Stress Overload pt 2

Did you know it was entirely possible to have a panic attack with no mental panic.

Did you know that said panic attack can last for days, even weeks, in varying degrees.

I wonder if the difference between the typical panic attacks and one that only seems to affect your body are related to how afraid you are to die. Usually the feeling that your heart is beating so hard it could go into arrest, all your muscles contracting and the weight on your chest keeping you from being able to breath causes your brain to be flooded with chemicals usually associated with fear. The fear that you’re dying causes mental stress, racing thoughts, possibly a shut down in cognitive functions. Unpleasant. But what if that mental part is critical for the cycle to end. I know it is a mental trigger to the physical body to start the attack, but what if it needs that mental overload to shut it down as well?

So what happens when the thought that you might be dying doesn’t cause fear…when you’re so desensitized that there’s no real incentive to tell your body to shut it down. You keep on having constant dull aches in your chest, you have to constantly remind your body to breath, because it’s hard to do and sometimes your auto program just stops working and you realize you haven’t taken a breath for over a minute or two, your muscles all start to ache because they are so tight for so long and joints sometimes start to swell up, you become so tired that all you want to do is sleep. Even after you sleep tho, you’re still tired because within minutes of waking up the tightness is back, and everything hurts and you have to make an effort to breath, and your heart always feels like it’s working too hard to pump blood.

I’ve been asked, are you sure you’re having a panic attack tho, can you have one without the mental aspect? Well, I have no fever, no infection, blood pressure is within normal range, lungs are clear, heart rate isn’t elevated, EKG looked fine, cholesterol levels are excellent, lipids are good, liver function is good, and yet continue to have that pain in my chest, continue to struggle for breath, continue to battle constant fatigue now that it’s been going on for a week. It was the best guess of the last doctor I saw. I present as perfectly healthy and all my symptoms would be explained by stress. FUCKING STRESS!

I hope this cycle ends soon, getting real tired of feeling like this.

 

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Stress Overload

What happens when, after years of seemingly neverending stress, you encounter a situation that ends up being that proverbial last straw?

Well, it can go one of many ways.

If you have the resources and support system to take time off to rest, have other people step in and actually assist in solutioning the problems that have occurred, and you have enough general good health you tend to be able to pull yourself back up out of the prison that you got trapped in when your mind shut itself off because it just didn’t have any capacity to process anything due to the dangerously high stress levels that has reduced you to a barely functioning shadow of yourself.

However, if you happen to be limited on resources, and your support system is also limited in resources, and you don’t have general good health and your mind was already taxed due to unstable chemical production, and you had just started a new job so you couldn’t take time off and suddenly the health and well-being of your children were also in danger and you were finding it difficult to obtain the necessary medical help needed to attend to them, nevermind your own questionable health issues, well…if that your situation the results might look a little different.

If you’ve ever had to deal with real prolonged stress, like keep you awake at night, cortisol levels through the roof, body systems overly taxed with no chance to rest, coming from all sides, not caused by you making poor life choices so add anxiety to the mix stress, you know how hard it gets to function after awhile.

Much like a computer when too much memory is used and suddenly everything becomes slow and even closing a browser window can take several minutes, finding yourself in prolonged periods of excessive stress will eventually cause your brain to just shut down. The flood of chemicals that are produced from the stress dampen your cognitive functions. You can’t even sleep because your brain is still slowly trying to sort through the backlog and it interprets it as a suffocating mass trying to end your life (not a very restful experience as it literally translates into feeling like you’re being suffocated) so you wake up constantly, most times in a panic.

When this happens, generally, unless you have those resources (money, PTO, support system of other people who have the knowledge and resources to actually provide problem solving assistance, appropriate timely medical care) you’re fucking screwed. You don’t have the money to get immediate actual medical help, you don’t have any vacation time to take from work so if you miss too many days it’s goodbye job, your support system can try to help but if the issues are mostly external and requires money and the ability to be able to take time away from work and retain your job that isn’t something they can help you with. Our societal system isn’t set up to help with this. Immediate mental health resources are lackluster, unless you have money to burn, and often cause more problems instead of helping. Employers aren’t going to wait around for you to get your shit together (which takes awhile when you don’t have the ability to reduce your stress immediately) so that just adds to your overwhelming burden. It impacts your immediate family and everyone who wasn’t already stressed becomes stressed and that reduces their ability to help you and then you feel guilty which adds to your stress and around and around it goes.

I think about how much money is wasted on researching ED and regrowing hair and other superfluous medical issues, or on creating weapons, or all the money people donated to build a damn wall and I think about how it could be going towards creating resources to help people pull themselves out of situations like this. Stress is a much bigger issue than a dude who can’t get his dick hard (probably more mental issues than physical in the men who use those drugs) and affects way more people. Yet we just tell people to breath and meditate and exercise and create life plans to combat stress. If it was as easy as breathing more or going for a run no one would end up in stress overload.

