Sick days

Sometimes I just wish I could take a sick day.

On a day when I’m feeling sad- or want to feel sad- when the idea of facing pregnant woman after pregnant woman just feels like too much, overwhelming, I wish I could call in and take a mental health day. Spend the day between the couch and the bed, looking at photos, distracting with bad tv.

In medicine, providers rarely take sick days. I’ve had colleagues work with IVs hidden under their sleeves rather than call in sick, co-workers who see one last patient before they themselves go to the emergency room. I was feeling really bad one day, a few years back (I rarely get sick). I didn’t eat anything but crackers for lunch, which was highly unusual for me. By the end of the afternoon I was severely nauseous and struggling through each patient. With two more to go, I quietly vomited in my office trashcan before heading into the next room. My sonographer caught me afterwards saying she had a patient freaking out over her ultrasound and could I talk to her. I could not say no. I stood patiently in the room as she cried over a minor finding on the sonogram (which in the end turned out to be insignificant). After consoling her best I could I left the room to finish vomiting.

If I can’t even call in sick for that, how can I justify taking a mental health day?

Of course, I could simply make the call. But the twenty-five patients on my schedule that day would have to be moved- those who need to be seen would be smooshed into my coworkers already busy days and others would be overbooked with me when I returned. So calling in sick not only burdens my colleagues, but also makes my following days in the office that much worse. I often felt like this in high school, rarely staying home because I wouldn’t want to miss the classes and have my return be a mess. It was just easier to suffer through.

So that’s what I do now when I’m having a bad day. Suffer though. I also have Wednesdays off which helps- knowing I can always use that day for my grief. I just have to postpone all my feelings. It’s hard, though, scheduling my sorrow. Sometimes I wish I could simply take a sick day.

Do you take mental health days? How do you spend them?

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12 thoughts on “Sick days

  1. I see kids for speech therapy and I have them weekly. I often feel guilty for rescheduling them or cancelling them altogether because I am sick. So in theory, it’s nice to take a mental health day but I myself have done so only once. Well, it was a half a day, on the day of my second beta when I was told that my beta barely rose. I was crying so hard I couldn’t even see clearly, let alone get myself together and see kids for the whole afternoon. So I took off, went to the beach, and cried for a few hours. That was the best decision as I was in no shape or form to perform anything functional. But in general, it’s hard for me to just take off without really being sick.

    • it’s so hard when you interact face to face with people for work. I know I’ve totally gone into see patients while I have red rimmed eyes. I”m glad you took off to the beach when you needed- sounds like just the right way to spend a mental health day.

  2. I used to be in the never-a-day-off boat, and I’ve also hung on until the end of shifts before going to the ED (or OB triage) for my own serious acute problems. Now, I am lucky because I’m often able to take a half-day here or there if I need it, and usually no one is affected. Generally when that happens, it’s because I’m feeling so horrible that I can’t do anything other than lie on the couch or curl up under the covers. Sometimes I’ll eventually try to make myself take the dog for a long walk or go to a yoga class, or at least get in the shower. If all else fails, I try to text a close friend – or even just try to read people’s blogs! – so at least I won’t feel completely alone. I wish I could say that I go to the beach or hike to a special spot but… No, I can’t get myself to the beach on those days.

    • ah, the beach sounds like a wonderful place to escape to, though I can see how it can be hard to motivate to get there too. I”m glad you are able to escape when you need to- you are well aware of how much pressure we face (from ourselves, from our colleagues). I give myself my wednesdays to do what I need to do- it’s not as good, but it’s something. I like all the things you do- escaping to a hot shower/bath is one of my favorites too.

  3. Having got divorced, lost both my daughter and my father in a space of one year, I found myself having used up ALL my bereavement days, leave days, and sick days for the year. So when I have “off days” I still go in but restirct myself to doing manual work, filling, shelving, postage, the sort of things I could do alone while crying through the exercise. My officemates basically take one peek at me and let me be. I realise that is not possible in your case, and I commend you for soldiering through.

    • My colleagues and workplace have been as accomodating as they could be. MOst of my hesitance is simply my own pressure. I love the idea of simple manual work when you’re feeling down. THe perfect way to make it through a work day without breaking down. so smart.

  4. I too wish I could take off sometimes. It is usually easier to just work than stay home though. Like you said, organizing everything at work and then returning to craziness often causes more stress. I usually try to take a few minutes to myself here or there through out the day.

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