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To the Coworker Who Judges Me for Missing Work to Visit the Doctor

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Dear coworker,

This is my fourth attempt at writing this because I have so much to say but I find that the right words seem to escape me when trying to explain what’s going on and why I keep having to leave work a little early some days for doctor visits.


By now I’m sure you’re aware I have an autoimmune disease. Although it’s not a secret, I try not to talk about it too much at work because I don’t want anyone in the office to think I’m incapable of doing my job or I’m not a dedicated employee. I love my job and that is sometimes why those frequent doctor visits are necessary, and sometimes they get scheduled for what feels like every other week for several weeks in a row.

You see, my body cannot fight off infections as easily as yours or as easily as it should be able to. This is why sometimes I have to go to the doctor more than once for the same issue; sometimes the initial treatments don’t work and I’m stuck with the same infection for more than a month. Or sometimes I’m in loads of pain and the cause of that pain seems suspicious to my doctor, which then leads to lab work, imaging and specialist visits just to rule out anything serious. Sometimes these visits result in even more pain after all the poking and prodding.

Then, after a very scary week of waiting for those results, if it’s determined that it’s nothing serious, we have to go about trying to figure out the underlying cause of the original pain and decide on a new course of action to manage it so I can be a functional human being. Sometimes the side effects of a medication make me feel so bad that I end up spending my entire weekend in bed, but I still drag my butt to work every Monday morning because I really do love my job.

I’m not writing this to try and guilt or shame you. Those are the emotions I feel when you make comments about how often I have to miss work and I would truly hate for you to feel the same; even though I’m sure your comment wasn’t made with the intention to hurt me or put me down, it still stung and overwhelmed me with an unnecessary sense of guilt at a time when I should be focused on my health.

I’m writing this because I hope it will encourage you to be more patient with me. Trust me, I’m just as annoyed (if not more) as you are with having to be gone so often for these visits. But unfortunately, as annoying as it is for both of us, sometimes missing an hour or two is what is necessary for me to remain a healthy, productive employee and I really hope you can understand that in the future and maybe next time ask if everything is OK instead of questioning where I’ve been.



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Thinkstock photo via Milkos.

Originally published: July 27, 2017
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