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15 Signs That People Needed to Take Time Off for Their Health

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If you have a chronic illness, you know that managing your symptoms can feel like a full-time job. There’s a chance that you also have different responsibilities in your life besides managing your symptoms, like work, school, or taking care of your family. But what happens when you need to take a break and make managing your symptoms your full-time job?

If you are like me, making this decision was extremely difficult. I was undiagnosed, with what turned out to be a form of vasculitis, for over a year and was becoming extremely depressed. My breaking point followed a month of not having any sensations in my legs — I decided to take a break from school because I realized putting my life at risk was not worth it. I have to realize how fortunate I am, as there are many people, including members of The Mighty community, who are not able to take time off.

We asked The Mighty community to share a sign or signs led them to realize that they needed to take time off work or school because of their health. Let us know in the comments if any of these signs have made you realize that you need to take time off, or if you are grappling with the decision of whether to take time off currently. And remember that your school or job may be able to offer you accommodations to make work more manageable for you, so be sure to talk to them first if you’re struggling. 

Here’s what our Mighty community told us:

1. “My pain kept getting worse.”

I knew I needed time off work when my body wasn’t bouncing back on its own, and my pain kept worsening as time went on. It’s the scariest experience, especially when a diagnosis takes such a long time because you cannot treat your illness well until you know what you’re dealing with and you can’t get back to work until your health gets under control. It’s a vicious cycle.”  — Sara T.

2. “I was a danger to others.”

“I kept passing out while scrubbed in for surgery. I was a danger to my patients and the doctors I was assisting.” — Marisa S.

3. “I had anxiety attacks.”

“I had anxiety attacks the night before just at the thought of getting up for work.” — Sammie W.

“The stress of my illness on my body made put me in a constant state of severe anxiety. I couldn’t leave the house.” — Lidia M.

4. “I could no longer get to work on time or at all.”

When I could no longer get to work on time or at all. I would show up every day three to four  hours late on days I could make it because my body was too exhausted to get out of bed and drive an hour to work.” — Christina H.

“It would normally start as lying in bed until it was almost too late to get to work on time, pondering ways to get out of work that day because at the time we did not know what was causing my health to decline.” — Kayli M.

5. “I cried because I was in so much pain.”

Crying because I was in so much pain made me take a few days.” — Leslie F.

“When I got to my last shift and ended up sobbing in the bathroom. I tried to return to employment many times after but my health wouldn’t allow it.” — Netty S.

6. “I had a health emergency at work.”

“Having seizures in class and collapsing in front of everyone. I suddenly realized, these aren’t just simple muscle spasms, this was something really wrong.” — Cassidy S.

I fainted in the middle of work with stroke level blood pressure. They were phenomenal about everything, but things went downhill fast. Blood clots, surgery, etc. It was time to be brave, and make a very difficult choice. I miss my job.” — Wendy W.

“When I collapsed after school and ended in an ambulance to hospital. I needed 5 liters of IV liquid and a week later got a feeding tube. Because I was dehydrated and malnourished, I had prioritized school because I didn’t have enough energy to eat/digest and my studies.” — Aili B.

“Passed out at work and was nonresponsive. They had to call 911. Then passed out again on way to hospital.” — Cretia G.

7. “I couldn’t perform the physical duties of my job.”

I was working as a pastry cook at a high volume restaurant at a major theme park. When I couldn’t lift a tray of cupcakes without bursts of severe pain in my lower back (not to mention the 50-pound bags of sugar and flour), I realized I had to talk to my doctor. I eventually had to leave the kitchen because of my chronic pain.” — Dana C.

8. “Stress from school/work was triggering my symptoms.”

“While studying for my university exams, naturally, I was stressed. But even normal/healthy levels of stress would trigger the most intense endometriosis pain that I’d ever felt. It was at the point where I’d have to excuse myself mid-exam to go to the bathroom, just so I could lock myself in a stall to sob quietly where nobody could hear me.” — Haley W.

9. “I couldn’t focus on the task at hand.”

“Couldn’t put together simple sentences, memory lapses that made me scared that I had dementia and had migraines nearly every day that kept me from functioning.” — Jadzia S.

“I’d stay at work through partial dislocations, brain fog where I couldn’t spell even simple three letter words and chronic fatigue so bad I’d fight to stay conscious sitting at my desk.” — Gemma C.

10. “All I did in life was sleep and work.”

“I knew when I realized that all I did in life was sleep and work. I never saw anyone or did anything.” — Elizabeth K.

“Spending all of my spoons there every day, just to come home and sleep it off. I realized that wasn’t a life worth living and I owed myself more.” — Heather H.

11. “My boss encouraged me to take time off.”

“My boss pulled me aside and told me my job wasn’t worth destroying my health for. ‘We’ll wait,’ he said. ‘Go get better.’ So, I took the time off. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet gotten better but I know I’d have been much worse off forcing myself to work when I couldn’t.” — Doni N.

12. “I was mad at my job.”

“Mid fight with my husband, I realized I wasn’t mad at him. I was mad at my job.” — Meghan P.

13. “I couldn’t get to and from my workplace.”

“I literally couldn’t walk to the bus stop and get to work. When I managed to get to work, I couldn’t sit in my chair without being in quite a lot of pain so I could not concentrate to get my work done.” — Bethan O.

“It took me 15 minutes to gather enough energy to get out of the car.” — Stacie B.

“When I could no longer drive home without nodding off at the wheel at least once.” — Trisha P.

14. “I was making mistakes with my health.”

“When I accidentally took my dog’s epilepsy medication instead of my thyroid medication.” — Michelle H.

15. “I stopped caring.”

“In college, I would have days where I stopped caring. Didn’t care enough to learn or study or be with friends or even eat. That was always my sign that I needed to step back and give myself a break for a bit.” — Sally F.

For more insight on how our Mighty community copes with chronic illness and work or school, check out these stories:

A College Student’s Guide to Disability Accommodations

5 Truths About a Chronic Illness Warrior’s Medical Leave 

The Difficulty of Deciding When It’s Time to Stop Working and File for Disability


Originally published: November 16, 2018
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