Feb 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Or could it selfk3rned? I don't know. I'm tired, I'm sick (I've said that before).

Over the weekend I started feeling tired (even though I had two wonderful nights of sleep). When I woke up on Monday I had a sore throat and body aches, and my head felt twice its normal size (and people, I have a big head, ok?). I had a lot of things to do in the lab as we readied for even more changes. Since it's only a few of us in my "division" I knew they'd be counting on me doing my part. The adrenaline kept me running. Same yesterday. Same today. But boy am I tired. I had a horrible night of sleep yesterday and today I'm paying the price.

So, why am I doing this to myself? Well, for starters, there aren't that many of us, like I said before, and people are counting and depending on me. I had a couple of people show up this week to do set up equipment I exclusively know how to operate. I could have canceled, but their experiments of a whole month would have gone down the drain. Then we had some major changes and had to change a few things in the lab to accommodate those changes. Lastly ... because I don't have much sick time, and I can't afford much sick time anyways. If I don't work, my bills don't get paid. No bills paid, even more blemishes on my credit score.

Above it all, there's this sense of responsibility. Growing up my mom bundled my sister and I up when we were sick (with colds or ear infections) and sent off to school. To my mom it was very important to have us take our own notes, be responsible, and attend classes ... every single day. When I graduated elementary school, I even got a prize for having perfect attendance. But at what price? Overall I was a healthy child. I had my bouts of colds, ear infections and the like, but thankfully it never went past that. I never broke an arm or a leg. I never fell in the backyard (because I had to play, but always watching out and being careful!!!). And I was scared that my dad would seal the deal (if I ever got in a fight) by hitting me (that was his way of keeping me in line; I have to say, I've never been arrested ... but I did get myself into my share of dysfunctional relationships with guys throughout the years).

Long story short, I never missed class in elementary or middle school. But, I probably did my share of sending my friends to their doctors by passing on colds, etc. When I was in grad school I sat down my mom and explained that sharing germs, by sending a kid to school, rain or shine, in sickness or in health was a disfavor to society, at least in my book. In grad school I finally made peace (somewhat) with not showing up to the lab when I was sick, with fever, aches and sneezing, or worse (one time someone did that in our department and it sent me to the hospital ... I think that's what finally triggered the reasoning in not being at school when you're sick).

I call that autok3rning ... the "ability" or impulse to work, rain or shine, in sickness or in health, because science and work have to keep on going. It hit me today that I should stay home and rest, because missing a day or two (even if I can't afford it), helps me stay productive in the long term, by not lengthening my illness, my symptoms and discomfort. By keeping me behind close doors when I'm shedding whatever microbe it is that's making me sick. By protecting those around me and their samples. Sure, canceling people is a PITA ... but truly, when I'm feeling this bad (even though I don't have a fever or any major aches, or the runnies), the best I can do for myself and my lab is to stay home.

Let's see how I feel tomorrow. For now, I'm off to the pharmacy to get some honey and some OTC stuff and back under my covers it is.

Do you have any other instances where you've autok3rned? How did you cope with it? How has your understanding of the situation changed? Do you stay home? Do you brave it out?

15 responses so far

  • Scicurious says:

    I feel like many people in science Autok3rn because of our sense of independence. I know if I don't come in, stuff doesn't get done, and I don't want to ask other people to do it for me (don't want to seem "weak", and also, if you want something done right...). And there's also the fact that for some of us, no one else CAN do what we do. No one else can handle my animals, they are used to me, and sensitive behavioral measures could be screwed by another person handling them. And when your behavioral schedules, surgical schedules, drug administration schedules are made months in advance...well the experiment doesn't care if you get sick. 🙁

    • 27andaphd says:

      Totally agree. Indeed, it is because sometimes we can't count (or may not want to impose) on other people. I don't work with animals, but I do work with some sensitive equipment that I'm the only who knows how to operate ... which is why I hate being sick and booked on those days. It is tough. Like you well said it, experiments don't care if you're sick.

