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Calling Into Work When Chronic Illness Leaves You Exhausted

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I called into work at 5 a.m. this morning. Not because I had been throwing up, not because I have a cold or the flu but because I was exhausted. Because sometimes my congenital heart disease makes it harder to work every day and sometimes I need to stay in bed all day. Did I feel bad about calling off that short notice? Yes. Did I feel bad that they were probably short and would have more work to do since I wasn’t there to serve the residents? Yes. Did I really hope I could get out of bed, drive to work and do what I love? Yes.

Telling people the reason I called off is difficult, mainly because they don’t understand. Throwing up. They understand it. Fever? They understand that too. Needing to stay in bed all day and watch “Paper Towns” (a great movie) because my body is too exhausted to move? People don’t understand that. I’m terrified that on Thursday when someone asks why I called off I will have to actually explain it to them. I got the answering machine at work so I didn’t talk to any of my supervisors. I’m trying to figure out the right way to put it.


My main supervisor does know about my heart condition because I asked for a day off for a cardiologist appointment in December. So it’ll be easier to explain it to him than the others. I don’t like telling people that don’t need to know about my heart condition that I have one. Not because I’m embarrassed, but because I’ve had people treat me differently because of it. Treat me with a pair of kid gloves and not like the rest of the people there. My co-workers have no idea and I don’t intend to tell them. Explaining it to them might be the most difficult of all. I know I don’t have to explain myself but sometimes I feel like I do. The reason why I call off hanging out with you last minute isn’t because I don’t like you or I have made other plans – it’s because I take my health seriously and know my limits.

There are people in my place of work who call off for the littlest of reasons. Or lie to the supervisors that they are sick when really they spent the night before partying, and then brag about it to fellow co-workers. This is different. I hope the people in my workplace understand that. It’s not because I wanted to spend the day in bed watching a movie/sleeping but because I needed to spend the day in bed watching a movie/sleeping. My body just couldn’t take getting up at 5 a.m. and then being on my feet for eight hours.

I am currently thinking about either getting another job that is more of a desk job than a waitressing position or going part-time instead of full-time. I feel bad doing either of those, especially the part-time one since they are already short all the time. They are hiring more people, but still – I would be the reason they would be short until the new full-timers start. Yesterday I told my mom I don’t know how much longer I, or my body, could take it and I was thinking about part-time. I decided not to talk to HR and wait it out but this has got me thinking about it even more.

I need to take my health seriously and not go past my limits. I feel like that is showing weakness or me giving up but I realized it actually does the opposite. It shows I am strong enough not to ruin my body because I feel like I have to do something. I’ll talk to my supervisors on Thursday and then talk to HR. I know it’s not ideal but I feel like I’ll be a better employee if I don’t work full-time, especially in this kind of job. I can work a desk job easily but being a waitress is a different story.

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Thinkstock photo via blanscape.

Originally published: September 20, 2017
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