Hypochondriacal and Neurotic Thinking = missed Work. Your Tips Wanted!
February 24, 2015 3:44 PM   Subscribe

I was physically ill as a child, in the hospital more than school, and through young adult years as well. Mom was/is classic hypochondriac. As an adult for the last 20 years and in my early 40s, I have let it hurt my work record and advancement.

Where anyone else can push through the day, I battle at night and have scripts ready in my head because I am so used to calling in just enough at work. Or I make it to work (a success) and then wimp out and go home, which is a killer on esteem. I have a decent job, do great work and do just enough until I miss work again because of a "migraine", or "flu" that I truly perceive to be worse than most are. Sore throats = strep, if you get it. It isn't that nothing is there but that I certainly believe "I can't handle it!"

I know I can benefit from CBT/ACT counseling as I have with anxiety and mood things. This thinking is so ingrained (35 years plus?) that I am curious if any others have successfully overcame this thinking habit and what has worked for them. Buried beneath is something I bet that says "I am different", or "I can't do it", or even worse "I am special" which wreaks havoc on the best of us and is somewhat narcissistic. I have tried linking behaviors up, like keeping all my things close to the shower or doorway so I would have to get up. I have a pup that helps now (along with an encouraging wife)...It is just so blasted frustrating because I miss at least a few days or more a month, which may not sound like much but adds up and should be a canning offense in some jobs. It is calculated to a degree that I skim by with that PTO. I am well-liked at work but I can imagine this is annoying and it has been brought to my attention as it should be.

*anything(s)* that have helped you, please share. I want to be the average go to work dude. I am not sure how to "toughen up".
posted by chicaboom to Work & Money (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Since you know this about yourself, when you get that impulse, challenge yourself to power through it. Say to yourself, "People feel subpar all the time, and they power through it, I can do it too."

Instead of packing it in right away, say, "I don't feel too terrible, I can stay another hour." Or maybe take a little break off to yourself to wait it out. When I worked at the phone company, we had a 'quiet room' filled with old sofas where we could go to lay down if we were feeling puny. Is there a sofa in your office where you could go to lie down while waiting for the Excedrin to kick in?

Also, investigate having a little "I don't feel well" ritual. If you're already at work, get up and get yourself a real coke, and sit in a quite place nursing it for a while. Maybe you make a cup of hot tea and take a couple of aspirin.

Then get into something. Also remember, when you're out, someone who was counting on you to be there is being let down.

If you wake up feeling sick, take a shower first. Don't just lay about in bed. If, after waking and showering you can honestly say that you are ill (and take your temperature to see if you have a fever,) then call in. But if, it's more that you just wanted to stay in your nice warm bed, get dressed and go in.

Honestly, most of us do feel unwell at work upon occasion, we suck it up, and go home and complain to our significant others, who bring us soup and pat us on the head. Then we go to sleep early and wake up feeling better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:01 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry you're experiencing this. You've recognized a medical problem, taken some good initial steps, and found a solution: counseling. Do it, please. A good therapist can help you immensely. It may take time to find the right therapist and then it'll take more time with that therapist. By taking this action, you are moving in the right direction to achieve the goals you've stated. Don't get caught up in trying to exactly fill the role of "average go to work dude"—therapy will help you be more you. Do this for you.
posted by JackBurden at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In my case it was an issue with feeling depressed and using minor unwellness as an excuse to stay home. One day I wanted to do that but didn't, and I noticed that I felt much better about myself. It was kind of a situation where, at the end of the day, I had that one thing that I had done right on, and I really needed to feel that way about something.

I'm a little uncomfortable that I'm kind of drifting close to "just don't do that" territory in this answer, but, if you can try to establish a positive loop where you feel really good about not doing this, it does kind of build momentum.
posted by thelonius at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

For me:

1) I actually was sicker than others in the workplace. This stopped when I started allergy shots. Turns out what I thought was colds/flu/strep/etc was allergic rhinitis/sinus infections/etc. So it wasn't a case of me being wimpier than others, though that's what I thought at the time.

2a) I now am employed in a position that I love where I feel I am truly missed when I call out sick. At some of my previous positions, while in general I was needed, I wasn't always needed each day and it didn't really matter if I called out sick and worked from home or just worked a bit more efficiently the following days. I mean, it mattered in terms of reputation but not in terms of my completing the actual work in front of me. Now, it matters and a lot of people feel the impact of my absence so I'm more conscientious about attendance.

2b) I now am employed in a role that has a greater-than-average number of flex days/vacation days/work-from-home days but no allotted sick days (though I can call in sick if need be). Previously I had 10 vacation days and 10 sick days to take annually. So in the past, I felt that since I had 10 sick days I shouldn't feel bad if I took them (management felt differently) so if I was mildly-to-moderately sick and also feeling burnt out, I might have called in sick. Now I have so much overall flexibility that I don't need to call in sick in order to refresh myself and also since there aren't a specified amount of sick days, I don't consider them fair game.
posted by vegartanipla at 4:06 PM on February 24, 2015

Best answer: Husbunny had major depression and he hated being a nurse. He missed at least 2 work days a month, maybe more.

