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The Phone Call You (Shouldn't Have to) Dread When You're Chronically Ill

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She sighs when I call in. She does it every time, but today it pings an extra note of discordance inside my head. As if there’s room for that, too, inside the whirling, swirling mess, ebbing and flowing in the space between my ears.

If I’m honest (and I try to be), she does that whenever any of us call in, but today isn’t about everyone. No, today is about me and the level 8 pain of my fibromyalgia flareup that has coaxed a drilling migraine while ever-so-slowly inserting a knitting needle into the middle of my right shoulder joint. All of this competes with the edging need to vomit all over the bright screen of my cell phone (which I have turned all the way down).


She asks if I have enough leave to cover it, as if 1) we both don’t know she is tracking my leave and 2) I would come in if I didn’t. There’s no coming in to customers and phone calls and bright lights. I have managed only to turn to the not hurting shoulder to make the call with my left hand because moving my right pointer finger, my wrist, causes the pain building in that shoulder to radiate in nauseous bolt of lightning until my hand goes numb.

But I don’t mention these things because it has been made abundantly clear to me that my performance is all that matters. Not the invisible illnesses  —  depression, Hashimoto’s and fibromyalgia  —  that directly and adversely affect said performance. An ongoing tally of what did I screw up today because my brain fog rolled in extra thick, or my meds aren’t reacting well, or… nevermind. Doesn’t matter. Only performance.

(That’s a whole other story.)

This morning, after I vomited the nothing from my body because of the pain, I recounted in my head, despite the noise, how much of each type of leave I have. And because I have been working late and on Saturdays, I have “extra” leave built up. So, when I crash from working too many long hours, I can spend it on the luxury of not being there.

“I do.”

“Well, feel better.”

I hang up, and I take the handful of meds my husband has left me on the headboard. Some for the pain. Some to help me sleep. All of them leave me feeling like am too damn young at 41 to feel this damn old.


I get it, logically, that she can’t take my illnesses into consideration when evaluating my performance. It’s work. There are measures I must meet, deadlines and requirements that support the mission we’re doing there. But there is a clear lack of empathy from her, along with several other issues, that leave me frustrated.

For the first time in my life, in the 20+ years I’ve been an adult, I am seriously contemplating resignation. My health is failing me enough on its own that the stress of working under her has become an unbearable weight that I can no longer bear. I’m left with few options and too many issues that must be resolved.

But that’s a whole other story, too.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: September 9, 2016
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