As a child, I would literally have to be half dead for mum and dad to keep me off school.
I was once sick right outside of the gates (all down my mufty day best) and even then, mum definitely spent a moment contemplating whether or not she should get me changed and send me in anyway. No, my parents weren’t evil and I wasn’t neglected as a child. It was the 90s, my dad is Irish and I think they were just trying to make me resilient to life’s hurdles. And it has worked. I, like plenty of you, deem a sick day to be a sign of weakness or a nuisance and not taking a day off as having a good work ethic.
Although I appreciate my parent’s intentions and will no doubt treat my little ones in much the same way, I’m not sure this way of thinking is such a good idea anymore.
After a month or so of ignoring the fact that I have been feeling not quite right, my body decided to give me no choice but to sit up and listen yesterday by slamming on the breaks and slapping me full on in the face with a badass ear and throat infection.
Thankfully, I had booked in to work from home on Wednesday, which meant that although my ears ached, my throat was coarse and my temperature went from 0 to 100 every thirty minutes or so, I could work in my pyjamas and drink endless mugs of hot lemon and honey. It’s not right though, that aside from a 45-minute nap on my lunch break, I continued to write content for clients, answer the phones, reply to emails and plough on even though I could barely keep my eyes open and concentrate for longer than ten minutes at a time. Despite all this, I made sure to make my way all the way to five thirty and when I did I closed my laptop and then bizarrely continued to do stuff instead of kicking back – cleaning the dishes, putting two washes on and cooking dinner – even though all I wanted to do – knew that what I needed to do – was dive under my duvet and sleep for a full 24hrs.
I would have probably continued to ignore my symptoms for another month, except for last night, at around 2am, my body had had enough. I woke with a soaring temperature and I could hardly breathe. I lay there awake, boiling hot and then freezing cold, until 8am this morning when I got dressed (lugging my work laptop over my shoulder with every intention of going into the office afterwards) and headed to the walk-in centre.
The lovely nurse (let’s take a moment to praise the NHS here) gave me the once over, provided me with her diagnosis and handed me a prescription for some antibiotics and some throat anaesthetic. I thought that was that but then she asked me another question. She asked me if I had taken any time off since I started feeling ill a month ago. I shook my millennial head at her, aghast, and said, ‘Nah, I just thought it would pass!’. She then asked me if things had been a little hectic lately. I lied, of course, and said that they hadn’t. She looked at me, knowingly, and told me I needed to take at least four days off work to rest and recuperate and I told her I absolutely could not. She sighed, ignored my protest and instructed me, again, to take my tablets, use the spray and stay in bed watching Netflix with Maltesers and Lucozade for a week or so. As she was so wonderful and I didn’t have the heart, I promised her I would but as soon as I left the clinic I fumbled around for my phone to let my manager know that I would go home today but would be in tomorrow morning for sure.
I think there’s something wrong with the fact that I felt more of an urgency to let work know when I would be in rather than heading to Boots to pick up my prescription – although, at this point, I would like to make it clear that the pressure wasn’t coming from my employer, but myself.
In 2016, we don’t seem to have our priorities in check. We don’t spend enough time looking after ourselves or allowing ourselves time to heal – be it mentally or physically – and being too busy for everything is on trend. We spend plenty of time focusing on how many abs we’ve gained and how many lbs we’ve lost but are we really paying attention to the important signals our bodies are sending out? Are you, as a twenty-something female checking those lumps and bumps and listening to what those aches and pains are telling you? Or are you too preoccupied with that new highlighter or getting your eyebrows sorted out before the weekend? I know I am but I need to keep reminding myself that illness isn’t reserved for the elderly and it’s okay to not be 100% all of the effing time.
I reluctantly took today to let the tablets do their thing and tried my best to lay horizontal while they did it. We forget that even doing mundane day-to-day things like hanging out the washing – or even writing this blog post to be honest – when you’re ill, is stealing much-needed, precious energy away from your immune system that is fighting to get your body better.
Don’t get me wrong, my throat still feels like someone is dragging razor blades across it with every swallow I take, my head continues to feel like it might just explode and I’ve still got a long way to go before I can truly let myself just be ill from time to time but I am convinced that today has done me the world of good.
To the nurse with the pink hair at the walk-in centre: thank you for knowing what I needed.
Yet another reason why we need to save our NHS.