Recently, I felt badly at work, and as is customary for leaders, I pushed through; I chalked it up to seasonal allergies, an early fall cold at worse. By Friday of that same week, I had a dry, annoying cough. Again, I knew that my post nasal drip was on 1000, and the body aches were just a reminder that I needed to sleep and hydrate more. The weekend would allow me to catch up on my rest and take a few OTC meds to feel better. The next morning, Saturday, I awakened to a fever, headache, diarrhea, sweats, and body aches that made it challenging to walk. Rather than thinking what it might be, I thought about work…what do I need to do to make sure Monday happens without a hitch…how many subs will we have in place…who will cover the classes with vacancies…do I have meetings after school…should I go into the building to print the rosters…how many sodas and salads should I pick up at Sam’s for our Staff Appreciation meal. I texted my boss to let him know that I was not feeling well. Something was “off” about my health. Not usual for me.
By Sunday, my fever, chills and sweats were still present, and so were the body aches and diarrhea. I still felt achy, but I got out of the bed to run errands for Monday’s staff meal and grocery shopping for the week for my momma and me. I managed to complete my shopping, dropped by the school to refrigerate the goods, and returned home to get back into the bed. I also scheduled a COVID-19 PCR test at a local Walgreen’s – just in case. On Monday morning, I texted my boss to let him know that I would be taking a sick day and getting tested for COVID-19. After my test, I returned home to rest. My fever was slightly higher, but not greater than 102, so I continued to take Tylenol and regular flu meds. My test results were expected the next day (Tuesday), so I continued to sleep, hydrate, and manage my aches, diarrhea, sweats, and fevers. On Tuesday morning, I did not go to work since I was awaiting my test results, and the diarrhea worsened. My senses of taste and smell were gone. I went to the minor med because I thought I might have the flu, and if my COVID test was negative, the flu diagnosis would explain my symptoms.
The flu test was negative, so the nurse practitioner told me that I “probably have COVID,” and she prescribed antibiotics, oral steroids, and a cough suppressant. A few hours later, my COVID results came back positive. I immediately texted my boss and called my district’s contact tracing hotline to inform them that I was positive for COVID-19. I concentrated on getting better for the rest of that week, and I returned to work, symptom-free, on the following Monday.
By mid-week, returning to work, symptom-free, but not fully recovered, demonstrates the many ways that we deny ourselves self-care. I was functional, but slow – not my usual energetic self. Staff members could see the change, and all I could think about is “push through, girl. Fall Break is next week.” I submitted my vacation days for Fall Break, and promised myself two things – 1) You will create an out of office email message and 2) You will not respond to work-related emails or texts unless it’s an absolute emergency. I honored my two promises.
Life will swallow you whole if you do not prioritize your health and personal well-being. It’s not a new message or reality, but for some of us over-achievers, hard-working, Type A, alpha female, intelligent, resilient, and thoughtful women, we need to focus on ourselves to be better for us – not just others. Dwelling in resentment because you’ve overworked, overdone, overstepped, over thought every single detail to make life easier for other people is how you die a slow death…feeling empty and unfulfilled because you’ve given so much of yourself with few returns.
I’ll do a better job of balancing work and my personal life. This recent battle with COVID – and by the way, I was fully vaccinated (Pfizer) in February/March – let’s me know that this world goes round and round with or without you. I’d love to be around many more years to enjoy the fruit of my career and labor. Retirement is now within my view, but for the years of high-level and high-quality service I have remaining, I want to be physically and emotionally strong to give it my best. The last few weeks have taught me that saying “no,” when I’ve historically said “yes,” is how I will protect my peace and take good care of me. I’ll return to work this next week, after a full week of taking the best care of me, and do what is necessary until I walk out of the building. I’ll turn it off to take care of Andrea. And heyyyy, if God says so, I’ll wake up the next day to do it all over again.
Take care, and until next time…