The title is my problem, and it’s laughable.
To an outsider, I probably radiate an appearance of stress at all times. I know how to be one of those eternally-stressed-out people that manages to get everything done. I also still kind of remember how to be one of those eternally-stressed-out people who hides in her room and does nothing at all because she’s too stressed to function, but I stopped being that over a decade ago and I’m fairly confident in my ability to avoid going back there. But I don’t believe in stress.
More specifically, I don’t believe that stress has any actual effect upon me. It always comes as a complete surprise when I start having health issues that any sensible person could tell you are provoked by stress. It always shocks me when, after living on granola bars, coffee, and my own need to do all the things without stopping to eat or breathe, my body decides that it has had enough of my bullshit and slams on the brakes.
I say that I rarely get sick enough for it to interfere with my life in any significant manner, but when it does interfere, it seems like a chain of only loosely-related things go haywire at once and it takes months to get back to normal. Right now I’m at the tail end (I hope) of one such chain reaction, and I’m 99% sure I did this to myself. The same thing happened in early 2003/2004 and I was completely miserable for something like six months, but ten years was enough time to forget, to convince myself that it was a fluke and that it hadn’t really been that bad. And, anyway, I was more grown-up, now, and more capable of dealing with pressure: my near-perfect GPA in spite of constant 12+ hour days was proof of that.
But I don’t believe in stress.
It’s sneaky. There’s always one more thing, one more responsibility, one more annoyance, one more fight, one more late night, one more sleepless night spent considering my life choices. None of them is a big deal on its own. None of them feel like stress. Stress is one of those words that everyone uses to the point of meaninglessness. It’s not hard to see why I would just write it off as not applicable to me, even when I get to a point where I don’t recognize my own reactions and don’t understand why everything’s suddenly so difficult and why I’m reacting to it all so badly.
A gentle push in the direction of speaking to a therapist sets me on edge. I don’t want to be seen as someone who needs help. Even trusting that it’s empathy that motivates the advice, there’s this little snarling bit of me that hates people who care because they’re supposed to. Even intuitively sensing that someone is genuine doesn’t completely stop that resistant impulse. “Okay, maybe I’ve done this to myself,” I think, “but I know that now and I can get myself out of it on my own.” I’m still sort of stuck at that point; I’m making attempts to take better care of myself, but I’m neglecting the ones that are difficult, that require more introspection and more dealing with things than I’m willing to take on right now. It’s not going to wait forever. I’m hoping it can wait a few more months.
I’ve tried to write this entry four separate times since the beginning of 2013 and I keep stopping, mostly because by the time I sit down to write, I’m so tired that I stop being able to see straight mid-paragraph. And I keep getting (almost literally) hit over the head with evidence in favor of slowing down. Most recently this came in the form of a discarded pair of textbooks left on my college bookstore’s “free for the taking” bookshelf: one detailing the actual, proven physical effects of stress on health, and the other a workbook to help identify personal stressors and learn some strategies for dealing with them. Included was a free cd of guided meditations. Ok, universe. I may be incredibly stubborn and fairly oblivious to hints when I’m in full-on “I do what I want” mode, but I’m also tired of catching every illness that passes within five feet of me this semester. I’m also tired of starting my days in “I can do anything!” mode and ending them crying and questioning every single one of my life choices.
I get it. Stress is a thing. I’m not immune to it, no matter how much I’d like to be. I don’t, actually, deal spectacularly well with being the Energizer Bunny of anxiety. I just wish the gaps between acknowledging, trusting, and actually doing were smaller, and that I were capable of listening to what I can logically acknowledge is good advice.