That Hardcore Work Ethic

Last week I had to call off of work.

Somehow, in my sleep, probably due to being over 40, I threw my back out.

Now, here’s the thing. Prior to breast reduction surgery, my back was rarely ever in. However, when it would go out, it was always my lower back and I was so used to it that I could cope. I rarely have issues with my upper back. So I was wholly unprepared to sit up in bed last Thursday morning and quickly realize that I could not sit up straight. The only way I could be upright was if I hunched over.

This made standing -and walking- a real challenge.

My first thought was “Holy shit, this is really fucking problematic.”

My second thought was “How am I supposed to work like this?”

Because of course I wouldn’t think about calling in. Not me. That’s not what I do. Work sick. Work hurt. Don’t complain. Just get the work done. (Okay, I often get the work done while complaining, but still.) Be reliable. Until last Thursday, I hadn’t called off a job since the mid-aughts. I might have left early a couple of times, but I always went. Bad ass sinus infections, sprained ankles, bad ass sinus headaches, stress fractures, colds, jammed elbows, the flu, patellar tendonitis, I showed up.

And last Thursday, I didn’t.

You would think that being unable to stand up unless I was hunched over, struggling to walk, unable to lift either one of my arms above my head, unable to carry anything at all in my left hand, unable to sit up unless I was hunched over…all things I have to do at my job would be a clue that I needed to call off. The thought of shelving anything was ridiculous. I’d be limited to maybe two shelves that I could reach and I’d only be able to carry one book at a time and I’d be moving slower than a snail out of slime while looking like Lon Chaney and making the most unsettling noises. At that point, I had no idea how I was even going shower or get dressed, let alone work.

And yet!

I still tried to figure out how to make it work. Or at least how to make my back work enough that I could power through and get by with my library partner in crime picking up my slack (which she would totally do without hesitation or complaint because she is the best). I laid on flat on the floor and did an assortment of stretches before I finally conceded that I wasn’t going to be able to work.

And even then when I contacted my boss, I told her that I was going to keep trying to get my back to be work ready before it was time for my shift.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t. I spent most of the day in bed. My back gradually improved which just added on to the guilt I already felt about calling in.

I could have gone to work.

That’s why I’m writing about this. It’s not me bragging about how bad ass I am because I can work no matter what and it took extreme pain to the point of being unable to stand to knock me down. It’s me explaining the absolutely bonkers way my brain is wired to feel guilty about calling off when I legitimately need to call off of work.

I feel like I’m letting everyone I work with down by calling off. I feel like everyone feels like I’m faking if I call off.

I feel like there is no legitimate reason for me to call off.

Even when there absolutely is.

I may have spent the day feeling guilty, but I also spent it resting and at least the latter helped my back feel better.