A few years ago, I heard a family member complain about a coworker who consistently missed days and days of work. She would be out for random periods of time for what seemed like no reason at all. She was judged by her coworkers who were stuck doing her work. Everything he said about her was negative. And at the time, it made sense to me.
How can someone miss so many days while still holding a job?
Why don’t they fire her?
Everyone has to pick up her slack because she’s not here
She’s being paid to do nothing
She just shows up whenever she feels like it
It makes sense. If you aren’t at work, you aren’t doing your job. Everyone around you has to work that much harder to cover for you.
But now, as I lay in bed with a horrible migraine left over from two days of dehydration and yesterday’s anesthesia, I realize that I have become that person.
In the last two weeks, I left work early one day, missed a day for doctors appointments, missed an important meeting due to a nausea flare, and now I am missing two days in a row due to my procedure yesterday.
If you’re counting, that’s 3.5 days in the past 2 weeks. Now this is a particularly bad record for me but you get the point. Two of those days I had planned appointments. Only a day and half of missed work are due to physically being too sick to work but only a few of my coworkers know the reasons behind my missed days. To the rest, it’s all the same. Now, I’m fortunate enough to say that my job has ‘unlimited’ sick days but that doesn’t make the decision to stay home any easier.
My ‘sick day’ is spent tossing and turning in bed, trying to get comfortable. It’s spent opening my work laptop to set my out-of-office notification and send an apologetic email to my boss. It’s making sure that my cases are being covered (by my notably amazing coworkers who are so supportive when I miss work). It’s spent questioning whether or not I was really sick enough to stay home or if I could have pushed through it.
But the worst part about it all is the guilt. The guilt surrounding the idea that I am letting down my customers, my coworkers and management. The idea that I am unworthy of the job I love so much because of my health. The guilt when I think about how all of the things I mentioned before are now being said about me. As someone who always strived to work as hard as possible and thrives off of producing quality work, I am plagued with guilt as I lay here in bed.
To my coworkers, I am so sorry. I want to be there. I want to go to work every day and not worry about if I’ll be feeling well enough to focus.
To my boss, I am so sorry that you have to explain to the other managers that I am out again. Thank you for being so incredibly understanding about what’s been going on with me.
And to myself, I hope I can learn to forgive myself for when my health gets in the way of my life.
Staying home is never a choice I want to make. I hope one day I won’t have to.