I’ve heard this so many times. I am not coughing. I am not sneezing. I am not complaining of chills. I am not home ‘sick’ in the term that I have the flu and need to be in bed. I would not spread my illness if I came into work. I would not pass germs that would in turn get you ‘sick’.
But I am sick.
Dictionary.com defines the word ‘sick’ as one who is “afflicted with ill health or disease; ailing.” Although I am not hacking or vomiting on you, I am in fact sick. I am afflicted with ill health or disease. I like to call them hidden diseases. These mental illnesses, Anxiety and Depression (and at one point PTSD and OCD). There are further definitions on Dictionary.com that include mental ailments but it shocks me that when a person calls out sick it has to be seen as a ‘real’ ailment to be deemed a ‘real’ sick day and not ‘playing hookie’. The matter is, when I use a sick day at work, I am sick, but it is my Anxiety and Depression that are center stage.
The last time I took a sick day where I was what is considered sick to a typical person was January of 2014 when I acquired the flu. For days I was bedridden, sleeping, going through chills alternating with being too hot, running high fevers and completely depleted of all energy. You know what, those ‘fake’ sick days, my body wants to be bedridden. I am usually dizzy and nauseas and it is my brain that makes me feel this way, no bacteria or virus I can fault. My brain, an organ I will live with all my life… not a bacteria that will take up residence for a week. How can you not call that sick?
Through the years, I have learned to mask first my Depression because I have lived with it for such a long time, more than half my life. I have just recently perfected the fake smile and faux happy personality when it comes to my Generalized Anxiety. This little devil has been present in my life for the last decade and I never know when it will go on a nice vacation and I never know when it will return. Little bugger! Recently, it has decided to become the dictator of my being. It took over me a week and a half ago making my body rigid and me mute. That day was the start to me feeling, well, off. The work week following that incident, I spent most of my days hiding in my cubicle not wanting to interact with anyone. Many times I wished I could just go home and hide in my room. I wanted to be alone. If I did have interact with my coworkers, I was the smiling funny person I usually am. All I have to do is put on that fake grin and all of my inner turmoil is hidden. Viola! I look perfectly fine.
This past Sunday night I slept awfully. Even pumped up on .5mg of Ativan and 2mg of Lunesta, my body would not fall asleep. After watching the 2 hour premiere of Return To Amish because well I had nothing else to do, I decided to try and fall asleep again. It was 1am. Luckily, sleep came quick but my body awoke at 5:00am. Insomnia was back. When I finally decided to wake up for the day and not continue a fit of tossing and turning in bed in hopes I would fall back asleep it was 6:30am. I gave in. Brain, you won. With a rush of dizziness and nausea, I felt it best to call out sick.
Upon returning to the office the next day, some comments were thrown at me about being ‘sick’. Sometimes it gets to the point where I feel like the boy who cried wolf. I have all these physical symptoms but I do not look sick. I am on day nine of going to bed with such pain in my neck and shoulders because they have been tense all day. I am highly unmotivated to move and feel out of it. I don’t quite feel depressed as I do not feel hopeless or worthless, but I do not feel like myself. Some negative thoughts are returning to me… thoughts where my husband and child deserve better. I am frequently apologizing to both of them for being so irritable all the time. “I don’t want to be mean, I am so sorry.” As I am saying this, I imagine my daughter sitting in therapy in her adult years talking of her mother who snapped at her with anger all the time. It’s not what I want, but I can’t control it. Anxiety has taken the reigns.
And then, with the comments and the demons I live with, I begin to wonder if I am imagining these symptoms… maybe I am not really ‘sick’. This feeling only fuels the craziness I live with… now I am debating with myself if what I feel, mental and physical, is actually real? Am I just saying this stuff for attention? I mean, I am the youngest child. Youngest children usually crave attention, but that was never me. I also am known to complain a lot, but not about my health. I have a high pain tolerance and usually wait until the last minute to get help with any ailment. Still, is this all in my head? Do I just feel ignored and want to be heard?
And then I take a step back and breathe. Stigma. Damn that stigma. Just when I think I have broken through its barrier, I am sucked back into the vortex. This stigma is the reason people do not believe me when I am sick. I can’t fall victim to it again, it will only hurt me. This is the reason I share my story all the time. This is the reason I explain to people what it is like to suffer with a condition that plagues your brain, that interferes with your logical thinking.
I am sick and some days the pressure builds up mentally, causing physical symptoms and I need to take a day off just like when having a fever. I need to rest. Any person deserves that without sarcastic comment. You deserve to be trusted.