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Rising Phoenix - Taking Back My Life from Mental Illness
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Physical Health and Work

A recent email from Amanda at My Dialectical Life on treating a physical illness to reduce your vulnerability to emotional mind, is the inspiration for this article. This article stems from a conversation that I had with Amanda after reading the email. I have found Amanda’s daily emails through My Dialectical Life to very helpful and inspiring. They have helped turn my day around more than once since I signed up for the service.

Taking care of your physical health is very important to your mental health. When you are physically sick it reduces your ability to cope with daily stress factors, makes controlling how your react to things more difficult, and makes you more emotionally reactive. The more sick you are, the worse it gets. Unfortunately, a lot of times we neglect our physical health because we worry that if we take time off of work to take care of ourselves that it makes us less of a person than the people around us because we are sick. The past week I have been dealing with a bad case of bronchitis. I have had to figure out what the best course of action for me was. Do I take time off or do I go into work? How do I balance my health with my need to make money so I can take care of my wife, cat and I?

Personally, I worry about the following things:

  • What if I am out and people need me, will things come to a grinding halt?
  • <insert manager> will be pissed/I am going to get in trouble

 

It is difficult for me to deal with the thought of having too take time off to be sick, I think it is partly rooted in the way I brought up. I was raised with the basic concept that unless you are “dying” you drag yourself into work, because you made a commitment to the people you work for and work with and you should take that seriously. So, I think that plays into how I deal with things. What makes it so hard for me is that I am the only source of income for my wife, cat and I, so if I lose money we are in trouble. It takes about 1/2 of my monthly take home pay to cover just rent.

Over the past few years I have started to get better with handling these situations. I used to only really take time off if I was pondering going to the ER or running the bathroom for one reason or another. I once went to work with pneumonia, not realizing what it was at the time. I had had a really high fever, was coughing up a lung and was in agonizing pain. I originally thought the pain I was in was because of a pulled muscle from coughing as much as I was at the time.

The way I look at, or try to these days is to run through the following “checklist” (in no order), mostly subconsciously and quickly:

 

  • How sick am I? (e.g. Is the bathroom my new “best friend”? Should I be considering going to ER?)  => this is about the only one where if I say yes, I am definitely staying home

 

  1. What do I have going on at the office? Can they get by without me for the day? (e.g. Important Meetings, period in the project where I play a crucial role, etc)
  2. How much time have I missed lately?
  3. How much vacation time do I have?
  4. How many days are left in the pay period (only important if I do not have enough vacation time)
  5. Who am I working with (Do they have young kids? Is it someone I have a good relationship with and would be worried about putting in a bad spot?)
  6. What are my bills like this month? (Do I have higher than usual bills? Do I have extra expenses? etc)
  7. What is the weather like?
  8. How productive will I be?
  9. If I am on the fence, I may ask my wife what she thinks I should do.
  10. If I am at the doctor’s I will ask them if I should go into the office the next day or stay home. I figure they are trained and know what they are talking about, so I trust their judgement. It also absolves me of any ‘blame’. It allows me to say that I was doing what my doctor advised me to do.

I also weigh things like:

If I stay home I will probably feel better tomorrow and everything will be fine the next day vs. If I drag myself in to the office, I may get worse and miss more than just a day (this is where #8 comes in). This also costs me less money in the long, and is better for everyone involved.

I think to myself that, hey other people get sick and THEY call out; therefore, it is OK for ME to call out. I have as much right to be sick and stay home and take care of myself as they do. They are no better than I am, I am just as human as they

I also look for compromises/middle ground like:

Are there enough days left in the pay period that I can make up the hours by working late/not taking lunch/staying late?

Do I feel well enough that I can work from home, but too sick to go into the office physically and/or do I have something contagious?

Can I go in and leave early to accomplish something important but then go home?  (this really comes into play if I am in the center of something or have an important meeting)

I also will send an email to my teammates letting them know I will be out sick, but if something crucial comes up that they need my input for right away they can call me; otherwise, I will deal with any questions when I get back in to the office. This prevents me from feeling like I am abandoning them by providing them with a way to get in touch me if they really need me.

When possible, I also “delegate” things to other members of my team. For example, if I am the primary author on a document, I may ask one of the other people to take ownership of it while I am out to make sure it gets done on time. This also helps with mitigating the feeling of letting people down.

I think that is everything, at least everything I can think of right now. I am getting better with this, I think my wife being in the physical shape she is in from the accident and other health issues, has forced me to change my approach. I have to always keep in mind that she needs me healthy both physically and mentally. I cannot afford to take the same careless risks and disregard for myself that I could when I was single.

Posted: May 13th, 2013 under Uncategorized.

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