When I was thirteen I had the misfortune of being off school quite a bit. I don't know what it was, but for some reason if a bug was going around I was sure to get it.
Because I was frequently off ill I learned just how bad daytime television was. It was the heyday of Pebble Mill at One with middle-aged hosts (Judi Speirs!) and middle-aged guests. If I was going to be off I might as well make the best of it, and so I began saving pocket money and lunch money, eventually getting enough together to buy a VHS video recorder.
(N.B. I wasn't loaded. It helped that my step-father worked in a well-known electrical store, and helped me purchase an ex-display model with no box and a crack in the fascia. But I digress...)
It was then that a funny thing happened. I stopped getting sick. So maybe the video recorder was a strange kind of insurance policy, one which received less use that might have been expected (although it lasted until I was 26, decent going). This might be part of the reason that I renew my redundancy insurance every year, only that doesn't have the capability to record Roachford appearing on Top of the Pops.
(Just off to look for some CDs on eBay. Talk amongst yourselves for a few minutes.)
Anyway, I took a strange pride in my new-found well-being. I loved being able to say I had a 100% attendance record. I didn't like breaks, I just accustomed myself to the rhythm of the week.
I was the same at college, rarely missing days and seemingly always in attendance. At University my only two illnesses that I can remember were a brief bout of sickness (which I got over a day-off and a weekend), and a dose of flu which laid me low for a week.
Later on in my final year I actually did something out of character. I took a week off. Yes, there were meant to be lectures, but you're only 21 once and I had places to be. Okay, mine was on a camp-bed in Bradford (don't ask), but it wasn't work of any variety. It did bring about a feeling of slight guilt.
And since then absence of any kind brings about the same feeling. Guilt. Okay, with the added frustration/weariness of being unwell, but there's just a feeling that you should be at work, regardless of how you feel.
So needless to say last week when my throat completely gave out on me I felt guilty. Never mind the fact that I could barely croak, let alone speak. After a year perfect attendance in 2007 I'd gone barely a week into 2008 before I was calling in sick (let's just say I'm not enjoying 2008 so far).
Of course in this day and age monitoring of staff absence you can't just liaise with your boss anymore. Nope, the boss who has known you and worked with you for years isn't good enough. You have to go through a central point, and you have to do it every day. Never mind the fact that the thing which was most useful to me was rest, I found myself having to get up at 8.30am to use the phone. That's progress for you.
And then there's the return to work interview. Strangely a few of us had discussed this prior to my being ill, and about how genuine, honest people worry about this while the players will still find ways around the system. I knew I genuinely wasn't well, and yet I found myself on Sunday night worrying about this. It has led me to be take obsessive details of my illness. I'm not even sure that my doctors take the kind of notes I take.
These are the kind of things that stay in your mind when you're not well. When you take your first anti-biotic and feel slightly better you think, "Maybe I should go in tomorrow," despite the fact that the following morning a spell of nine hours without taking one has left you feeling far worse than before. When a few cups of tea and some duvet time help you feel better the thought returns, before the reality of how thirty minutes without a drink makes you sound like Barry White while you look pasty white.
Feeling comfortable, relaxed and only slightly too hot? Well, that's what happens when you're ill but taking things easy. It doesn't seem normal, it can lull you into thinking you're alright, but you're not. Just when you thought you were all but recovered you step outside to take the bin out (a task I probably couldn't avoid even if I had Kevin Pietersen's ability to hold onto something safely) and the two seconds outside the back-door lead to a major coughing fit.
So really I shouldn't feel guilty about not being at work when I'm not well. I'm making myself better, I'm being realistic and I'm not passing my germs onto anyone else. There's no reason to feel bad at all. For me though that's easier said than done.
Have a good week!