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My 'Sick Days' Are Not for When I'm Sick

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At the agency I work for, youth workers are given 10 sick days per year. I’m extremely fortunate to have these sick days and a job, especially considering that so many people with disabilities are not employed, precariously employed or discriminated against when it comes to jobs. When we think of sick days, we think of fevers, upset stomachs, common colds, etc. I don’t use my sick days for these things. While I have 10 sick days available to me in a given year, I don’t use them for when I’m sick. I use them for when my disability is beyond what I can manage at work.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I called into work sick that wasn’t related to my brain injury. It’s usually for a migraine or I have taken something for pain that will result in me sleeping for way more than 8 hours. I call into work when the mental and physical fatigue has reached a point where I wouldn’t even be able to do my job. My sick days aren’t for sitting on the couch and sipping tea to help a sore throat or treating fevers. My sick days are for getting my body sorted and rested enough so I can return to work the next day.

Having a permanent and chronic disability means my sick days are precious to me. This also means if I have something able-bodied people might use sick days for such as a common cold, I’m coming to work. I can’t waste one of my sick days on the days I can’t breathe out of my nose and I’m drinking DayQuil out of the bottle like it’s juice. I need those days for when my brain injury starts acting up. I lost my voice due to a cold this week and so many people have suggested I take a sick day, but I can’t justify it in my mind.

While 10 days sounds like a lot, it isn’t when you have a disability. If I call in sick for something non-disability related, I risk not having enough days down the road for when my brain injury symptoms flare up. I can work through not having my voice, but I can’t work through a brain injury-related migraine. I have to think long and hard before using a sick day and with how unpredictable my health is, I choose not to risk not having enough sick days for my disability.

To all of my coworkers — I’m sorry but I’m coming to work with all my germs and and a bag of cold medicine. I’ll sanitize my hands as much as possible.

Getty image by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz.

Originally published: August 13, 2018
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