You Make Me Sick

My parents have taught me several important lessons. One of them is to always honor my commitments and do what I’ve said I’m going to do. No matter what. 

My parents are really tough, and they’re also in very good health. My mom has worked at the same pharmacy for twelve years, and I’m 99% sure that she’s never called in sick. I don’t think my dad has ever taken a sick day either. Because my parents are so tough, particularly  my mom, they don’t have a lot of patience for people who do get sick a lot and need to stay home from work more often. My mom feels that if you can stand up, you can go to work. 

To an extent, I understand my mom’s side of things. It’s hard when a coworker is absent from work a lot and you have to pick up their slack. It’s frustrating. And I know there are people who call in sick from work just because they don’t feel like going in that day. And that’s annoying. But there are times when you can push through and times when you need to listen to your body and stay home. This is something my mom doesn’t understand very well, and, consequently, it’s something I struggle with. 

I’ve been sick on and off this last week, both physically and emotionally. There were days when I was extremely nauseous, and days when I was just incredibly depressed. Sometimes, the thought of going to work made me break down in tears. 

Days like these are days when I should just stay home. My mind and body were both telling me to take a break. But I didn’t because I’m scared of calling in sick. Because I’ve listened to my mom complain about people who call in sick, I’m scared of my coworkers being mad that they have to pick up my slack. I’m scared of looking weak and/or lazy because I’ve been taught that calling in sick is a sign of weakness, laziness, etc. And I definitely don’t want to appear to be either of those things. Despite my best efforts, I even find myself thinking of other people as weak or lazy when they call in sick to work often. 

I know a lot of the reasons why I feel like I can’t call in sick go back to the way I was raised and the way being sick was discussed in my home. But I also think this issue is one that goes beyond my own familial discourse to the general discourse about illness.

Taking time for ourselves, calling in sick, is an issue for both women and men, and it is an issue of feminism. 

Our society has set up the idea that women are weak and fragile, and so I think women push themselves in spite of illness to prove that they are not. There is also the idea that men need to always be tough, and being sick would be not being tough, so men push through illnesses to prove that they’re not weak. 

It needs to stop. We need to take care of our bodies and listen to them. 

Some people are really great at this, and I applaud them. Really, because of the way we look at illness and people succumbing to it, it’s a greater sign of strength to say that you can’t do something than it is to do it just because you’re afraid of saying no. You are no less of a human if you feel sick. You’re probably going to be a better version of yourself if you take the time to address it early. 

Two things need to change: We need to change the way we talk about people who are sick and not at work, and we need to change the way we think about ourselves when we are sick. We need to stop talking about sick people as if they are weak and lazy. We also shouldn’t hate our bodies or minds when we get sick, either physically or mentally. All of that frustration and negativity is just going to make us worse. It’s better to take one day off to rest and take of yourself than it is to try to push through it and then have a total breakdown (like I did last week) or make yourself sicker. 

You only get one body. Part of taking care of it is listening to it and putting what your body is telling you above what others might think. I always worry that my coworkers will be upset with me. Even if they do get frustrated, that frustration will probably go away, but if I don’t take a day to get myself together, my illness might not go away.

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