My Back, A Giant Doctor’s Bill and Some Lost Productivity

Early this year, I did something to my back. I’m not entirely sure what the specific problem was — after three different diagnoses, the doctor told me it was ‘soft tissue damage.’ But I know what the real problem was.

I work hard. I like what I do and it isn’t unheard of for me to sit at my computer for ten hours straight. That, combined with a cheap office chair, probably caused my back pain.

The back pain started off a chain of events: I spent far more on doctors’ visits, medication and physical therapy than I had ever budgeted for. I lost time at work because simply sitting at my desk hurt. I stressed about money, tried to work extra hours, hurt more and generally made a mess of myself. I don’t recommend it.

You Can’t Separate Health and Productivity

It’s easy to think that we can just work through health problems, especially when they’re relatively small. Since I work for myself, my M.O. has always been to do just that — after all, if I don’t work, I don’t eat. So what if I work a little slower?

But if I had been willing to take off a few days and simply get better, my back problems might not have stretched out over months. I might have saved money and got my productivity back up to its normal levels a lot faster.

Just how much we get done in a given day is tied closely to how we feel, making it worthwhile to do what we can to stay healthy.

Healthy Today, Healthy Tomorrow

I do special exercises every day to keep my back in better shape and, lately, I’ve been working on some other aspects of my health. That means making time to get and stay healthy — time that I could be spending on something else. it’s taken some changes in my mindset to really build up the idea that my health is supposed to be a priority in terms of how I spend my time.

Now I just have to convince myself that it’s okay to take time off when I’m sick. I have improved on the situation — I’ve got plans in place if I can’t do my work for a day and I’ve got a good supply of chicken noodle soup in the freezer. But drawing the line between a case of the sniffles and something that should send me back to bed remains tough.

I’d be surprised if this isn’t a common problem with anyone who doesn’t have the benefit of paid sick leave. I know that when I was in school, I was much more willing to stay in bed when I was feeling a little under the weather (perhaps too willing, given the fact that I wasn’t really required to attend). Finding the balance between those two poles is tough, but it’s something that I absolutely need to do.

Image by Flickr user Emily Higginson


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