with work. In hindsight, it would have been a lot easier had I just taken the time for myself rather than try and help out. You’ve got an excuse if you’re not there, but when you’re about but can do only so much, they start looking at you sideways. And then, since you’re there, they start asking more of you.

It’s no fun to me being on sick leave. I lay in bed or on the couch. I’m not going anywhere. I’d rather do some work (and have, actually, on the quiet). I don’t want to be useless, but I can’t do everything I could before. If I can, I will, and if I get a painkiller tomorrow that allows that, then I’ll see what I can do.

In the meantime, I can’t help but think my feelings about the work environment have been validated. I don’t think it’s the place for me.

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