When it comes to prolonged, excessive, stress we need to find better solutions. We also need more options for immediate care for mental health issues in people who are not suicidal. The ER isn’t well equipped for mental health support and if you try to get yourself therapy it can take weeks to get in to see someone and by then your brain has shut down and every issue causing the stresss has been compounded. It’s just a fail all around and it’s frustrating to watch these situations happen to people you love and know there’s not much you can do to help them and apparently not much they can do to help themselves.

I am grateful that despite all of the excessive stress in my life I’ve managed to keep from having my brain hit its absolute limit (though I’ve come dangerously close) but if that day does come I hope I’ll be able navigate through it with what resources I have because right now it doesn’t appear that there’s any other options available.

Has anyone else hit that limit, or know someone who has? What was your experience like?

What Lessons Are Left?

Life lessons learned so far:

Be kind – It takes more strength to return selfishness and anger with kindness and empathy than it does to lash back at the person or try to prove you’re right. This doesn’t mean you are obligated to subject yourself to cruelty from others but returning anger with anger or hate with hate doesn’t produce anything of value.

Don’t judge others for superficial things – You rarely know what other people are going through, or what their true intentions are, and we all see the world a little differently, so putting other people down because they are different from you won’t actually make you feel better or solve any of your own problems.

Fear is often a liar – Back when we were primal creatures fear was an integral and much needed emotion to keep people alive. However, now that we have much easier access to food, shelter, and society (most people, not all, there’s still lots of poverty and war) fear is bored and it likes to manifest in insecurities that cause people to lash out at others. Projecting your fears onto someone else doesn’t make your own insecurities go away. Pushing people away before they can potentially hurt you in the future doesn’t protect you, just keeps you isolated. Fear has its place, usually to keep you from doing dangerous things that could kill you, but often it’s just lying to you and ultimately causing you to miss out on amazing people and experiences. Learn to recognize when fear is useful and when it’s just fucking with you.

Money is nice but it isn’t the most important thing in life – Money is a tool that you can use to trade for goods and services, to travel and experience new cultures, to provide a sense of security for everyday living. However, it is an arbitrary item that we all just agree has value, it’s an inanimate item that can not provide you with authentic love or happiness long term. It is worth having but shouldn’t be your sole focus in life.

No one is perfect and life needs balance – You will fuck up plenty in your life. You make mistake so you can learn what not to do. Your mistakes do not define you, but your repeated actions do. Eventually you have to make a choice about the kind of person you want to be. Some people will be destructive (usually because they’ve experienced trauma or weren’t taught any other way) others will be constructive and strive to create general goodness in the world, but without the contrast how could we define one or the other. Many people will be a mix of both good and bad over their lifetime depending on external factors and internal feelings. Indulging in questionable choices or vices, when they don’t negatively impact others and are done in moderation, can provide a balance that helps you figure out who you are.

Life is less stressful the more open minded you are – When you don’t close yourself off to new ideas, new experiences, or new people you don’t have to waste your time freaking out about anything that differs from your pre conceived notions or pulls you from your comfort zone. Instead the sense of security you get from having a vast store of knowledge lets you face life with confidence and fortitude. You also get in less fights or pointless arguments with people online.

When you love, do it unconditionally – Love, real love, doesn’t come with conditions. Again, this doesn’t mean you subject yourself to abuse in the name of love, but learning how to love another person regardless of their flaws is one of the greatest experiences in life. Having the strength to be open and vulnerable with another person and to have them feel safe enough to do the same…fucking magic right there.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well – I’m not sure how much explaining this needs, but basically it always feels better to take pride in what you’re doing.

Leave the world and people better than you found it/them – Don’t shit where you eat. Don’t destroy the planet you depend on for survival. United we stand and divided we fall. Building others up is more beneficial than tearing them down. Lead by example. Pet all the soft furry domesticated animals that are friendly.

You are never done learning – I get the irony of listing this in contrast to my title but I already understand that for as much as I know, in relation to all knowledge I know barely anything and each day will bring new information, new ideas, and new ways to accomplish things. That being said, please do share the life lessons I’m missing because I’d love to add them to my list.

I Want My Mommy

My old man cat, he’s almost 15, I’ve started noticing similar symptoms in him to what one of my previous old lady cats had. Most likely hyperthyroidism, meds and treatment might get me another year or so with him, but basically there’s a countdown now. On his bad days all he wants to do is curl up on me and sleep. I guess that even when they’re not human children, when they don’t feel well, they still just want their mom.

Meanwhile, coming to terms with another impending loss is something I don’t even want to contemplate.

I’ve actually been doing really well, emotionally, lately. Finally working through years of repressed grief and trauma had allowed me to reconnect with myself, and merge the optimistic person I used to be with the desensitized person I’d become. I hope that watching another beloved pet shut down in front of my eyes doesn’t derail my progress. It’s exhausting being sad all the time.

