The answer is simple; your health is more important than money – thus making the ‘body’ the winner over the bank account. Simple, right? Wrong. In order to prioritise my health, I have to spend ridiculous amounts of money on doctors, tests, medicines etc. It’s a vicious circle because what my body needs is to rest, but my body also needs medical attention which requires an income, which requires me to ignore my body’s need for rest.
I’ve made several major decisions in the past six months that have been for the benefit of my health; decisions that a healthy version of me would never even consider making. I’ve (hopefully temporarily) put my university studies on hold which has been one of my biggest potentially life changing decisions. It’s something that only ill-health could have made me do because I have always been very career focused and concerned with my academic achievements. While this decision was huge for me, it was an easy one to make because my illness has caused me more than enough stress and I didn’t need the extra pressure of a degree making things harder for me. My hardest decision so far has been to stop working. I didn’t work for about four months in the beginning because I didn’t know how to handle my symptoms very well but after a while I decided to give it a go but only doing the bare minimum of standing behind a till and serving customers. I kept this up for a few weeks and I was really proud of myself. I kept telling people I was coming back to work because I had to start adjusting to my ‘new normal’. Truth was however – I was coming back to work because I ran out of money to keep me afloat.
I’ve been really lucky because I rent off my mum who obviously told me to stop paying once I fell ill. I’m also lucky to have an incredibly supportive partner who pays for our living expenses like food and some of my medical appointments. But, I also have a car loan that I’m paying off, car insurance and health insurance. With these things, my savings eventually depleted and there wasn’t really a choice but to start earning money again. You’d think there would be something the government could do to help – seeing as when I was a student they were paying me $300/fortnight just for studying – but nope. No diagnosis, no help.
My body was in no shape to handle the demands of even the simplest tasks at work. I’d get there and within the hour one or both of my legs would be completely numb from standing so long, and the function of my hands would swiftly decrease over the day. I couldn’t work more than five hours on a good day. I knew I was stupid for doing it but somehow I convinced myself that it would get easier the more I did it. It was kind of nice to have some routine to my days and to feel like I wasn’t totally useless – but this quickly wore off. It never got easier; it only got harder and harder. Even with four days between shifts my body was not recovering. Each time I worked I added more stress and strain to my body.
I was always the kind of employee who never had sick days. Before this happened, I once worked to the point that I fainted and was hospitalised because I hadn’t kept anything down in three days but I insisted on working. This was different though. I could handle working while run down with a virus, I’ve happily worked with zero hours sleep from the night before, and I’ve also worked with no days off for more than four months. Working with the flu/whilst tired and working when you are chronically ill are very different, believe me.
I worked three (short) shifts in a row and was supposed to work a fourth. That third day was it though. I turned up at 7am with absolutely no energy to even pretend I was okay. When I finished I went home and slept for more than six hours – plus a full night’s sleep that night. These three shifts almost ended me. I was literally stuck in bed for the next week or so trying to recover. Working had absolutely taken its toll on my body and I knew I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was numb, I was in excruciating pain and I was beyond exhausted.
Work for me was also really upsetting. It was constantly thrown in my face how useless I was. Not because of my co-workers – they were so accommodating and gentle with me (thank you 5LP team) – it was because every time I was at work I was reminded of the things I couldn’t do. I watched as my team ran circles around me, doing things that I should be doing but couldn’t. It really just made me feel – disabled. Which, I guess I am; but it was so overwhelming to be constantly reminded how useless my body was. These feelings of being incompetent just added to the physical stress on my body and it became all too much for me to deal with.
When people tell me your health comes first – obviously I agree 100%. But when you’re faced with no money and seemingly ‘no other choice’ you neglect your health. Do I think money is more important than my health? Of course not! Why the hell would I put my body through so much just for a small income then? It’s hard because if I want the best possible care in this situation, I have to pay a hell of a lot more. To put my health first – I need to spend a shit load of money! There are thousands of things I could be getting tested for but the fact of the matter is I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw around on a doctor potentially finding a diagnosis. While my body is telling me it can’t work – my bank account is telling me to work if I want to give my body the care it needs. I thought the ‘head vs heart’ debate would always be the hardest but fuck, try having to choose between your body and your bank account!
While I am no longer working in my much loved café job, I am trying to look for an office job to get me by. I’m excited to find a job that will better suit my situation and to meet new people but at the same time I am scared. I’m scared that I won’t be able to handle it or that I won’t be given the chance to try because of my condition. However, I know it’s nothing I can’t deal with. I’ll just take it one day at a time and hope for good news soon!