Sick Days

Here’s the thing — I generally don’t get really sick. Sure, I get a cold or flu once or twice per year — and for a while, I had a persistent stomach thing that seems to have cleared itself up. But for the most part, I am the kind of person who always have a ridiculous amount of sick leave built up because I don’t take that many sick days — and when I am down with a cold, I take a day or two off, and then pump myself with DayQuil and head back to work.

IMG_0557-1About a week ago, though, I came down with bronchitis AND an ear infection (yes, an ear infection. I had no ideas adults also got them. Not many to apparently as the WebMD article on them consistently refers to “your child”). I have never had bronchitis (the sickest I have previously been was when I had strep throat 6 years ago) and had always assumed that is was just like having a bad cold. Well, I was wrong — there is no comparison (other than the coughing and stuffiness) — as I said above, I’ve always been able to work through colds. Not this, however — today is Saturday and I have been wiped out for the last nine days — I did go in to work on one of those days, which was a mistake as I accomplished nothing.

Why am I telling you all of this, you may wonder? (Especially if we’re Facebook friends as you’ve been subjected to my whining about this for the last week or so). Well, as you know if you hang around here often, I like to make lists of what I’ve learned from something (see my previous post). Without further ado, then, here is what I’ve learned from having bronchitis:

The Protestant Work Ethic is alive and well — and as messed up as always. I queried folks on Facebook about whether they would go teach with a diagnosis of bronchitis and ear infection. While most said no, a few said yes, pump yourself up with meds and go ahead. Oddly, it’s the folks who are involved in people-contact professions who were most likely to say “go in.” I did end up canceling one class and cutting another short, but damn, if I didn’t feel guilty about it.

It is possible for me to not work and the world not come to an end. I know, I know, I’m 46 years old so should know this already. And yet, I still went into a panic at the thought of being sick, especially at the end of the semester. At first I thought I would be able to work a bit and keep up, but was soon disabused of that notion and so have done very little other than respond to a few emails and grade a few papers over the last 9 days. And you know what? No one has died. I am behind, but it will get done eventually. Or it won’t get done. And it’s all okay. I have a great staff who are keeping things going at the Women’s Center — and my students are doing just fine. I am really not that important —  and it’s good to be reminded of that now and then.

I am capable of being quiet for a long time. Anyone who know me, knows that I am a big ol’ extrovert who talks quite a bit. The lack of energy, though, has caused me to more or less shut down — to the point where my husband said to me last night that he’ll be glad “when I’m back” — as if I’m away on a trip (which in a way, I suppose I am).

Twitter is the best sick time reading. 140 characters was all I could handle for a while 🙂

My husband and friends are awesome. I have been a pain in rear throughout this — while rarely getting super sick is in most respects a good thing, one of the problems with it is that I really suck at being sick. I’m impatient and miserable and happy to share that misery with everyone. So to all of you who have been patient with me over the last week or so, thank you. I promise to try to learn how to be better at this in the future (although I am hoping not to need it).

Finally, but most importantly, I am damn lucky to have a job with paid sick leave. So far I have taken six days off from work — and I have not had to worry about how I would pay my bills or whether I would have a job to go back to. This puts me in a privileged minority given how many folks (part-time workers, nannies, restaurant workers, etc., etc.) do not have access to paid leave. It is an absolute scandal that the U.S. does not have decent sick leave laws to protect workers and the public. I used to wait tables and if I’d been this sick, my options would have been go to work and infect the public — or take off and lose my pay (and potentially my job). And this is true for most food workers. Think about that for a second. Do you really want a waitress with bronchitis serving your food? It’s crazy.

3 thoughts on “Sick Days

  1. Well said Bren! And I hope you’re feeling better 😉 Since I’m new at my current job I have to accrue sick time in some complicated formula That I haven’t bothered to read. In general I go in unless it’s more than a cold…..but some teachers I work with take off sick days and lose the $$. At my last job in Amherst, I had more paid sick time than I could ever use.

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