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Taking a Sick Day Off When Chronically Ill

OstomyLife Co-Moderator
01/14/19  11:40 AM PST

Being chronically ill changes how you live your life. Even if you don’t seem sick to an outsider or talk about it often, living with an illness is exhausting, making energy management very important.

The Spoon Theory

The Spoon Theory explains to people living without chronic illness what it’s like for those who do have a chronic illness and need to manage our valuable energy everyday. The theory describes how someone with a chronic illness deals with limited energy everyday. Each person starts the day with a certain amount of spoons. These spoons represent the energy you have to get through that day. Like the theory suggests, I can start with 12 spoons when I wake up. Every activity costs me one spoon or more depending on how I feel that day and what needs to be done. I need to be sure to budget my spoons appropriately because when I run out of spoons, I am done for the day. I can borrow against tomorrow but that is dangerous and can lead to extreme fatigue and possibly getting sick.

Since my diagnosis, ostomy surgery and, now, my new career, I am continually learning how to manage my energy. On a recent Monday, I called out sick from work. I wasn’t sick with the flu or a stomach bug. I was sick from expending too much energy that weekend and not realizing that I was sending myself into crash mode. It turns out, I had used up all my spoons.

When I woke up that Monday, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I was nauseous and didn’t even want coffee. The weekend before had been busy. I had attended two weddings, one five hours away, and had gone on a hike to have my own engagement photos done. All of this was in the three days following two 12-hour shifts at work in two days. This meant that I got less than an adequate amount of sleep every night.

Although some people in their 20s may be able to bounce-back after five days like this, it was too much for me. And this was a first. I have never had to call out sick from overdoing it on a weekend. It could be the combination of my new job requiring long work hours and being more stressful by nature. And my body might still be adjusting to having a chronic illness. No matter the reason, I couldn’t help but feel like this was a setback.

Chronic Illness and Energy Management

Having a chronic illness can make it hard to keep up with others and while you may feel that you are doing well today, you may feel the repercussions of it tomorrow. This is frustrating and it can cause feelings of being inadequate, weak or even lazy. I don’t like feeling like this. Part of it could be that I am constantly feeling the need to prove to myself that I can keep up with the life I used to live. But the truth is I am living with a chronic illness and have a limited amount of spoons. It can be tough but conserving my energy even if I am feeling energized and awesome is a must. I am reminded of this as soon as I hear a gas noise, feel my bag blow up or have to reach above my head for something and worry about my shirt showing my bag.

I will always have this disease and while it is important to try my best at life, at work and at my relationships, I have to remember that a sick day without a fever, a cold, or the flu is OK when I need it. This has taught me a lesson about conserving my energy when I know I have something else to do in the coming days, and that is frustrating in itself. But it is what it is. We must take care of ourselves. Fighting our own bodies is exhausting and that’s just the hand we were dealt. So rest when you can, spend your energy wisely, and don’t let yourself feel the way I did about needing a sick day that wasn’t a “sick day,” you know your body best and you have to take care of it.

Wishing you all rest, relaxation, and energy.

More Articles Related to Chronic Illness:

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Serving Medicare Ostomates Nationwide
My family and I are taking a road trip. I wanted to know what accessories should be used when starting to drive or ride in a car. Should I use something to cover the stoma?
Great question! It all depends on if the seat belt is coming in contact with your stoma.
If the seat belt does not come in contact with your stoma, no additional accessories are needed. If the seat belt does come in contact, you can use a stoma guard or a seat belt cover to protect the stoma

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