I accidentally reached the point where who I am as a person is synonymous with being stressed, which was entirely unintentional and not the dazzling personality trait I’d hoped for.
Maybe we all should have seen it coming when my Mother used to say I had frog fingers thanks to my bitten away nails making it look like I had rounded finger tips. Or in the short, frayed hair around my face, thanks to constant anxious fingers twisting it again and again.
I outdid myself in year 12, when I got so stressed that my eyelashes fell out, an experience I did not share with any of my classmates.
Either way, I am now twenty and very stressed.
Reading back the title of this post, I feel almost obliged to present you with a step by step program on how I left the metaphorical bell jar of stress (and so can you!).
Actually. On that.
The bell jar imagery was blatantly stolen from Sylvia Plath, but I like it a lot and I find images and metaphors the most effective way for me to come to terms with the mess that is my brain.
A bell jar is a sort of glass cover, commonly used in laboratory experiments to keep an object cut off from the outside world, essentially letting it sit inside its own bubble, “stewing in [its] own sour air“.
I talk about my own little bell jar a lot, because I can see and feel it descend on me, locking me away to rot while I watch the world pass by around me. My mental illness makes me feel like this a lot. It’s the best way I can describe it really.
Stressing about everything seems to either bring the jar down from where it was concealed, hidden by a temporary manic high or week of good days, or, it breeds more sour air that makes everything all the more suffocating.
Anyway, stolen metaphors out the way, we continue.
In my case at least, stress and anxiety are the interfering flat mates to my wise mind. They’re a couple, the clingy type that can’t leave the other’s side without whining and making everyone else uncomfortable. They take up the whole living room whenever they’re home, play their awful music that nobody likes at all hours, and they never wash the dishes. Also they leave clothes in the hallway so you can’t escape the thought of them, even when they’re out for a bit. If one is there, the other is nearby, ready to stick her nose in with an unnecessary comment or manipulative jab.
I don’t really have a solution that I can present as ‘the one‘, because anxiety is tricky, that’s why we have professionals and medications to lend a hand. These keep A&S busy, down to a dull roar most days. I’m also learning actual skills to help keep them under control (thank you CBT, you’re not always as awful as I make you out to be), and I’ve begun to manage things as best I can. (With some success)
I wanted to write yesterday. And the day before and the day before that, etcetera etcetera, but for some reason (might have to do with the awful mental health week I was having, probably) I couldn’t get anything to work. Words won’t doing their thing, you know. So that was frustrating and stressful.
And then anxiety had a screech about how I’d probably forgotten how to write and I’d never form a paragraph again, which was also quite stressful, considering I wouldn’t mind writing in some form as part of my grown up job one day.
And then I reaslised I hadn’t posted in a week.
And then I felt like a failure.
And then I remembered that I hadn’t started any assignments yet. Or printed my unit outlines.
And then I couldn’t stop thinking about how I must be doing awfully at both my jobs and I’m obviously going to get fired and I need to see my doctor but don’t have time and somehow I’ve got to see my psychologist and then I have to message people back and then I have to help my mother and then–
I wanted to prevent this train wreck from becoming more wrecked, so I started writing and deleting and despairing and picking at my nails, worried about work in the morning and everything got very big and scary and I was grinding my teeth again.
I am just very S T R E S S E D, if anyone was wondering, and I’m watching myself get more and more stressed and it’s exhausting.
So yesterday I did a mindful thing and said screw it all.
Blog posts can wait and I can deal with everything else tomorrow.
(Which mentally is easier said than done, but recovering from anything is a lot of trying and tiny little baby steps and a lot of scraped knees.)
In the end I went for a walk and sat with my journal and wrote for me, which wasn’t a thing I’d planned on until I done some ‘proper writing’.
And it was good.
I felt a bit better.
My current project is thinking about work only at work and leaving home time for me, my siblings, and just existing. Not that there’s anything wrong with dedication, but I am obsessive, and the resulting anxiety dreams and tension headaches mean that I end up doing a reasonably crap job at everything.
I want to do everything well, but that is not going to happen if I am trying to do it all at once.
So there’s my advice for myself that I’ll probably forget in five minutes.
All the damn time I wish I could come up with the perfect solution to not being a stressy, anxious mess, which probably only contributes to the problem.
But, like everything else I seem to be learning, this is a skill that takes time to acquire.
Baby step by baby step, bruised knees and twisted wrists. Fall down, drag yourself up, because you’re getting a little further each time you stumble.
So now I will go for a run, I will edit this, then I will go to bed, because tomorrow will happen regardless of if I spend my evening working out every possible outcome of the morning or not.
all my love,