  • In elementary and middle school, I went to school if I had a mild cold, but I caught strep at least once a year, which has a 24 quarantine period when you start antibiotics. Because my mom and I pass strep back and forth easily, we were pretty rigorous about this just to make sure I only got it once.

    In high school, I literally snuck out of the house to go to school when sick, because I didn't think I could miss class. I would lie about having taken my temperature and claim not to have a fever. However, in college I realized that it was more time efficient for me to just sleep for a day when a cold was starting and kill it early, rather than functioning at half capacity for several weeks. I'm very thankful that my current work can be done almost entirely remotely. Now, I can stay home, nap a bunch, but still get some work done, and I get better more quickly. I also don't really work with anyone, so no one else is depending on me to be in the lab on any given day.

    • 27andaphd says:

      Thanks for your comment Miss MSE! I can totes identify with this: "because I didn't think I could miss class." That's how I was raised. I remember having fevers (and the chills, oh the stupid chills) in school and in college. I got the regular flu when the H1N1 was making rounds, and the moment I started feeling like crap I called my PI who ordered me to stay home and don't come to the lab. It was a relief getting that order.

  • Dr. KanneDo says:

    I always fight through the crap that my kids share with me. Odd that as a chemist, as well, I fight tooth-and-nail not to take meds. But last week was the exception; the coughing fits that I was having thoroughly disrupted more than 3 meetings at work. Made an appointment to see my friendly PCP. Blah blah blah, one diagnosis of bronchitis and prescription for antibiotics and I am off and running again.

    • 27andaphd says:

      Oh so glad you're doing better. Yes, I did get a bit of a coughing fit yesterday, thankfully I don't have much yucky stuff in my chest (yet), it's mostly my sinuses and sneezing that have me all worked up. I also try not take meds, especially for colds and the like (I do take meds for more serious stuff, like ear infections, PMDD, stomach problems, etc). Luckily some honey (with botulism spores!!!), chicken soup and LOTS of (good) rest yesterday have me feeling better. My voice is back and I'm doing good. But I did learn my lesson, to fight off a cold, stay home 1 day rather than drag it out for weeks like Miss MSE said. Thanks for visiting 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    As a kid, I was often sent to school with fevers (after taking Tylenol of course). My parents sent me to private school, so in addition to the importance of learning there was a financial component as well. I carried that mentality through undergrad. I went to all of my classes because I paid a lot of money for them. It wasn't until I had a coughing fit during a 200 person lecture and that resulted in me stepping out of class (and continuing my coughing fit in the hall for the 20mins) that I realized that my behavior was dumb.

    • 27andaphd says:

      Oh yes, I did take my Tylenol often when I was sick. I remember sweating more then once after taking them during some of my worst times and illnesses. Not pretty. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say. Same here.

  • I will next week - Mr owl is sick this week, and I have fieldwork that HAS to be done before the damn plants break dormancy. And a mid-term. Meh.

  • darchole says:

    I have less of a problem calling off work to take the cat to the vet (for an emergency) than calling off because I'm sick. At least I work alone most of the time, so less chance of passing something on I guess.

    • 27andaphd says:

      Same here! Why is that? In grad school I worked on my own most of the time, but being a staff scientist at a core-like facility, I interact with a few peeps on a daily basis. Everyone is pretty healthy in my group, but a group down the hall has always someone sick (mainly because they have school-age children).

  • Crystal Voodoo says:

    Grad school for me was in a College of Medicine and the one thing they didn't warn me about the fact that I'd be working in a hospital which meant that I would be practically rolling in every disease that walked through the door. I was so incredibly sick for the first year. Normally I'd suck it up for sinus infections, those were usually allergy related and not contagious, but when I started getting mono and the flu I realized that I hated the people who dragged it in with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. That pretty much stopped my autok3rning entirely.

    • 27andaphd says:

      Oh dear, I worked near a hospital too and indeed, I caught the flu and something else by being so close to it. Beyond annoying indeed. Having a good night of rest under my belt has me feeling better, I so understand now the importance of rest. It has made a difference. I'll keep it in mind for the future. I'm truly understanding now the wisdom in lots of fluids and rest.