At what should be a time for rest and recovery, do you put more pressure on yourself than your employer?
Living with a chronic illness, you would have at some point needed some time off work. Whether that be due to treatment, a flare, hospitalisation or simply to rest. Perhaps it is just me and some personal psychological issue that I need to deal with but there is something about being signed off work or made to take a break that I really struggle with.
Like all people with disabilities, I have faced my fair share of discrimination and more often than not this happens when you are at your worst, unwell or most vulnerable, so maybe that’s why I hold being off work with such trepidation. Fear that I am going to be at risk again, fear of job security or financial worries.
When I really think about it, it feels that perhaps it’s more about how, to me anyway, it shows weakness. I am one of those people that unless you are my direct boss or one of those very select few that I have worked with over the years that I have let into my inner circle (and I am talking < 10 people over almost 15 years of my career who truly knew my health challenges) you would have no idea as I go about my work that I was in hospital the week before, am in excruciating pain as I field a question with a smile on my face or that it took me two hours of a well drilled routine just to drag my backside out of the house due to stiff joints and fatigue.
I am not a clever man but I pride myself on two qualities that have got me to where I am in my career to date; reliability and organisation, so when I am finally broken and need time off, it feels like I have failed. With my USP being as such, I am not a genius that people will wait for to return to their desk because their ideas and creativity is irreplaceable, I’m a ‘dime a dozen’, hard working, people-person that if they say that project will be delivered by the end of the year, it’s delivered. People respect that person that chugs along and plays nice with others and it’s served me well over the years. However, chuck a flare of my chronic illness in the mix and suddenly that reliability falls down, organisation quickly follows and all of a sudden nobody cares if that manager who’s been off for weeks is a nice guy or not as things start to slip and the work mounts up.
With all that said, this is why at times such as this, I get chills down my spine when the Dr says things like ‘I’m writing you a sick note so you rest’ (and admittedly, this is what I need as all too often I go back to work too soon when still ill otherwise, as previous blog posts have mentioned) – I hate being signed off, worse still, I am petrified by it. Nine times out of ten, I’m off a week or two, sometimes a little more and I go back perfectly refreshed and it’s like I’ve never been away – but when you’ve had those experiences as a child when ‘a week’s bedrest’ on the children’s ward turned into months or that ‘two week break from work’ turned into six months and suddenly you’re getting a letter about a reduction in pay or threatening to serve notice on your contract, it sticks with you in the back of your mind for life.
So my question to you – with your chronic illness, how do you deal with taking time off work? Do you make the most of it and use the time to rest, recuperate and recover from what you are dealing with or, like me, do you really struggle with it? And if the latter, what do you do to stop it driving you insane or destroying your self-esteem? I’d love to hear of your positive uses of such time, as well as what’s difficult.
I look forward to hearing your stories and reading your comments.