I never knew the inexorable march to the grave would be so frustrating.

It's inevitable: at some point, you'll take your first sick day at a new job. Maybe it'll be the flu, maybe your leg will fall off, something like that. Whatever the case may be, hopefully you'll have insurance to cover some of the bill.

For me, the biggest stumbling block with sick time is stress. I freak out about taking time off. What if my boss thinks I'm slacking? What if something comes up while I'm out? What if they check me into the hospital because I'm about to die and I have to miss a whole lot of work instead of just today? What if, what if, what if?!

The thing is, there's no point in stressing about it. You get sick, it's going to happen. The company will accept this. They really have to. If you're like me, you work in communications, and there is no such thing as an emergency in the classical sense of the word. There's nothing that can't wait for fear of people dying. Calm down.

I took my first sick time at my current job yesterday. I started having pain in my chest, and thought, "That's weird. Could be some weird kind of gas, but it feels like...my heart or something."

Now, your whole life, the medical industry says, "If you have chest pains, any kind of chest pains, go to the ER! YOU MIGHT DIE!!!!!" So I left work and went to the nearest Immediate Care center, where they immediately put me in a bed, stripped off my shirt, took blood, and attached electrodes to my body and started running all sorts of tests. And, of course, shoved the requisite papers in my hand for my signature agreeing that they can do whatever they want to me and bill me some unconscionable fee that insurance will ultimately reject.

Once I was hooked up to everything, the doctor came in and said unceremoniously, "You're having chest pains? What are you doing HERE?! WHY WOULD YOU COME HERE? You should be in the ER!" Because apparently there's a difference between an immediate care center and an emergency room. So I learned something, which is valuable. Score one for Dan.

After about half an hour of tests and analysis, the results came in. During that wait, the doctor asked me if I wanted, "happy pills" while results were being processed. Happy pills? No, I don't want happy pills. I didn't come here to score drugs, doc, I came here because my FREAKING CHEST HURTS. Thank you for asking, though.

What I really asked him was, "Do you think that will help?" He said, "Only if you're having anxiety." I said no thanks, feeling fairly confident that he was testing to see if I'd just come in for scrips.

Fundamentally, the doctor told me (in slightly more professional terms), "Man, your ticker is just fine. All these tests we just did? You're pretty healthy as far as the old ticker is concerned. As far as the chest pain...dude, could be a million different things. Inflamed lining of the chest wall, bad gas, other stuff... Maybe it'll pass."

And then the doctor shrugged. He shrugged. Because that provides the patient with confidence. And suggested again that I go to the ER for further testing. Which I declined.

The frustration here is that when I go to the doctor, all I really want is a very direct, "Hey, this is what's wrong, this is what you need to do." Within recent years, almost every time I do end up going to the doctor, I get some version of, "The human body's a weird thing and modern medical science isn't as precise as we'd like it to be." And that's lame. Especially when you have to stress out about taking time off from work in the first place, and if you're like me, your mind starts wandering with all the horrific things that could be wrong.

So, basically, I'm done with it. Give me a steady diet of aspirin, antacid, and bourbon. All will be well.


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  • Phew! I"m stressed just reading that. I must admit though, if I hear a version of "Sometimes we can see things that we just don't understand", I will scream. Let's just not do the freakin' tests if you're not going to tell me whether the results mean I'm dying or not!

  • See, this guy gets it!

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