I very rarely get ill, I have a very good immune system, probably helped by the fact I sleep with my windows wide open all year round. I’m sure it was a mistake to say that, I have probably cursed myself. Today I am having my first sick day from work ever. Partly because I have made the conscious decision to start putting my health first, but also because yesterday I had a 2 hour long panic attack. And now the thought that I may have another panic attack like that one is making me feel worse.
I am not one to let illness bother me. I haven’t had a sick day from work in 6 years because I have never been ill enough to constitute one, well, ill enough for me to feel I need to take a sick day. I feel bad for having today off. Am I really ill enough to have to take a day off of work?
The only time I ever remember feeling this bad, was when I was 10 years old. I had a severe chest infection. One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is the day when I was at the worst point of that chest infection.
At this point my brother and I were attending the same school, he is 3 years younger than me. It was Monday morning, both of us were ill, my brother had been throwing up the night before, so by default he was allowed to take the day off of school, I had to attend school however, as it would look strange if we both took days off. When my brother or I were sick, we would stay at my grandparents house so my mum could take the other one of us to school. My grandparents live about 40 seconds away from us. My mum and I dropped my brother off with my grandparents and then began the 35 minute walk to school. I was pretty excited to be honest, she had promised me some sweets on the way to school.
I wanted to go to school, I didn’t particularly like school, but I didn’t particularly like being at home either. I didn’t want my mum to get in trouble because it would be “suspicious” when my brother and I were both off school sick. So I put as much effort as I could to get to school. But, I knew I couldn’t make it to school deep down. I couldn’t breathe, I had no energy. I could hardly walk. Every few steps I crouched down and pretended I was fixing my shoelaces, this worked for a bit, until my mum started shouting “come on! We are going to be late.” by the 4th or 5th time I had crouched on the floor to “fix” my shoe laces, my mum realised there was something wrong. I realised that I had already stopped moving 4 to 5 times and we had moved less than 2 meters away from my grandparents house. So we turned around, went back to my grandparents house, where she called the school (AGAIN!) to tell them that I was also not coming to school, and made an urgent doctor’s appointment for me.
I don’t really remember much else about this illness, I remember going to the doctor and the doctor listening to my chest. He said I had a severe chest infection, gave me the most disgusting tasting medicine I have ever tasted and also an inhaler, but not a regular inhaler, like one of those huge plastic spacer things they stick on the end of inhalers. Because I couldn’t physically use an inhaler due to lack of energy. I had to have a week off school. When I returned my friend had started a rumour that I had been in hospital because I had had an asthma attack.
It’s bad that I have called in sick, but I feel guilty, I am sure that people have probably called in sick for less than what I have now but that is not the point. I feel like I have let people down. I once said that even if I had my arms and legs chopped off I would still roll into work. And here I am, moping in bed because I called in sick. The upsetting part is that it is not the illness stopping me from getting out of bed. It’s me. Guilt and depression are stopping me from doing anything now. I can’t even bring myself to watch television or respond to the text messages I have received this morning.
Yesterday I had a panic attack that lasted 2 hours, it began when I started feeling sick as I had used up the little reserve of energy I had. It wasn’t like a regular sick feeling, I felt like I was literally going to throw up at any moment, but had no idea when that moment would be. I was shaking and I couldn’t really tell whether my inability to breathe was this illness or the panic attack. I became convinced I was going to throw up, in public, at this point I became hysterical, I was trying to eat dinner with a friend, instead I hid in a toilet for 5 minutes trying to convince myself I wasn’t going to be sick. When I returned I tried to eat my first meal of the day, but my body wasn’t having it. So I ate about two mouthfuls and left the rest.
Part of the reason I called in sick today was that besides this stupid illness, and the severe pain in my chest and back from coughing. I am convinced that I am going to run out of energy again and either pass out or throw up all over someone. And just typing that has made me feel faint.
I went to work yesterday and I was clearly ill, in fact, my manager suggested I go home but I said I was fine. When I rang up today, he knew straight away what I was going to say. It seems the only person who needs this sick day to be justified to them is me.
The Elephant in the Room