Since he got his CPAP and changed careers, he only misses if he's legitimately ill.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:06 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

You need to separate feelings ("I have a discomfort") from actions ("I have to call in to work"). You just have to go to work even when you are uncomfortable, unless one or more of the following criteria are true:

a) you will go to the doctor before midday that day
b) you literally cannot contain the shit, vomit, and/or blood/bones/viscera inside your body
c) a doctor has pronounced you contagious and given you a set of criteria to meet before you can go back to work

Otherwise you go to work. And you pursue treatment for your anxiety so that it stops happening.

along with an encouraging wife

Unless your income is entirely unnecessary to the upkeep of your life, you go to work for her and to honor your responsibility to help take care of your family. It's nice that she's encouraging, and I don't quite mean you should be ashamed to stay home, but you understand she has to spend a certain slice of her brain cycles just to worry about the day you get fired for this? Every time you stay home or come home, it costs her a little peace of mind. Is that an acceptable cost to you?
posted by Lyn Never at 4:13 PM on February 24, 2015 [12 favorites]

It seems like you've already gone the doctor route. And so did I, but they missed the H. Pylori and ulcers and malabsorption and vitamin deficiencies and sleep issues. Self-diagnosed, YMMV, and not to encourage more doctor stuff! But I had a lot of subtle stuff going on that made me desperately want to be at home all the time even, though I didn't seem sick. Night and day.
posted by zeek321 at 4:21 PM on February 24, 2015

Best answer: Don't know if this will help, but....

I have a chronic pain disorder and when I was younger, and less experienced, and, with honestly, loved my job less, I would stay home when the pain was annoying, but could have been pushed through and I could have been effective at work.

Then I had a meeting with a job counselor while in graduate school who specialized in placing people with disabilities and had a similar disorder and she basically, kindly, read me the riot act. She said that I was making everyone else with a similar disorder look bad, hurting my employment prospects, etc...and more importantly, for you, she pointed out that I wasn't contagious and that I'd feel just as bad at home as at work, so I should save my sick days for when I was completely down and out.

A former manager when I was trying to be more conscientious about this but still missing more work than was ideal suggested to me that I preplan some time off to avoid getting myself to the point where the pain was bad enough that I had to stay home. This was excellent advice.

Now that I'm a manager, I would add to that advice.

First, save the sick days for when you really, really need them. When do you really need them? Getting from the bed to the toilet exhausts you, you are contagious, you are curled up in a ball from pain, you would be grossing other people out with your fluids if you were there, you are so out of it that concentrating on work isn't going to happen.

Second, if you know that there are times of year or types of projects or whatever that trigger the problem, try and pre-schedule a 3-4 day weekend in advance. I find that if I am being sluggish and icky but am not truly miserably ill knowing that if I just get through 3 more days or one more week or whatever, I have that mini-vacation, it is easier.

Third, be a good employee in every other way. In between two employees, one of whom was almost always here but had a mediocre work ethic and a moderate work output and one of whom was missing a couple of days a work a month but was otherwise a stellar performer and always got more than their share of work done...well, unless their job description required that they be at their desk to work, I'm not going to care as much. I don't look into attendance as a manager unless it's truly excessive or interfering with productivity or affecting the morale of other staff.

Fourth, make sure the problem isn't that you hate your job. That's a different treatment protocol.

Lastly, I nth the advice to make sure there isn't something else wrong. A vitamin D deficiency or anemia or bad sleep or whatever can make the difference between getting out of bed and not.
posted by eleanna at 4:25 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Would it be possible to work from home sometimes? If you knew you could just keep working at home, you'd be less freaked out about needing to leave and you'd cause less disruption if you did leave. It's also possible you'd leave work less, if you knew that when you went home you were just going to keep working anyway.

You need to set standards for yourself, about what's worth going home for and what isn't. Strep throat sucks, but you can probably keep working with a sore throat. Something genuinely debilitating, where you're throwing up or you're in too much pain to work, is another matter. When you're feeling sick, put your panic aside for a moment and consider if it's something a person could reasonably work through. Set a standard for "this means I'm sick enough to go home," and try and stick to that.

Are you truly happy at work? It seems to me like you may be looking for excuses to get out of there. If so, you gotta do some thinking about what you want out of your professional life.

I don't know if thinking of yourself as a narcissist because of this is going to help, really. Perhaps there's an element of that, but really this is about fear. Don't kick your own ass for feeling afraid, but do everything you can to prevent that fear before it happens, and to stay strong when it hits.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:06 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, all. I think Eleanna and Ursula both hit it on the head a bit.
posted by chicaboom at 8:39 PM on February 25, 2015

« Older I need a replacement for a rubber faucet-to-hose...   |   Canny, like. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.