If you follow my Instagram account (@endobunny) then you will have seen that this morning I didn’t make it into work.
I didn’t make it into work because my pain was uncontrollable.
Yesterday afternoon I could feel my typical Endo pain starting to moan, so I took my pain relief and got on with what I was doing. However, by the evening the pain was so much worse that multiple forms pain relief didn’t touch it. I couldn’t get comfortable regardless of the position, my husband massaging my stomach just made me aware of how tender it was and heat didn’t do much either.
It was the first time in a while that it had been that bad – I’d literally taken everything I could have and the pain hadn’t budged. I was contemplating calling NHS 111 or even heading to A&E (something I have never done before, partly because I am scared of how I might be treated and partly because working in a hospital makes me realise how stretched A&E are).
Eventually I managed to fall asleep, waking up a few times because of the pain. By this morning, it hadn’t changed at all. I made the decision not to go into work, and since then have had a very hot bath, taken the strongest pain relief I have and am now resting.
But calling in sick to work wasn’t an easy decision to make.
I mentioned in my previous article about how we feel guilty when we are poorly (read it here), but I realised that there is this process I go through in my head with work. Work is important – it is how I earn my money to pay for my house, holidays and the things I enjoy, but it’s not worth killing myself over. However, the responsibilities and frequent time off I’ve had in the past are always in the back of my mind. I am trying to work out a way around these barriers, but it’s proving unsuccessful (- any tips would be appreciated!).
This is the process I found myself going through this morning when deciding about work…
- I wake up, move around, try to assess just how bad the pain was. Analysing where it was, how it was compared to last night and how it feels to walk around
- I try and get advice from my husband, hoping he will make the decision for me
- I then try and get advice from my mum (even though she lives miles away) hoping she will make the decision for me
- I sit and think about going in and “seeing how I go” – NOTE: I now believe this is a silly method, because once I’m at work, I’m then committed to my patients and can’t leave just like that. I also find that if I get to work and I really shouldn’t be there, I can’t just turn around and leave
- The guilt starts to become more apparent as I remember how busy we might be at work and how the rest of the team will have to take on my load
- I then question myself and think about how I should just go in and get on with it, especially as maybe being busy might distract me
- I start to validate and prove (to literally anyone) why it is right that I don’t go to work – I’m reasoning how the heavy manual handling will only aggravate my symptoms and how I can’t actually take the strong stuff at work
- Part of me with calculate how many hours I will then owe and how this will then reflect on my next payslip, and then having a mini panic about what will happen if I can’t pay the mortgage (completely ridiculous, but you see what I mean)
- I’ll spend ages thinking about the message I will leave and send to my manager. I’ll type it and say it out loud several times before even doing it. I’ll then realise that I’ve apologised a few times in it and again reasoned why I am not in. How stupid of me.
- Next is spending a good amount of time worrying when no one from my work has responded to me
- And if at any point I experience a period of relief, I’ll then feel guilty because “I probably could have coped at work”, even though I’ve been in agony for hours on end.
Although I know it was the right decision, I don’t understand why I feel so bad and guilty for not being able to attend one. Everyone gets sick now and then, it’s just unfortunate that I have a few health conditions that mean I might get sick a bit more frequently. And it definitely do not take the mick – I’ll often be in work with raging infections or streaming colds because I know I need to “save” my sick days for when I really need them. I go above and beyond and making up hours too, so why should it be a problem if I can’t work one day?
I really do believe that there is no point being at a place of work when you are feeling unwell and therefore unable to do your job, and it can even be harmful for those of us with certain conditions that may get worse when you push through. For me, it is important that I am on the ball in case a patient deteriorates or there is an emergency situation. However, there is this tie that constantly pulls me back and makes me feel guilty and like I am letting my team down.
In my bid to try and stop this feeling, here are some tips that you may find helpful if you’re faced with a similar situation;
- Remember that it is not your fault that you are ill, be it an acute illness or a flare up of a long-term condition. I’ll often find I start the day by looking at inspirational posts or quotes to help me remember this.
- Sometimes being honest with your employer helps. I declared my conditions when I was employed (it is kind of part of NHS employment, but not compulsory) and I was sent to an Occupational Health department that provided my manager with lots of information and advice. I have since been back to them about three times, and have proven useful.
- Listen to your body – if it is telling you that you need rest and time to recover or manage whatever is going on, try and comply.
- If applicable, remember that you are part of a team and that teams support each other. If you’re not able to come in and they have to take on extra load, then that is what the team should be able to cope with
- You can only do your best. In my line of work, there are a lot of expectations regarding how often we should treat patients and that every patient should be seen regardless if it is 2 hours after your home time. However, I’ve come to accept that this is not sustainable or right, so if I am heading into work whilst not feeling 100%, I’ll do my best – if this means adjusting treatment sessions (without compromising patients, obviously) or prioritising those that need to be seen then so be it.
- Try not to reason everything when you’re telling them you’re not coming in. This is something I struggle with, and perhaps that is because my illness is invisible. Think about how when you have a really bad cold or a broken arm – its obvious what’s wrong, right? So you don’t need to provide lots of information or prove why you’re not coming in.
- Visit a healthcare professional if needed. Sometimes, I find I feel much less guilty when I have a GP on my side telling me I shouldn’t be in work. I’m in no way saying that you should make an appointment purely for this, but for me when I am in agony, needing to see a GP is important anyway.
Finally, please remember that you are human and are not invincible, and you are in no way expected to be. Everyone falls ill at some point in their lives and you are never alone.