On Monday I woke up with a scratchy throat and figured I was developing a cold. I went through the day ignoring the post-nasal drip and talking as little as possible, and drank plenty of coffee to ward off the fuzzy feeling in my head.
When I woke up Tuesday the symptoms had worsened significantly. I cracked open my eyes and realized that light hurt. My scratchy throat had been replaced by a running nose and a fever, and standing up was disorienting. It took significant energy to get up for my 10 AM discussion class, but I was able to make it through and raise my hand a couple times to mask the pain I was in.
At lunch all I wanted to do was swallow aspirin and crawl under the covers. Instead, I ambled to the coffee shop and downed three large coffees in an hour in an attempt to render myself able to work. I tried to chisle through math problems, but I couldn’t read the sentences without reviving my headache.
I was angry at myself for not being able to work. I saw my illness as weakness and I refused to give in to my body’s desire for rest.
I spent the next 5.5 hours accruing data for my research and organizing it into folders, constantly jolting myself out of dizzy spells and reassuring myself that I was stronger than the illness. I was afraid to cancel appointments, afraid to ask for extensions and help even though I knew my state was getting worse, because I didn’t think it was okay to take a break.
This was not sustainable. The next day I crashed. I had to send several frantic emails to cancel appointments because I couldn’t stand up without blinding pain in my head. I had worked myself into a state where I no longer had the choice to ignore my health--my body demanded attention.
We live in a world where everyone seems to expect you to be on, on, on--at work, at school, at home. But if you get sick, or if your body just needs a break, it should be okay to ask for help. You’ll get more done by taking a day to feel your best than by doing subpar work for a week because you’re afraid.
-- Joanna Slusarewicz