I don’t normally get sick and when I do it tends to come and go quickly, like one good night’s sleep and I’m back to normal. A few weeks ago, I got a cold that knocked me down for a week. This experience was interesting to me because for the first time in graduate school, I couldn’t meet a deadline and I had to call out of work, which I really hate to do. As I was trying to decide whether or not to go to work, I had this thought “Do I trust that I will take good care of myself when I’m sick?” It was a stunning thought.
From a biological level, I was able to function and had worked the day before. But, by the end of the day my fever, chills and headache had returned and I was exhausted. My attitude had been poor, my thinking was more negative than usual and my patience was fried. I knew my coworkers were counting on me, but the next day would be incredibly busy (and physically demanding). And did I want to risk getting other people sick? Also, if I kept pushing myself would it keep the cold going longer? Could I get pneumonia?
Why was it so hard for me to make this decision? I think this answer is two-fold. First, I don’t like to think of myself as someone who could be sick for a week and secondly, I’d like to be the kind of person who just powers through any obstacle. Okay, so what do either of those things do for me? And then back to my original question: Do I trust myself to take good care of myself? Maybe. I’ve shown myself to be untrustworthy in the past at times. But, I always take my full vacation. I am usually fully present at work and I work hard to be a good coworker.
Ultimately, I did take the day off from work. I also, took my first extension on an assignment in grad school, and cancelled plans with friends over the weekend. While I didn’t want to have to make any changes to my life, I’m glad that I did. Although, my assignment for school took longer, I was proud of it. In calling out from work, I potentially avoided feeling burnt out and getting other people sick. And while I did miss spending time with my friends, being able to trust that I will take care of myself feels good, too.