Leah Myers
The Navigator

I don’t know about anybody else, but my body has a brilliant self-defense mechanism. When I’m burning the candle at both ends, extremely busy and stressed, not getting enough sleep, not eating proper meals, etc., I get sick. I guess it’s my body’s way of saying “hey, you don’t want to take a break? How about I force you to rest instead.” 

I’ve been pretty busy this year, attending full-time studies and working two part-time jobs, and, as a result, I’ve had a tough time shaking the germs off.About mid-way through September, I developed a small, persistent cough that wasn’t overly disruptive, but was quite annoying. I didn’t want to skip work or school because of a tickle in my throat, but eventually my go-go-go schedule was halted when the cold morphed into pneumonia. Following, of course, was a doctor-mandated ten days of no school or work.

I noticed that during those ten days, whenever I tried to do something “productive” with my time off (homework, respond to pressing emails, etc.), I would automatically spiral into a fit of coughing. So instead, I read a novel and mass-consumed stinging nettle tea.

Whether I’m sitting on the bus and getting my neck sneezed on by the passenger behind me, or I’m touching snot-remnants on other people’s hands at work, I’m surrounded by a lot of sick people. However, when I get sick, I still go through several stages of denial before accepting the reality.

I take my winter vitamins. I exercise regularly and eat well. How has this happened to me? Then I’m grumpy because I know that I don’t have time to be sick. Of course, after attaining that little (usually barely legible) note of gold, bosses are kind of strapped and professors are generally understanding enough to extend deadlines.

However, to a certain degree, I still feel ashamed for being sick and taking time off because of it. I think that, as a society, we project the idea that we should keep on plowing through our daily routine even if we’re feverish and foaming at the mouth. We seem to live in a time of masking symptoms. Oh, you’re tired? Drink a coffee. Oh, you have a cough? Take some cough syrup. Oh, you’re in pain? Take a painkiller. Medicine has its purpose––to help you sleep better with a cold, for example, or take down inflammation––though I disagree that it should be used as a bandaid, or to pretend you’re not sick. Medicine commercials such as Tylenol’s “Get back to normal, whatever your normal is” and Nyquil’s “When you’re a mom, there are no sick days” kind of imply that you don’t need a break or a rest when you’re suffering from ailments.

In my last editorial, I poked fun at the elderly lady in the drug store who snarked that I “shouldn’t be out in public when I have pneumonia.” The comical thing about that statement, of course, is that a drug store is exactly where a sick person needs to be to get medicine or fill a prescription.

I light-heartedly called the woman a “sick-shamer” for telling me to stay at home, though maybe the lady was simply reminiscing over earlier days when she was my age, and doctors made house calls. My mom told me that when she was a kid, if you became ill, you stayed in bed until you were better––either listening to the radio or reading a book. Though I think that staying in your bed for the entire duration of your sickness is a hilarious concept, I can’t help but feel envious at the thought of a doctor personally coming into my home––telescope, brief-case, and all.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the notion that it’s okay to be sick, and it’s okay to take time off to get better. Throughout high school, college, and university, I’ve worked at several food and drink restaurants. On more than one occasion, after phoning in sick, I’ve been told by my managers something along the lines of “We don’t have anyone to cover, so come in anyway” and “If you’re not throwing up, then you need to come to work.”

I won’t rant about the disservice this sort of attitude lends to your coworkers or customers, but I will say that it’s not worth it for you to have this attitude. Life is busy and germs are everywhere, but there’s no shame in staying bed-ridden when you catch a bug.So stay at home until you’re better, sickos!

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