Sick? Don’t be a martyr!

8 Jun

With the exception of having surgery for a broken wrist following a snowboarding accident a couple years ago, I had not taken a sick day off work in over 8 years. Of course I’ve felt ill from time to time, but fighting through it has always been my philosophy. This is not clever or admirable.

I’ve had whooping cough for 3 weeks now. During my infectious stage I was on study leave, so I was able to stay at home. When my study leave was over I was, and am still in, the 2nd stage (the worst stage). Frequent and uncontrollable coughing bouts are very painful and leave me unable to breathe which is extremely frightening. Yet I still went back to work – very silly! My office roommate and colleagues along the corridor spent their days listening to my violent coughing. I suspect thinking how stupid I was being in work and feeling irritated at having to listen to it.

On Tuesday, I was really unwell, but I had PhD supervision so I ‘had’ to go in. I had a particularly bad coughing bout just before my supervision and as I walked in my supervisors (quite rightly) said they were not comfortable continuing and that I should go home. Despite believing that I was progressing well with my PhD and was now in the midst of my analysis, I saw red pen on my draft methodology chapter. A previous issue that I felt had been resolved had obviously not.

So after a lot of pleading to continue, they began to explain that this methodological issue was still an issue. Immediately, it was game over. I wasn’t physically or mentally well enough to deal with it rationally and I didn’t. I am grateful at that point my supervisors took my notes off me and refused to continue. I was sent home and told to take complete rest from work and PhD and not to come back until I was fit.

Having no choice, I went to my GP, who gave me a stern talking about the debilitating effects of whooping cough and as an Infection Preventionist, I should have known better! I took myself home, armed with strong analgesia and went to bed. For 3 days now, I have stayed on the couch, watched (terrible) daytime TV (have drawn the line at Jeremy Kyle!), slept a lot, tweeted, caught up with what’s going on in the world and even played some online bingo!

My coughing is still bad and I feel quite spaced out a lot of the time due to my analgesia, but taking this time to rest will mean that my recovery will be quicker and I will be both mentally and physically able to do my job well and to face my PhD challenges that awaits me.

So what have I learned from this? When I am sick, I am sick. Nothing more, nothing less. No-one will think less of me for having a week off sick, the world and the University I work for will still continue to function without me and my colleagues will be grateful they don’t have to listen to my coughing.

We live in a culture whereby we continually push ourselves both physically and mentally – working full time, studying, having a family and if we are lucky, having a life too. Subsequently, this will at times be detrimental to our health and well-being. We need to listen to our bodies and take a rest when we need it! There’s no shame in it. Quite the opposite in fact!

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One Response to “Sick? Don’t be a martyr!”

  1. pravinjeya June 8, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    …or our Phd supervisers

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