Working to Death?

I’ve been sick for more than a week now. Coughing fits so severe that I fully expect to see what the inside of my own lung looks like one of these times.

I don’t get sick often. It’s even more unusual for me to get sick in the summertime. After all, during the summer there’s lots of air flow sweeping away the icky germs that can cause this stuff.

And when I do get sick, it typically only lasts a couple of days; three at most.

But not this time. I’m currently on day 11 of this strange version of whooping cough. Yes, I know it’s not actually whooping cough, but the coughing is bad enough that the cats scurry out of the room when the fit is upon me.

Still, in the midst of this I ask myself why am I sick? And why is it taking so long to get out of my system? After all, I can accept that everyone gets sick sometimes. It’s just part of the way the human body works.

And then I remembered something…

For anyone who doesn’t know, I’m sort of a fangirl of Pam Slim. And if you’ve not been paying attention here, Pam’s fantabulous blog, Escape from Cubicle Nation, has spawned a book by the same title.

In her book, Pam talks about the fact that some work environments can fit us so poorly that they make us physically ill. She’s not talking about toxins in the office building (though that’s a subject all its own); she’s talking about the demands placed upon you by a job you are ill-suited for breaking down your immune system to the point that it picks up bugs like a hooker on the Boulevard on Saturday night.

Is this me?

Well obviously, my immune system is compromised enough that I picked up a rather virulent bug. Where did I get it? Honestly, I have no idea.

I’ve not been to the doctor’s office or a hospital lately (best two places in the world to get sick). My SBH has been out of town for work for more than a month. No plague-carrying munchkins in my life. No one in the 5th Circle has been sick lately either.

So although the genesis of my sickness isn’t obvious, I’m still sick. And it’s hanging on.

Could it be work that’s (at least) exacerbating it?

I think so.

I have so much on my plate that it looks like Bubba’s plate at the Country Buffet just after the waitstaff issue last call. Even if I spent all my time doing the tasks that are dripping off the sides of my plate, I’d still never get it all done.

It’s. Not. Physically. Possible.

So yeah, I have some stress.

Plus there’s that whole thing of not actually liking what I’m doing. Yeah, that’s a problem.

It’s not that I didn’t believe Pam’s assertions before. Not at all. I just (stupidly) didn’t think I was one of those people who could get sick because of what their day job is doing to them physically, psychically, and spiritually.

Is this you?

Seriously, is it? Are you getting sicker more often and for longer periods of time than you used to? Is there any possibly of a causal relationship between the getting (and staying) sick and your job?

(And for the record, I personally believe that this can just as easily happen to entrepreneurs who choose their line of business unwisely.)

If this is you, what are you doing to change things? This is an actual question. I really do want to know. I’m trying to do this myself and am a bit stuck – despite some of my recent progress.

I’m asking for your wisdom here folks. Do you suffer in sickness? Do you say f#@% it all and change everything? Do you set an end point and do what you must to meet it? What do you do?

The Point

Yes, I’m seriously asking this for my own growth and understanding, but I also feel that there’s value in each of us asking ourselves these sorts of questions regularly.

You may be fortunate and blessed enough to be doing exactly the work you most want to do every moment of the day. If that’s you, I’m really and truly very happy for you. But, I honestly don’t believe that’s most of us.

Even if you love what you do most of the time, those other things can become incredibly burdensome and morph into some of what I’ve been talking about above.

But perhaps the true wisdom is in questioning yourself on where you are, what you’re doing, and how you feel about it BEFORE you get all coughing-up-a-lung sick.

Paying more attention to what you’re doing, who you are, and what makes you want to get out of bed in the morning other than a full bladder can perhaps prevent situations like the one in which I find myself right now.

It’s all about paying attention. Something I’m finally learning to do.

How about you?

4 Responses to Working to Death?
  1. Carl
    July 29, 2009 | 09:12

    Sorry to hear that you have been sick.

    When I was working at a job I hated, my blood pressure was over 160/90 – and I was in my young 30’s! I had to battle traffic, work for an orge of a boss, and I didn’t like my co-workers. I had headaches and often felt physically ill.

    I now work in a less stressful environment, minimal commute (often working from home), and have some control over my work hours and work load – my BP is in the 130s/80s.

    I truly hope that you feel better and find work that you enjoy – to your health!
    .-= Carl´s last blog ..Whose Hiring in Medical Communications? =-.

  2. Lana
    August 3, 2009 | 03:06

    I love you. I hope you feel better soon.
    Dis-ease is clearly our body’s way of telling us to pay attention.
    Unfortunately, only we can figure out what to pay attention TO.

    .-= Lana´s last blog ..So =-.

  3. Emma Newman
    August 5, 2009 | 14:58

    Oh, that sucks so hard it leaves an angry red mark. I read this a couple of days ago when coming down with a bug that flattened me – ironic.

    This is something I am all too familiar with – I was trapped in a cycle of annual severe illness for six years, and it is absolutely awful. I think it is the body’s way of asking for us to stop, but sometimes that just isn’t possible.

    From what I know of your work situation it sounds absolutely appalling – and utterly toxic. I don’t have any platitudes or great words of wisdom, just a tonne of sympathy and virtual tea as Lana has nailed it up above – only you can figure out what to do about the roots of it.
    .-= Emma Newman´s last blog ..The journey back that took me forwards =-.

  4. Marley
    September 8, 2009 | 13:49

    Just found your blog. This is intriguing because I’d heard years ago that intense difficult interactions with female relatives created an increase in bronchial infections. I made a change in how I reacted to the women in my family and voila, a significant difference.

    Your blog made me think about how my slower lifestyle and commitment to my writing in the last four years has virtually elimated flus, colds, sinus infections. Verrry interesting. And a current study was done on the people of Ikaria, a Greek island, and they found that the people there don’t worry about time, they take daily naps, have strong social connections, and eat what they grow or catch. And they live longer than most on the planet. Makes you want to chill doesn’t it?

    Hope you’re over the cough.

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