Taking A Sick Day: Expectations Vs. Reality

It happens to all of us eventually. No matter how many years of evolution we have under our belt, our immune system will eventually betray us, leaving us icky and desperate and sad. For a long time now I have been extremely smug in thinking that I had somehow cheated biology by never getting sick, but alas, all good things must end. At the peak of my "I never get sick" smugness, I ended up surprise-vomiting into a trash can on a Saturday morning (arguably the least cute thing you can ever do) and then spent the next three days basically wishing I was a rock. (Rocks, I've heard, don't get sick.)

The thing about being a person who doesn't get sick very often is that you have this very misguided daydream of what "being sick" is like. In your mind, it is this blissful, idyllic utopia where you score you an excuse to get off work all for the low price of a few sniffles. What a deal! And weirdly, when I imagine what it's like to be sick, I totally don't imagine any of the actual symptoms. In my head, I'm just like Sleeping Beauty: conveniently conked out but still quite comfortable while the rest of the world freezes around me, waiting for me to "get better" again. Work doesn't pile up on my desk, I don't miss any friends' birthdays, and I'm definitely not in any actual pain.

Alas, if only actual sick days were like that. You'll find pretty quickly once you're taken down by the flu/strep/food poisoning/some other trendy illness, that all of your sickspectations will be far from met. Here is how you think it'll be when you're sick, versus how it actually is:

Sickspectation: You'll look sniffly and adorable like a rosy-cheeked anime character

Can we talk about how the media has made sick look awfully sexy? Even dysentery looks romantic by today's cinematic standards. So that's how you imagine it will be: Just you and your sexy pajamas, lounging around with super cute bed head, waiting for some hot paramour to bring you soup.

Reality: You are a human garbage monster

There is stuff coming out of 90% of your orifices and you have control over ZERO of it. You look terrible, you smell terrible, and you're sweating like you just climbed Mount Doom. Also there is likely leftover vomit on you somewhere.

Sickspectation: You will watch Netflix and munch on snacks all day

Being sick is RAD, right? Time to rip a hole through your Netflix queue right into the next streaming dimension. Also, in this scenario, all your favorite snacks happen to be in the house and as an added bonus, sick calories conveniently don't count.

Reality: You will curl into the bed and wish you’d never been born all day

That is, after you drag your sick ass out the door to go find a doctor who will throw drugs at you before you completely zombify. And if you're really sick and/or have a migraine, PLOT TWIST: Turns out, staring at the bright light Netflix screen can make you feel even worse. Everything you love will betray you. Forget about food. Even if you weren't puking it all back up, you can't taste it anyway.

Sickspectation: You'll be relieved to not go to work

FINALLY, you can take a "me" day without feeling bad about it! Your immune system decreed it so!!

Reality: You will be absolutely crippled with anxiety and FOMO

Everything exciting that has ever happened in your office will inevitably happen on the day you are too sick to go in, and no, they will NOT leave you any leftover cake in the break room fridge (not that you were equipped to successfully eat it anyway). Even if this doesn't happen (lol, trust me, it will), you're still going to spend your entire sick day worrying about playing catch-up when you get back, and if your hyper-competitive work frienemy is taking your absence as a chance to prove how much more dedicated and reliable they are than you. If you never get promoted and fail at your career and end up moving back home with your parents, it will literally all be because you were too WEAK AND LAME to get your ass to work today.

Sickspectation: You'll sleep like a rock

Ah, yes, back to my Sleeping Beauty fantasy.

Reality: You'll attempt to sleep and fail miserably

EVEN SLEEP WILL NOT ALLOW YOU MERCY FROM THIS HELL. Either you're attempting to breathe with no nostrils left, coughing up a storm, or lurching up every twenty minutes to vomit in a bucket. You might sleep in 30-second increments, if you're lucky.

Sickspectation: The world will stop turning

In your mind's eye, the "sick day" takes place in this parallel universe where your bills aren't due, your boss didn't give you any deadlines, and the trash isn't so full that it is feeding a small army of ants.

Reality: It definitely keeps right on turning at full speed

There is no parallel universe. Other people keep doing stuff and the world keeps on happening and they are totally not hip to you being incapacitated.

Sickspectation: You'll be magically fine after one day

Aww, OK, immune system. That was cute while it lasted, but we're done now. No big deal. You bounce back like a champ.

Reality: You will be feeling the aftershocks of this for at least two weeks

SURPRISE: Even if you manage to drag your sorry ass to work, you'll either be hacking up a lung intermittently and scaring all your co-workers, or still feeling ridiculously nauseous every time something you happened to throw up yesterday strolls on by. Viruses are worse than clingy exes. Congratulations! You're no longer as young as you once were, and you don't bounce back from anything as well or as quickly as you used to because you are hurtling towards death and your body is starting to betray you.

Sickspectation: Everyone will be totally sympathetic

Cue the mass "get well" card and somebody on hand to make you infinity soup.


Curse every human who has ever taken a fake sick day, because they are wrecking everyone else's street cred. Even if you are a person who has never taken a sick day in your life, they will paint it in their heads that you're gleefully jetting off to some exotic island of People Who Called In Fake Sick To Work.

*Bonus round: They won't believe you, but they'll still be all, "EW, get away from me, I don't want to get sick!!" when you show your sad, sad self back into work. Basically you can't catch a break.

Images: Traci Lawson/Flickr; Giphy(10)