I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed 13 years ago after suffering through a prolonged period of depression. At that time, under the order of my doctor, I was forced to take an extended period of time off work.
I did not want to. I was very ill and did not know it. Up until that time, I may have taken 5 or 6 sick days, total, over a 7 year period. In retrospect, I probably should have taken more. Perhaps, had I not felt guilty for taking a sick day, or had I not been faced with what seemed an insurmountable task of preparing for a substitute, I would have. Would it have prevented me from becoming as ill as I eventually did? Or delayed it? I don’t know. But what I do know is that having this benefit allowed me to work my way back to health.
It has not been an easy journey, nor has it been a quick fix. For a few years, I did have to use more sick time than I would have chosen to. Being able to take that time to get better, and not having to worry about the financial well-being of my family, was essential for regaining my health. It also allowed me to return to the classroom and to working with children – a job I take great pride in, a job that I enjoy, and a job that I do well.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have been very fortunate to have gotten to a point where I now have to take very few days off work. I still work very hard to maintain and manage my health. If I need to take a sick day to help with this, I take one. Most teachers I know take very few sick days. Many take far fewer than they need to. There is a stigma attached to doing so, one that our society is currently working to erase. Perhaps if more people had this benefit we would be a far healthier population.
I share my story because I know that there are others out there like me, teachers and members of the general public, who are hesitant to use their sick days when they really need them.
Please do not allow anyone to make you feel guilty for using your sick days in order to maintain your health.