My body has an odd way of telling me to slow down. Sometimes it's a migraine, other times it's vertigo, eczema or even a cold. The past two years I have suffered from a midterm exam back spasm. Last year it was so bad that I could barely walk, let alone work. I had to resort to the type of painkillers and muscle relaxants that make your face go numb.
This past week, I could feel it coming. Each day the sore lower back and a painful neck increased. I kept going. And going. And going. From one activity to the next. Counting down the weeks left of school (there's six) and thinking of how I will do things next semester to not be so busy.
But still, it was Thursday. My allergies were killing me. In November. What is there to be allergic to in November? My back was still aching and stiff. My neck tweaked every time I stepped. I was exhausted.
I made it through the day at work. I made it through class. And I finally made it home. I had survived. But there was still one more day left in the week and a full weekend of class and studying. My apartment was a mess with a week's worth of dishes sitting on the counter and a bathroom that hadn't been cleaned in weeks. I was facing that dreaded feeling of "I can't do it all!"
So Friday morning came round. I was still stuffed up and had a raspy throat. I went straight to the computer and wrote an email to my supervisor saying I wouldn't be in. I needed a day of rest.
Unless I'm on death's doorstep, I always feel guilty calling in sick. Yet, I needed to do just what I said I was going to do. Rest. I slept in for several more hours before moving to the couch with a sleeping bag. I finally rose from there at around 2:00. It ended up being a day of catching up. I caught up on sleep, chores, and studying.
At what point is it okay to call in sick? Is exhaustion being sick? If you're exhausted, you're at greater risk of getting sick. If you're exhausted, you're not going to be effective at work. In my opinion, those personal, mental health days are as important to take as staying home when you're down with a flu.
I'm still tired, my back is still store and I'm still sneezing, but I have an odd sense that it's all going to be okay. That is what my sick day gave me. The gift of "being okay" despite all that life throws at me.