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?