Sickness and Guilt: Why is it so Difficult to Take Time Off?

out-sickI have been super sick for the past four days or so. I seem to have picked up a nasty summer flu from someone or somewhere. Luckily this week I had a few days of downtime with no pressing deadlines or work to be done, but then again, it seems so unfair that instead of enjoying a few days of sun and fun this summer, I’m at home, indoors, on the couch under a wad of blankets, sweating and freezing and coughing and sniffling and sick. But by far the worst part of it all is the overwhelming guilt I feel for not being productive.

Day one: I woke up sick and decided to haul my ass out of bed and go to the grocery store to get all the ingredients I needed to make a big pot of soup. Yes, I felt like soup because I was sick, but I also wanted to cook a large pot rather than just go buy some ready-made concoction because then I could feel I was doing something productive with my “day off.” I managed to cook a pot of soup and keep my social commitments that day. After I was done in the kitchen I proceeded to meet a friend for drinks and then drive into the city and meet another friend for dinner. All I wanted to do was climb into bed and have my boyfriend take care of me, but I had obligations to see through. Needless to say I woke up feeling like ass times two the next morning because I hadn’t given myself time to heal.

Day two: I emailed my professor and told him I was too sick to attend class that day. Even though I just received 100 per cent on my last exam -the highest mark in both his classes for the second time in a row- I felt horribly guilty for missing class and my automatic thought was that he probably thinks I am lying about being sick and skipping out on class and he will now lose respect for me and I will get a horrible final mark in his class. Ridiculous, right? Welcome to my brain. This is my thought process over 90 per cent of my life. I would have gone to school too, but I just started a new job and there was no way I was missing work that night, so I chose to stay home and try to kick the cold before work that evening.

I dragged my ass into work and got through the night by over-medicating myself to the point where I felt like I was on a very mild form of MDMA (street name: ecstasy) and finally finished work and got home just after 1 a.m. I had the next two days off to recoup. Yay!

Day three: I could barely function. I went through dozens of tissues, sneezed about 50 times, could barely move and was sweating buckets, but I got up and got ready and took a few loads of laundry to my mom’s place so I could get something done AND save a few bucks. Of course, I had to spend five hours sitting at my mom’s instead of being at home in my own bed, but I felt good that I was doing my duty for the day. I even brought my math textbook to study while I was there, but I was just too tired to look at it. I felt bad about it, but I figured I had one more day off to study so it would work out.

Day four: Still sick. I’ve taken way more than the recommended dose of medication and have been on the couch all damn day. I had to cancel plans with friends and I feel horrible about it. Like, horrible to the point where I think they have every right to never speak to me again. I often feel like I am required to make social commitments in order to be a good friend, but I really would rather be on my own more often than not. I love my friends and all, but I really love my alone time and I find I always sacrifice it because I feel obligated to socialize rather than actually wanting to socialize. Sometimes I feel like I have too many acquaintances and it gets overwhelming. As soon as I’ve spent time with one of them I need to spend time with another and then another and then another and by the time I’ve made my rounds it’s time to see the first person again. I find socializing to be quite a burden sometimes, but I feel like I am the only one that feels this way and none of my friends understand that it’s not them, it’s me. I can’t tell them because they will think I’m a rude, selfish bitch and I won’t have any friends. Anyway, this is how I’ve been feeling today even though I’m probably the last person anybody wants to be around right now (if they could only see me).

I decided to pull out my textbook and get studying. I got about three pages into the four chapters I need to study by Thursday and I passed out on the couch. I am just laid out and cannot focus enough to study right now, and I feel horribly guilty about it all!

I’ve done NOTHING productive today and I don’t feel any better than when I woke up! I go back to work tomorrow and then I have an article due and then I have an exam and then I work five days in a row. I have not time to take a break to enjoy life let alone to be sick!

I really want to work on this guilt thing. I think it’s becoming an epidemic in our society where we feel guilty and worthless if we are not advancing and being productive 24/7. We feel like losers because society tells us that we must either be working hard or playing hard. Relaxation rarely enters the conversation in western (specifically North American) society. I want to learn to say “no” more; No to others and no to myself. I want to live more simply and not bite off more than I can comfortably chew all the time because I feel like I HAVE to. I want to start enjoying life rather than everything being an obligation and a burden all the time. Since summer began (about two months ago now), I have enjoyed less than one full day out in the sun, hanging by the pool or just relaxing. If I have been out soaking up the brief summer weather, I have been jogging (working on my physical body) or running errands (checking off the to-do list) or fulfilling social obligations that I wish I didn’t have to. And now I’m sick, probably due to a lack of vitamin D. But any time I spend outside supposedly enjoying myself, I am actually just feeling guilty that I am not accomplishing things that need to get done like studying or cleaning or writing.

Hence this blog post: At least now I feel a bit better about myself because I did SOMETHING productive today. I would love to know how others cope with feelings of guilt over being unproductive. Please feel free to leave your comments below!

Xx                                                                                                                                                             Anna


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