You Know What Sh!ts Me?: Society Hates Sick People

I write this from my bed, a bed that has become refuge for the last week or so. Half-drunk tea cups and soup bowls accumulate high in the surrounding area, protected by a fence of snotty tissues and Soothers wrappers. And as if this wasn’t bad enough, this hell of chilling and scolding fever, I have to prove to the people around me that I’m legitimately on the brink of death.


People get sick, quite often I might add. As far as medicine has come in our existence there is still no cure for the common cold or for the viruses that have caused my tonsillitis. I do not blame the medical or scientific community for this. There are some crappy things that just become part of life and having the flu a couple times a year is one of them. However, society itself does not tolerate this common human affliction.

Why is it that just because I have an assignment due for uni today (which I have completed) and work tomorrow morning that I still feel this guilt for not being able to make it to either of these places? For example, the e-mail I sent to my tutor this morning was a mess of sorrys and reassurances that I will give him a medical certificate. If I am sick, the first priority should be that I get better, not that I have to prove my degree of sickness, but somehow this makes sense: if I’m too sick to leave the house and hand in work at university then I should somehow not be too sick to leave the house to go to the doctors and get a certificate.

I can’t call my boss and simply tell her I can’t come in because I’m sick; instead, I end up saying something along the lines of: “I’m so so so so sorry, I could maybe come in for a couple of hours,” but in my head I’m thinking: “What? I’m sick, I need rest, why am I saying these things?”

I understand that being sick inconveniences a lot of people; my boss will have to find somebody else to work and my tutor will have to wait to grade my assessment, but if we all know that this happens to everyone quite regularly than there should be allowances and backup plans made. Above all we shouldn’t be made to feel this insane guilt when we’re already feeling intense sickness.

I should mention that I’m really jaded about this topic because at one time in my life being sick nearly cost me my job. I worked at a cafe for a while, and after being there for about a month the boss gave me a raise for my hard work. At this point the boss seemed awesome. A couple months later I get sick and call him to say so, which he then replies with ‘That’s okay, you should come in anyway.’ So I do, and for that week I work as hard as I can, when I only have about 60% of my usual energy and 189% of the mucus. At the end of the week he tells me that he is thinking of firing me because I had been ‘slacking off at work even after I was given a raise.’

A lot of questions arise from this one incident, but the main one for me was: what happened in this man’s life to make him think that making a sick person work would be okay? The answer, I have to assume, is the world we live in. A world where there must be billions of people sick at this very second but they are all being treated like a horse with a broken hoof.

I know this seems like a really big ‘what grinds my gears’ article, but I am very seriously curious to know if anyone feels the same. I understand that these practices are put in place for the whole of society to be more efficient, but on a personal level it seems like such a sacrifice.

 by Josefina Huq

One thought on “You Know What Sh!ts Me?: Society Hates Sick People

  1. Try being completely disabled, or living with chronic illnesses that can kill you if they’re not monitored correctly. I have to deal with this for the rest of my life. I never got colds or even the FLU, but now I am constantly run down due to several different diseases. Society is not set up to deal with sick people. Capitalism doesn’t take into account that the human body is not a machine. People break down and we have to have time off from work, or we can become completely disabled and have to go onto disability. It sucks, but that is the way society is.

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