As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am working my way out of a Gastroparesis flair. However, it seemed to rear its ugly head in full throttle last night and into today. As such, the majority of my day was spent imitating the photo above (complete with reaching for my tea).
One of the hardest parts of a flair up is that they require you to miss work. I should mention that I work for a Fortune 500 company that is fast paced, demanding, but fair. In addition, I have an advanced degree from a prestigious University which adds an extra layer of expectation as to the end result of my work. My position also affords me the opportunity to interact with senior management. I have also traditionally been a high achiever and have been in denial about the need to slow down due to Gastroparesis. (More on this in future blogs.) That being said, ALL jobs in every walk of life in every background are important and anyone with Gastroparesis goes through the same level of stress when they need to call off due to a flair.
When I need to call off work due to a flair, I go through the following cycle of questions:
Meetings: What meetings do I have today? If so, is the meeting with someone that would be beneficial to meet to help with my career growth? If I have a meeting, can it be rescheduled? How many times have I rescheduled on this person recently due to being ill? Will the person understand? To what level will I need to speak and educate about Gastroparesis? Have I already educated the person? Is there someone I can send in my place? If I can send someone in my place, can I get them up to speed in the morning? etc.
Projects: What project deadlines are approaching? Can the deadlines be shifted? If the deadlines can’t be shifted, is there someone else that could fill in for me? If someone could fill in for me, is it faster to explain it to them or just do it myself? If the deadline can be shifted, who do I need to e-mail to inform? Will they understand? Have I shifted deadlines on them in the past? If the deadline can’t be shifted, can I muster up the energy to work on it from home? (This last question is more related to me being in denial about limiting myself which will come in future blogs.)
Vacation Time: Do I have enough vacation hours left to have paid time off? If I use vacation hours to take the day off, how many days does that leave me for the year? If I use vacation hours, will I have enough days to cover myself when flairs occur later in the year? If I use vacation hours, will I have enough days to go on the vacations I have planned?
Keep in mind, that all of these questions are running through my head and being answered in my head all while battling through stomach cramps so severe you think that someone is stabbing you in the gut with a bunch of knives. This is all going through your head, with your stomach so extended that you appear 6 months pregnant and your stomach is hard as a rock so you hope that one of the knives stabbing you punctures your gut to let out some of the pressure. All of this is going through your head while you are trying not to vomit and worrying about how long you might vomit for if you start. All of this is going through your head while you are wondering when you might be able to eat again. All of this is going through your head while you realize that life will never be the same again.
So the next time you have the flu, a stomach virus, or any ailment which requires you to call of work, think about the stress you go through with making the call. Now imagine having that stress at least 2 times per month. Or in my current flair, I’ve had to make this judgment call at least 6 times over the past 3 weeks. You worry about your credibility remaining in tact, you worry about continuing to receive the projects you enjoy, you worry about whispers behind your back, you worry about all of these. You worry about all of these sometimes more than worrying about when you might be able to eat again.
All of this is just a “normal” part of living a life with Gastroparesis. Sure some days are better than others, but the lows are really low and are why we MUST find a cure and treatment options for this life.
So I spent today rotating between my bed and the couch with my faithful dog by my side to guard me from the GP elves that were trying to take over the house to liter it with ginger ale cans, tea cups, socks, and slippers!