 

That House Tho

If anyone has wondered where I’ve been, my time has been mostly consumed with working on my new house. The previous owners clearly didn’t think anyone was ever going to remodel that place, as evidenced by how excessively secure they made every bit of flooring, every cabinet, every shelving unit, etc. They even hardwired all their appliances. My body reminds me daily that I’m getting too old for this shit and I’ve had to power through some major soreness, including a sprained elbow, to keep laying down hardwood flooring. Luckily I’ve had some help.

In addition to the house stress my brother was in a car accident, he got hit by a girl who blew through a stop sign going 50mph. Everyone is fine but the car was totaled. The car happened to be my mother’s and so she was out a vehicle. Dealing with insurance companies is a headache. They cut her a check but it doesn’t cover the full cost to actually replace the model of car with the features she had.

There have been several extended family/friends dramatic events. Not to mention the shit show that is the president and all the fights he starts. Climate change documents with warnings that too many people ignore. Getting misinformed about my move out date at the apartment and having to cancel truck reservations. Having weird things keep happening. Being told my dead ex husband ordered a disconnect of my internet service. Not being able to get bids back on projects/repairs to my house from SO MANY companies. You know, life stuff, it tends to keep me away from all this.

 

Coming Soon

I close on a house in one week. At which point massive remodeling projects begin. I’m simultaneously excited and apprehensive at the extent of work I’m about to take on.

Considering just how expensive it’s become to have anyone do any work on your house, my plan is to put a LOT of sweat equity into it. This means I’m pulling up all existing floors everywhere except 2 out of the 3 bathrooms. I’m gutting and expanding the master bath. I’m gutting the kitchen. I’m removing walls to open up the living spaces. I’m expanding one bedroom and turning the other into a laundry room, which means framing out a new bedroom in the basement to make up for the one I’m losing on the main.

I will not run my own new plumbing/electrical/venting, however. I’m still waiting for my bids to come back but I suspect that it will cost me roughly the same amount to have a licensed “pro” do those runs as the entire two levels of flooring plus the tile for the bathroom will cost me, and that’s just sad. When I showed the first guy the bathroom and told him what I wanted to do he was throwing numbers like $25k at me and I just stared at him. Like I would ever pay anyone that much to run some plumbing, get real.

Luckily, thanks to the Blair house, I know how to lay hardwood floor, how to install kitchen cabinets, how to frame and drywall. I also know how to tile and replace fixtures both plumbing and electrical. I can do all this work but I’m pretty sure I’ll be kicking myself mid way though.

When I’m done the place is going to look so different and it will be all my designs this time. I will finally have a house that I worked hard to create that doesn’t also have so many traumatic memories. I hope I can finally feel like I’m home and enjoy where I’m living. It’s been so long since I felt like I was home anywhere (minus some fleeting moments in embraces with a person I loved dearly) that it would be a relief to finally settle in somewhere.

Not OK

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Why am I posting a picture of a phone number on my blog you may ask. It’s because this torn off sheet of notebook paper is evidence. Evidence that no matter how much you may have,or still do, love someone, if they are being continually cruel and abusive to you, you’re not obligated to just accept it.

I had been in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage for years. I tried everything to make the relationship work but I was the only one putting in the work. Eventually he did something I couldn’t look past and I filed for divorce. Years later I met a man I thought shared my values and I could build a future with and he too decided it was perfectly ok to blame me for his own insecurities and to lash out at me.

We eventually broke up because his insecurities were stronger than his proclaimed love for me. I had finally started to come to terms with the loss of our future together (any sane person should’ve been glad they got out of a bad situation but my stupid heart still loved him) when he finally started being civil towards me again. He enticed me into hanging out again doing shared activities he knew I loved. Then the whole reason for his insecurities reared its head again. Didn’t matter that I hadn’t “betrayed” him. Didn’t matter that I wasn’t trying to defend anything or argue against his bs accusations. He spent two days in a row subjecting me to emotional trauma and abuse…at work. On the third day I refused to acknowledge or engage. I even asked to leave work so I wouldn’t have to interact with him. After several more emails where he was threatening legal action against me for supposedly refusing to immediately provide him with a Bluetooth headset he’d attached to my motorcycle helmet, I told him in no uncertain terms that he had been traumatizing me, treating me like shit, I didn’t condone his behavior towards me and that if he wanted his headset he could arrange a time to come get it. He immediately just came to my place of residence. He refused to use the intercom system to be let in, wanted me to come down and open the door for him. When I insisted he use the intercom system he called the cops. I went down to talk to the officer. After the officer had settled everything and he’d gotten his headset back and left she turned to me and offered support and the number to a group that helps women dealing with abuse.

When the cops are called on you and they leave offering you help with filing a no contact order you know that you didn’t fail, you weren’t the reason your relationship didn’t work out, you don’t deserve to be spoken to or treated with such disrespect.