When You Have to Call Out of Work Because of Your Anxiety


I work in a 24-hour residential treatment facility, which means I am a required employee and must try to get to work and possibly stay mandatory overtime even when State of Emergencies are put in place by government officials. When Winter Storm Jonas blew through, I was working my 3-11 p.m. shift, and I already knew I would be spending the night.

I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and as simple and down-played as I can make it, I’m a worrier. I have come to accept it and understand the impact it will have on my day-to-day life. Because of this, I went to my supervisor as soon as I clocked in and asked how likely it would be that I’d be spending the night. She replied by asking if I would be willing to work overnight. I agreed and gave myself the next eight hours to prep my mind for being at work overnight. For the first time. In a blizzard.

It wasn’t easy, but by the time 11 p.m. rolled around, I was actually kind of excited for this new little venture. I had gone over every possible detail I could think of, and I was confident going into the overnight knowing I would be working with a fellow 3-11 shift co-worker who was also going to be stuck at work through the blizzard.

The night went incredibly smoothly. Probably because I was so prepared (anxiety will do that to you). It wasn’t until around 5 a.m. that I started to feel the internal unrest from being awake for so long. I clocked out over two hours late, but I was determined, and I made it home so I could sleep for a few sweet hours in my own bed before heading back to work.

I woke up just after 1 p.m. I was surprisingly refreshed — until I stood up. The world began to spin. I had to call out of work. 

Thoughts begin to race in my head:

This was not part of my blizzard weekend plans. The plan was not to call out of work. The plan was to be a reliable employee. The plan was to be a liked employee. The plan was to not get fired. I’m going to get fired. No one is going to be there to work because of the storm. They’re going to hate me. I’m going to get fired. This was not part of my blizzard weekend plans!

This type of anxiety “spiral” is typical for me, and believe me, it’s frustrating — sometimes even debilitating. But it isn’t my first spiral, and it certainly won’t be my last. As a young adult just entering the workforce, I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I’m allowed to miss work for my health (the spinning was actually a case of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) caused by a pre-existing neurological condition, and I missed three more days of work), and that I won’t be fired or disliked by my co-workers for doing so.

To some, my anxiety may seem unwarranted. But for me, facing and conquering my anxieties is important in order for me to grow as a co-worker, friend, wife and all-around person. As frustrating and unplanned as it was, I wouldn’t change my blizzard weekend, because I am a better, more understanding person because of it.  

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Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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