Illness Wins the Day

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Yesterday I called in a sick day for work. Was I sick? No. Yes. Well, at least at first I didn’t think so. I was taking a mental health day. That’s all. No fever, no sniffles.

It started out simple enough. As I was getting ready for work, I had an overwhelming urge to do absolutely nothing. My routine took a nosedive and I simply stopped. This rarely happens, and at first I tried to fight it. “Jump in the shower,” I told myself. “Think about that coffee,” I said.

I was one of those kids who took many more sick days in elementary and secondary school than I should have, so calling it in is hardwired into who I am. Back then I acted the part, performing nondescript symptoms so I could stay home: stomachaches, general malaise, mild listlessness, and many, many award-winning roles as a child who’s “shakey” — which to this day my mother still gives me a hard time about.

Yesterday’s sick day felt a little like that, like I was faking it for the vacation day. See, I assessed my schedule, the things I had coming due, and figured there’d be no loss if I didn’t show up. So I e-mailed my boss and said I was feeling under the weather (Hi, Barbara!). Then I e-mailed my editor at Diabetes Self-Management and said I’d probably be turning in my blog entry a day late (Hi, Diane!).

Then I suffered the guilt of one who’s just told a lie.

But did I lie?

I think what happened — and this is where I hope I can make this make sense, because I fear this entry’s about to make you say, Huh? — I think what happened is that I wasn’t listening to my body, because I actually was sick, I just didn’t admit it at first.

See, after I abandoned getting ready for work, I went to the kitchen, fixed breakfast, made some coffee, then watched an episode of Breaking Bad. All before 8:30. I remember looking at the clock and thinking, “Wow, some of my colleagues aren’t even at work yet, and I’m home, ahem (cough) sick and have already been up for two hours.” The long day of leisure stretched out in front of me, and it was good.

Then something hit me. Hard. I needed sleep. My muscles ached, my head hurt. I was exhausted. I went upstairs and crawled into bed. And I slept. All day. That full-on, don’t-know-what-time-it-is-and-don’t-care daytime sleep of someone who isn’t playing hookey.

My misdirection — or what I initially thought was a white lie about being sick — was in fact the truth. I needed a sick day. I had something and just didn’t know it, but initially I was a denier-of-my-illness.

Does that make sense?

But why did I deny it at first? All childhood fakeries aside, I’m going to blame this one on my having a chronic illness. Maybe I’d overworked-out at the gym the night before, or perhaps I was fighting off a bug that’s going around. Who knows. But I knew I was sick before I would admit I was sick.

Because I don’t want to be sick.

I hate being sick, because you might say I’m already sick, all the time, because I have diabetes. (Please don’t accuse me of being negative or tell me to try to think positively about it… I’m not being defeatist when I say “sick all the time.”)

Sure, maybe yesterday’s exhaustion had nothing to do with diabetes. However, and I’ve said this before, diabetes has a hand in everything that goes on with me. Everything. It’s systemic, this illness. It’s in my body, and it’s certainly made its way into my brain, affecting my thinking, my outlook, etc.

Is it possible that a dark side of maintaining good diabetes self-management is that I’m lulled into a false sense of security about my illness? Good control, which I like to think I have, may very well lead me into a false sense of security. Then I begin to coast, to take the disease’s insidiousness for granted. It’s right about then that diabetes decides to whack me upside the head and say, Yeah, hold on a minute, don’t go thinking you got this thing licked.

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