Dear Healthcare Employer: What I Wish I Could Tell You About My Health

I’m a person who hates to be late for anything. I have never been late to anything in my life. Not one work day, doctor’s appointment, or class. Never.

In fact, I’m always early. Mainly because I’ve always lived my life by the quote, “If you’re on time you’re late, and if you’re early you’re on time.” My soccer coach used to say it all the time when I played when I was younger and it has really helped me learn to be a reliable, punctual adult.

However, due to some of my health conditions (mainly my epilepsy and chronic pain), I can’t always be the most reliable. I still am always on time, in fact I’m always early. Yet, sometimes I’m not always there. It’s frustrating because I feel like someone who is so reliable, someone you can always count on, when in reality I’m not. It’s not my fault, it’s something beyond my control, but it’s the truth.

I’m a nurse and occasionally I have to call off work. I only call off if I absolutely can’t make it into work. I only call off if I’ve had a seizure or feel like I’m going to have one, and therefore no way can do my job. Or, I call off when I’m in so much pain that it’s hard to walk. Unfortunately, those days still add up, and frankly, somedays I’m hated for it.

I get it, I understand. I want nothing more than to be there and do my job and help my patients, but somedays I just can’t.

When I do call my work I don’t think they understand that I’m physically or mentally unable to work. They always try to convince me to come in anyways. Basically, they try to tell me to suck it up and come in. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s happened often enough.

I’d love to explain to them what it feels like after I have a seizure. How it usually takes at least 24 hours for me to make a full recovery, before I’m able to walk without almost falling over. Before I’m fully able to concentrate and think because my head feels like it’s going to explode. And sometimes it takes even longer before the complete exhaustion of having a seizure surpasses.

I’d love to tell them that when I’m calling off for back pain, it’s not just back pain. It’s chronic pain that’s been happening for over two years now. It hurts everyday, and so far nothing has helped the pain. I’d love to tell them that it feels like all my back muscles are squeezing so much that when the pain gets so bad, I feel like I can’t walk. Those are the days I call off. Those are the days the pain overwhelms me that I don’t trust myself to be able to concentrate fully and be able to do my job 100 percent.

My patients always come first, and that’s why I call off.

I’d love for them to really know what’s going on because maybe, just maybe, they’d empathize a little more. Maybe they’d even give me credit for showing up on the days I do come in.

Maybe…just maybe.

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