When You Constantly Have to Call in Sick to Work

A few years ago, I heard a family member complain about a coworker who consistently missed days and days of work. She would be out for random periods of time for what seemed like no reason at all. She was judged by her coworkers who were stuck doing her work. Everything he said about her was negative. And at the time, it made sense to me.

How can someone miss so many days while still holding a job? Why don’t they fire her? Everyone has to pick up her slack because she’s not there. She’s being paid to do nothing. She just shows up whenever she feels like it.

It makes sense. If you aren’t at work, you aren’t doing your job. Everyone around you has to work that much harder to cover for you. But now, as I lay in bed with a horrible migraine left over from two days of dehydration and yesterday’s anesthesia, I realize I have become that person.

In the last two weeks, I left work early one day, missed a day for doctor appointments, missed an important meeting due to a nausea flare and now I am missing two days in a row due to my procedure yesterday.

If you’re counting, that’s three and a half days in the past two weeks. Now this is a particularly bad record for me, but you get the point. Two of those days I had planned appointments. Only a day and half of missed work are due to physically being too sick to work, but only a few of my coworkers know the reasons behind my missed days. To the rest, it’s all the same. Now, I’m fortunate enough to say that my job has “unlimited” sick days, but that doesn’t make the decision to stay home any easier.

My “sick day” is spent tossing and turning in bed, trying to get comfortable. It’s spent opening my work laptop to set my out-of-office notification and send an apologetic email to my boss. It’s making sure my cases are being covered (by my notably amazing coworkers who are so supportive when I miss work). It’s spent questioning whether or not I was really sick enough to stay home or if I could have pushed through it.

But the worst part about it all is the guilt. The guilt surrounding the idea that I am letting down my customers, my coworkers and management. The idea that I am unworthy of the job I love so much because of my health. The guilt when I think about how all of the things I mentioned before are now being said about me. As someone who always strives to work as hard as possible and thrives off of producing quality work, I am plagued with guilt as I lay here in bed.

To my coworkers, I am so sorry. I want to be there. I want to go to work every day and not worry about if I’ll be feeling well enough to focus.

To my boss, I am so sorry that you have to explain to the other managers that I am out again. Thank you for being so incredibly understanding about what’s been going on with me. I know it’s not easy.

And to myself, I hope I can learn to forgive myself when my health gets in the way of my life.

Staying home is never a choice I want to make. I hope everyone understands that.

This post originally appeared on Tori’s blog, I Took a Leap.

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