Illness and guilt

I think I briefly mentioned this in another post but I really hate taking sick days from work.  Even though I am genuinely sick, the guilt can be overwhelming.

Today it was the throat infection Rose gave me that got me.  My throat hurt a little less, but I was so overwhelming tired and aching all over, I just couldn’t get out of bed to go to work.  I sleep very poorly (waking up over and over) at the best of times, but I must have fallen into a heavy sleep eventually because when I woke up it was 5pm.

But ever since I woke up, I’ve had to deal with the overwhelming guilt of missing yet another day of work. Last Sunday it was because Rose was sick, this Sunday because I’m sick.  And all the other days I’ve had off since I started this job nearly 3 months ago.  I know I’ve been physically sick or suffering severe anxiety (to the point where I maybe should have considered going back to hospital) on every day I’ve had off.  I haven’t just been “chucking a sickie” or being lazy.

But the guilt of missing work is still plaguing me.  I currently only work 5 days a fortnight (or paid work anyway – I am a firm believer that staying at home with children is just as much work as any paid work is).  So I am constantly tormented by the thought of “come on, you’re only part time, surely you can ignore being sick the days you’re rostered on” but as much as I try to tell myself that, I am then left to face the reality that I really am sick and really can’t do it.

I guess it’s hard for me because I’ve never taken this much sick leave before.  In my last job, when my chronic health problems combined with my pregnancy got too much, rather than have multiple sick days, I just asked if I could start my maternity leave a month early.  In my job before that, I only worked two days a week, I had regular shifts with late starts, spread out (not days in a row), and they didn’t mind me taking an extra week or two of annual leave a few times a year (unpaid of course), so I didn’t get sick as often (because I wasn’t as worn down) and of course I didn’t have a baby to care for and no family around to look after her if she is too sick to go to childcare.

I haven’t had my performance review yet, and I know they will come down on my harshly for all the time I’ve had off either sick myself or caring for Rose.  And the reason I am struggling with guilt is because I know they are right to.  I’ve had a lot of time off, which means I’ve been unreliable to them and it’s not their problem that I have a child who seems to get sick all the time, or that I have both chronic health problems and get acutely sick sick a lot too.

I’m hoping as the weather warms up that Rose and I will get sick less often.  I’m also hoping that John can build up some personal leave so he can take time off paid if Rose can’t go to childcare – he’s had another four days off this last week because of his own battles with anxiety, and although we won’t know the exact cost until his next pay, he will be lucky if he is paid for even one full day for that time because of all his personal leave taken in the last year.  Which is just one more stress as not only will I too not be paid for taking today off (as I have no personal leave left), being a Sunday I missed out on a significant leave loading as well.

But in the meantime I feel like I’m letting down my employer and my colleagues.  I know I genuinely can’t help it, but it feels like a poor excuse.

I know this is a battle that every person with chronic health problems who works struggles with – the double whammy of being sick and the guilt of feeling like you’re failing your employer, your colleagues and your family who rely on your income.  It’s hard not to feel like a failure despite knowing I’m doing the best I can, and doing more than many people would even try to if they had even half my health problems while trying to raise a baby and a high schooler with ASD.

So it’s a constant battle in my mind – feeling like a failure but also knowing I am achieving more than most people could in this situation, knowing that but STILL feeling like a failure.

I know it’s a battle that won’t be resolved in my head any time soon.  All I can do is keep trying my best and hope that my bosses can see I’m trying hard, and hope that my family doesn’t suffer too much with less income.

How do you cope with the guilt of what you can’t do because of ill health?

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