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What I Wish I Could Tell My Boss When I Call Out Sick

The most helpful emails in health
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What I wish I could say to my boss when I call out sick:

I was awake on and off all night. Getting in and out of bed every 45 minutes to exchange my ice pack for a colder one. I was in complete agony. The left side of my face was throbbing intensely in different places. Sometimes near my ear, or around my mouth, and just everywhere. At this point, I was scared because this was not a normal symptom for me. I wanted to try to make an appointment for after work, or maybe go to urgent care. But the thought of going to work while I’m crying with an ice pack on my face was too much. I thought about asking you if I could leave early and make a doctors appointment, but what if you say no? And just last week I had to leave early for something completely unrelated, so you’d probably think I was lying.

I ran through what I planned to text you a thousand times. And I honestly freaked out about it. My left cheek started throbbing even worse, and I was crying from the pain. My husband half woke up and put his hand on my arm so I knew he was there if I needed him. He mumbled something about calling out as he fell back asleep. It gave me the validation that he’d support my decision to take the day off.

So I texted you and wrote, “I’m so sorry I have to call out. I’m in a lot of pain and couldn’t sleep and wanted to go to urgent care after work, but it’s too intense and I may go to the ER.” Which honestly sounds dramatic. And I always do this. But I need you to know how serious it is so you won’t judge me as harshly. I chose to leave out the specifics, simply because the truth sounds too random, and I was afraid you won’t believe me. But it’s true. My face hurt so much I couldn’t eat or sleep and wanted to scream.

You told me it was fine and to feel better, only to fire me a few days later for not being reliable.

Being chronically sick and working full time often feels like an impossible balance. I need to listen to my body so I don’t get worse, but I also need to be reliable. I want to thrive at my job and prove every day that you hired the right person. Most days I feel like a perfect fit for this position.

But the truth is, I don’t know what’s going on with my body. I don’t trust it to show up every day. I’m constantly overcoming small hurdles and freaking out about the bigger ones. Seeking disability benefits is not an option for me, and I take pride in earning my own money. But there will be times where everything will go haywire. My body sort of malfunctions, and it takes some time to put the pieces back together.

This is not the first time I lost my job due to my health, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But I’m finally starting to learn I need to put myself first and stop feeling guilty for what I cannot control.

Getty Image by monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: September 19, 2019
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