Anyone with chronic illness has been there: an otherwise healthy friend or colleague doesn’t feel well and takes the day off. You offer sympathy and express hope that they feel better soon, and get on with your day.
I’m having a really hard time doing that today.
You see, I woke up very early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I’m more tired than usual. Getting dressed was unusually painful. I have mild RA fevers, and I know that my doctor will be unhappy about that when I see him next week (which reminds me, I need to schedule bloodwork NOW). The inflammation in my finger joints is getting worse, and wearing splints only aggravates it. Work continues to be stressful and exhausting, and I feel like I am not getting enough done. Due to exhaustion and stiffness I haven’t been exercising and my weight is creeping up. I’d love to take a day off, but all my accrued sick time will be spent on doctor appointments in the next two weeks, and I recently learned that due to my health history I probably will not qualify to buy into the sick leave pool at work. I need to talk with my doctor about when to submit my FMLA paperwork, and even then it will only apply for doctor visits and lab work. My prescription coverage has changed and I need to call and make sure my prescriptions are still covered.
And none of this, none, touches on what’s really bothering me, and that’s the pressure to work. Whether it’s intended or not, you are judged by you ability to contribute to working society. If I take a “mental health day” then that’s fine! Every does that once in a while. No harm, no foul, right? Take a day off because you didn’t sleep well? Sure! Go for it! You have the vacation time and you earned it. But when you’re exhausted all the time, you don’t have that excuse, that padding. I can’t take off every day that I don’t feel well, because I NEVER feel well, so how do you choose? I feel pressure to work every day no matter how exhausted I am, how much pain I’m in (and I fully acknowledge that much of this pressure is self-imposed, but also not all). Why can’t I be kinder to myself? It’s okay for a friend to take a day off to recoup- why can’t I allow myself that same grace?
One of the mantra I practice is Om Mani Padme Hum, a focus on compassion. In my mind, I use it to practice compassion for myself, as well as for others.
I need to accept that others make the best choices for them. I don’t know how they feel or what influenced them to decide to take a day off, but it has NOTHING to do with me or my situation. Feeling envy or resentment is only adding to my own unhappiness.
I need to allow myself these feelings, and then let go of them and move on. I’m human- it’s okay to grumble and sigh a little, but it’s not worth getting upset about or angry over- that’s them, this is me.
I need to be kinder to myself- to let myself take a day off, or give myself a pat on the back for working when I don’t feel my best. Let’s face it, on a day when I DO feel my best, the LAST place I’d want to be is the office! I need to give myself a little more leniency, and not let someone else’s situation influence my happiness.
But, mostly, I have to practice letting things go, expectations being a big one. My expectations, and the expectations of others. How can I judge them for something that I don’t understand? How can I let their judgement of me affect me when they don’t know how I am? I have to stop worrying about what isn’t, and focus on appreciating what is.