Why having a day off work sick is not the same as having an extra day off
If you couldn’t tell by the title of this latest post, I am off work sick.
Since I came off methotrexate two and a half weeks ago I have gone in to the worst flare I have ever experienced. All of the toes on my left foot have swollen so much they resemble a pan full of frying exploding sausages. My right ankle has ballooned. There is very little movement in it. My left shoulder and my neck are excruciating. All of my muscles ache. Getting in to bed is a struggle. Getting out of bed even worse. When I walk I resemble a strange hunched over version of John Wayne. Every step I take hurts my toes. Sends shooting pains up my legs. I can’t lift my feet off the floor. Going for a wee is fraught with difficulties, if I do manage to shuffle to the bathroom, my muscles are so weak I can’t get off the toilet again. In a nutshell, I am in agony. Pure pure agony. What scares me is that this could be my ‘normal’ body. This could be the pain that I feel every day for the rest of my life. This could be me. Until a medication kicks in, this could be it.
I started sulfasalazine last week and I’ve been told that until it kicks in, I’m just to take pain killers regularly to mask the pain. Which doesn’t help the swelling. Or the stiffness. Or the frustration that it causes me. Oh and it’s also caused me to break out head to toe in a severe rash. The joys.
Last week I worked a sporadic mix of half days in the office followed by a few hours logged on at home followed by a few hours lying down in bed trying not to cry from pain. As much as being laid up is good for me, so is moving. So trying to continue with life and work as normal as I can is ideal. But there comes a point when fighting against a flare becomes futile. Trying to live normally is doing me more harm than good.
So Friday after work, I got straight in to my comfiest pyjamas and I didn’t leave the house again until Tuesday morning. 3 hot Epsom salt baths a day. A heat patch on my shoulder. Trying to keep off my feet for as long as I can. It was a weekend where I didn’t feel bad about being a slob. Quite the opposite, I was really enjoying taking it easy.
When I arrived at work on Tuesday it was quite clear I shouldn’t have gone in. The pain in my feet and ankle is so sore that driving becomes difficult to the point where I think I shouldn’t be driving. I couldn’t take the stairs at work. I get to my desk and the thought of being sat there for hours filled me with dread. So the first thing I did was to say to my boss and the head of HR that I was going to be self-certifying myself off sick for the remainder of the week. Not working from home. Not giving myself the pressure of having to sit up and log on to my computer. But to just be at home resting and recuperating. With the full support of my colleagues, I returned home.
I don’t like being off sick. I worry what people think of me. “Oh Rebecca’s off again.” “But she was fine just a few weeks ago”. “She has had so much time off”.
But I’m not enjoying a nice extra day off. I’m not sat at home watching bad re-runs of Jeremy Kyle, before popping in to town for some shopping and a spot of lunch. I’m currently sat in my pyjamas, propped up on some pillows in bed, planning to run my first hot bath of the day in a few minutes time before I go to my doctors for an appointment to hopefully get a stronger painkiller. I am tired, I am sore, and I am fed up.
When I get in to bed, I have to try and carefully place my body down on it. I can’t climb in. I can’t lie on my left side because my shoulder and neck are in agony. If I do try and lie on my left side then it sends numbness down my arm. I can’t easily roll on to my right side because of the pain in my back and the muscular pains. I can’t sit up to adjust my pillow. I can’t reach across to get my water. Every movement causes me pain. I wince. I make strange noises. I want to cry. Sometimes I do cry. When I wake in the night I have to try and take more painkillers. When I do manage to fall asleep it’s only for a short while before I wake again.
When I do wake up I can’t move. It can take me 20 minutes just to lift myself off of the bed enough to sit up. I take more painkillers and try to find the strength to get up. I am exhausted before I have even started my day.
My day off work is spent either snuggled in bed reading, or snuggled on the sofa watching tv. All the while in pain. There is no housework done, no leaving the house, no seeing friends or having a good time. There is pain, wallowing in self pity and feeling sorry for myself.
I medicate as best I can, but they only work to such a point. I try to take as few painkillers as I can because I want to try and learn to cope with the new issues that my body is presenting me with. But it’s hard.
I can try and live my life and fight this flare with what little strength I have left. I could try and work full time. And go out. And do chores. But the pay back could be too severe.
So I’m not longer going to fight this flare. I’m going to put my body first, even if it means doing nothing. Absolutely nothing.
There’s nothing to be guilty about. No shame in not going to work. In the long run I am doing myself a favour by taking a step back.
I am lucky enough that my team, both at home and at work, support me in everything I do. No expectations to do anything whilst I’m in this state but to take the necessary measures to recover.
So whilst I’m not at work, I’m not having a day off. I’m working hard at getting better.