How to Work, Be Sick, and Say No

sicklessonsMany of you know that I am in pain often. Over the last 2 years, I have learned how to live better with pain. I am no expert. There are many more people in much more pain than I am. Though, I have learned a thing or two about working with chronic pain every day. Before graduating high school, I had a very difficult time saying no to responsibilities when I should have. I would force myself to go to school. I would stretch myself to make it to an hour of church, because it felt like a crime to say no to something that I could maybe, perhaps attend even though I was in excruciating pain. I had trouble saying no, because I didn’t want questions. I didn’t want judgment. I didn’t want to feel guilty. So, I made myself do whatever I had to do. If I could perhaps make it, then BY GEORGE, I better be there.

That all changed when I was 17, on my own, and in the midst of new responsibilities. However, I was still terrible at saying no when I absolutely needed to say no. I would be throwing up, then a half hour later, I would be at work (no worries, it wasn’t the flu!). My second year out of the home is when I realized the importance of saying no to a work day when it was absolutely necessary. I am human. I am weak! I cannot do everything all the stinkin’ time! I learned it was better to say no to responsibility when I was in so much pain that I could not heartily give a good work day.

Sometimes, it is your responsibility to say no. It took me so crazy long to realize this, but I finally did. I have been able to put it into practice better and better. Here is a basic rundown of my hard-learned lessons.

  •  I learned how to identify when my body was unable to work well.

This is actually a really important lesson that really anyone should learn. I realized the value in knowing the limitations of my body. I looked for the signs before a migraine came on, prepared myself when a throw-up session was on its way, stationed myself in bed when I knew my stomach needed to be rested for awhile, and said no to work when I knew I couldn’t make it. Lying down for 5 minutes after a particularly rough meal was sometimes the best decision to make.

I could start each morning and roughly asses what my day may look like. If I knew the pain was going to be too great than I would call in sick and stay in bed for the rest of the day. If I could sense that my body could make it for at least a half day, then I got out of bed and took my day 1 hour at a time. If I was feeling pretty good, well that was just awesome! I can’t tell you how to know what your body can and can’t handle. That is up to you to learn, and you really should watch for the limitations your body has. Everyone has limitations! Understand your own.

  • I learned to work at a steady pace.

I worked with kids for the last 2 years, and you can only plan so much when you take care of children! Some days were just wild. Although, I created a set schedule for each day which was very helpful. It gave the children stability as well as my body time to rest and work when needed. On my rougher days, I relaxed the schedule, and let the children find a rhythm of their own (aside from their nap times, of course!). I found that children can be such a healing balm when you are in pain! That was just a huge bonus of my job. Those little kids really loved me. On some of my most difficult days, they showed me their childlike love and trust. Finding a steady pace in any job is very helpful.

  • I learned that saying “NO” does not make me less of a person.

You must be thinking that I am such a ridiculous person! Believe it or not, people actually struggle with this concept. I know I did! Living with chronic pain gives you so many limitations. In fact, I wrote more specifically about my chronic pain here. Anyway, I really battled this thought of being less, because I had to miss more work days than “regular” people. That is a bunch of hogwash. The way you get over that “insecurity” is to identify that phrase as a lie and just plain get over it. You work hard when you can and you say “no” when that is the best decision for you and your workplace.

  • I learned that it is my responsibility to say “NO”.

You can’t say yes to everything. In fact, you shouldn’t say yes to everything. Yes is not always the best answer. I learned this more and more as time moved on. If I was in the bathroom for half of the morning at work, then I learned to call in a sub. It is not best for me to be at work if I can’t properly take care of the children entrusted to me. I said no to work, because it was the responsible thing to do. I learned that it was best for me to have quiet evenings, so I could have better work days. That meant saying no to game nights and other such outings. If the best thing for me was to stay in and have a decent bedtime, then I needed to say no to those other activities. It is valuable to know when to say no and when to say yes.

I learned so much more than just this, but I can only keep you for so long! Perhaps, you experience chronic pain and have learned similar lessons. If you have learned something that isn’t in this blog post, please let me know! Leave it in the comments or shoot me a message via Twitter. I would love to hear what you have learned. I know  that it has been so valuable for me to experience chronic pain while working and living. Now, I’d like to hear from you!

If you would like to read my previous post of the lessons learned while living this last year, just click here.

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