A 3:30 a.m. Headache On A Work Day


I’ve been awake for an hour now due to one of those dull but pounding headaches. When I first awoke, I decided to nip this thing in the bud and got up to take some pain medication – just the off the counter stuff. Then after returning unsuccessfully to bed, I was up five minutes later and out making a cup of tea.

Trying to sleep on the couch, the next thing I knew my wife is excitedly calling to me to come and see the bunny outside in our backyard – yes it was only 4:15 a.m. at that point. You see my headache and the decision to get up and get some medication woke her up unexpectedly and she couldn’t return to sleep either. Aren’t we a pair? So here I am writing a blog now at 4:45 a.m. and next to me is my wife, studying her notes for an exam she’s writing later today. And we both have a workday ahead of us.

Now my predicament is not unique, and I’m not seeking sympathy either. I just want the pain to go away, and figure that by trying to concentrate on something – in this case collecting my thoughts as I write – my headache will subside and go away. Now I’m setting myself up for a long day at work, and I’ve got some training right at the end of the day I’ve got to attend too. Not like I can call it a day early and scoot home if I wanted. I’m hoping and believe however that this shall pass, and I’m visualizing myself at work with a smile on my face, and this headache just a passing phase. That’s optimism.

But when in this situation, we have a choice don’t we? We can instinctively decide to call in sick and spend the day at home, or we can do what we can to prepare for work and make a last-minute decision whether to go in or not. Sometimes just having that shower and having that warm or hot water cascade over my head just seems to wash a headache down the drain. If I make the decision to stay home, I put off the shower and lounge around fighting a headache that wins in the end.

Now yes I know that some people have medical complications and issues that can’t be overcome with willpower and positive visualization. If you are sick, you are sick. And sometimes you are best advised to stay at home not only for your own recovery, but to eliminate the possibility of infecting those around you. I’m referring more to those iffy days when you’re not 100% and it would be seemingly easier to just call in ill and let your co-workers cover for you. These are the days and the moments that only we know what’s going on in our bodies and can weigh the options of to work or not to work.

And doesn’t it sometimes depend on what you have planned for the day? Are you indispensable and the only one at your workplace who can do something like perhaps meet a client, solve a problem, make a presentation? Or do you feel like one of a thousand drones who if away, wouldn’t be missed except by the payroll department when it comes time to issue the next pay cheque for one day’s missed work? Maybe you’d argue that it shouldn’t even matter what you have planned for the day; if you’re sick you’re sick after all.

It comes down I think, to your personal work ethic, your tolerance for pain, and your priorities. Some folks have a low pain threshold and don’t go to work unless they are 100% everyday. Others drag themselves in even when they are at 30%; sniffling, coughing, moving at half-speed, spreading their colds and misery with every breath they take, as if some award were being handed out at year-end for the person voted most dedicated with the best attendance record.

As for work ethic, there are those – and I bet you recognize them – who you can almost guess with a high degree of accuracy will be off on snowy days, Fridays and Mondays, who one day talk a bit about feeling something coming on and you just know they’ll call in ill the next day. Doesn’t it irk you when they come back two days from now and then casually mention that they recovered enough during their sick day to go to the spa or the mall? Oh yeah.

Personally I think if I’m really truly ill I stay home. If I’m under the weather just a little and not at my best, it’s a judgement call. And I’ve learned over the years that if I’m very ill, stay home and use those sick days that have been put in place to allow me to heal faster and infect fewer of my valued co-workers. If I didn’t have those sick days, I’d be forced perhaps to work if money was scarce so I’m glad I’ve got them.

Do your best to be dependable and reliable; it’s a good characteristic to have and quality to be defined as having. As for my personal update, it’s now 5:10 a.m. and that headache is receding but not entirely gone. I’m going in. And so I’ll accumulate a few more hours of sick time to be taken if and when I really need it – which apparently today I do not. Whew!

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