Immune Disorders and Why I Can’t Seem to Take a Sick Day

Let me tell you a little bit about immune disorders.

  1. If you didn’t know…they suck. (But I imagine you could guess that.)
  2. It’s really easy (and almost mandatory these days) to suffer silently from them.
  3. Because you’re suffering silently. It’s difficult to justify taking a “sick day.”

My body is pretty much always in this strange and uncomfortable dance between “okay enough to manage daily life” and “immensely ill.” I’ve learned my body’s signs well enough to know when my immune system has started to get beaten down. Mouth ulcers are a tell-tale indicator. They usually come after an extended period of high stress. I start to get unbearably tired. Like falling asleep sitting at my desk at work when I’ve had 8 hours of sleep or more. Eventually comes the chills and the aching (despite not having a fever) if I let it get far enough.

Because I know these signs, I also know when to start beefing up my vitamin D and C and echinacea intake. I know when to try to start backing off from the stress and giving myself an extra 30 minutes of sleep here and there if I can spare it. Which means most of the time, I only ever get the ghost of sickness. Aching bones and a raw throat for a day, but a dose of NyQuil and a solid 8 hours of sleep later, I usually feel fine enough to go into work the next day.

Which is all fine and good, except that eventually those illness ghosts build up and it’s like three strikes and you’re out for me. I get almost unbearably sick. This usually happens over weekends or holidays or vacation time. It’s like I rally myself throughout the week and then the moment I can relax, my immune system puts down its defenses and voila! Illness strikes.

It’s exhausting. I mean, being some level of sick all the time because your body doesn’t quite understand the difference between good and bad cells and attacks things haphazardly (for me, this mostly results in random and painful inflammation in various parts of my body, hence, the mouth ulcers). But it’s even more exhausting to be constantly managing your level of sickness.

Like what level do I have to reach before I can say, “Okay, it’s time to take a day off and sleep and nourish and try to find a balance in my immune system.” I’m always putting it off though. I’m always thinking, “But what if tomorrow is WORSE.” Why waste your time now if tomorrow will be worse anyway? Or what if there will be a really BAD attack soon and I’ve wasted my sick days on “kind of bad” days?

This is a very real thing for me. In the winters of both 2008, 2012, and 2014, I got really sick. To the point where it hurt to move at all because my joints were so sore and swollen. I’m always worried that something like that will happen again (although since I have had a fair amount of testing since then, I could probably get a doctor to listen to me easier now and maybe find something to alleviate some of the symptoms faster). I’m always comparing the way I feel now to how I’ve felt at my worst. And since I barely took off work or school during those previous episodes, it feels disingenuous to do so now.

I’m like a squirrel storing up sick days (even though they don’t actually carry over year to year.)

I also have the problem of being an extreme HUSTLER. While maybe I could take time off from my professional job without much issue, YouTube is 24/7 and it causes me more stress than good to take a “sick day” from that. So if I still have to do YouTube things, why not just go into work and do everything else?

I am a never ending robot with a Duracell battery. And I am exhausted.

I’m trying to find a way to be okay with taking sick days and accepting that the way I present illness with an immune disorder is going to be different than Average Joe who doesn’t have any immune issues.

That it’s okay to take breaks. That it’s okay to take time now if I need it rather than storing it all for the unknown immune apocalypse. That it’s okay to feel bad if you feel bad. Even if you don’t seem so terribly ill on the outside, it does not mean that you’re “making it up” or “exaggerating” the illness you feel on the inside.

These are still things I’m trying to understand and believe and implement in my everyday life. It’s hard journey. But it’s a worthwhile one.

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