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?

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Depression Dependants

Husband is caught in the pit of depression. I can see him down there, hanging out with my mom. We were all down there together but I couldn’t stand it and clawed my way up.

It’s dangerous down in that hole of negativity. There’s a cold sense of comfort that comes from wrapping yourself up in misery. Nothing good left to lose. No rug to pull out from under you. Slow death disguised as coping.

The problem is that while I might not be stuck at the bottom with hubby and the momma I am still dangerously close to the edge. Depression is like a large black hole that is constantly trying to suck everything else into it. It takes immense strength to pull yourself out of it and almost as much strength, if not more, to keep from getting sucked back in.

I see them imprisoned down there but am not strong enough to lend them a hand to pull them up. I don’t think they’d take the hand even if I could offer it. Their presence down in it adds to the gravitational pull of the depression. Makes it that much harder to stay out of the pit. The negativity is contagious even to the strongest positive immune systems.

I don’t know how to motivate them to fight their way out of this. I know I can’t carry them but I feel guilty about it. I know logically I shouldn’t feel guilty but that doesn’t stop me from wrestling with it. Part of me want to distance myself until I can build up my reserves but I am more afraid to leave them alone.

I wish there was a magic phrase or action that could inspire them to want to challenge the hold depression has on them but I know from experience that each person’s battle is unique to them and their motivators will be different. What works for me doesn’t work for them. They feel safe in their negative blankets, they’ve bought into the lies whispered at them from the recesses of their minds. The self-fulfilling prophecies of pessimism reinforcing their belief that they deserve to suffer.

Battling depression is so much harder if you’re surrounded by willing participants.

Hope

I realized last night that the events of Monday robbed me (temporarily?) of my ability to grieve for my father.

Worst case scenario I was suddenly facing the possibility of having to mourn three losses instead of one. It was a paralyzing prospect. To lose a father, husband and the opportunity of children in one week was too much for me to comprehend. Something snapped, my mind couldn’t handle the anxiety and suddenly there was apathy.

I could no longer access my emotions. “Why bother” and “What’s the point” were my brain’s response to every thought. I auto-piloted through my work. I went walking with SM and I know she wanted to talk about my dad but I didn’t. I went walking with SO and she wanted to comfort me about my dad but all I could focus on was how defeated I felt and how confused I was about this whole thing. It wasn’t until I drove away from her last night that I realized why it seemed somehow worse to have to wait an indefinite amount of time to find out the fate of Monday’s events.

In losing my father (an inevitable part of life) I was losing a piece of my past that shaped me into the person I am. The possibility of losing my husband (and hypothetical children) was like losing my future. I love(d) my father and I know I miss him and not being able to interact with him anymore is a huge loss, but it’s a natural loss. If I lose my “future” it’s like killing hope itself. The death of hope is perhaps one of the most dangerous losses a person can experience. Hope is what keeps us going every day. I need hope to function with any sort of decency. I can’t lose hope.

I am rallying from the cold comfort of apathy. As husband goes to his negative, worst case scenario I am forcing myself to think best case scenario. I am asking my friends and family to send positive vibes my way. I will cling to hope with a fierce vice-like grip harder than to anything else in my life.

I need this resolved, I need no more bad news, I need to know hope is safe so I can get back to mourning for my father.

Where Did I Go?

I used to spend most of my time out socializing, having random adventures, creating memories. I have this deep well of experiences that I can draw upon in times of stress or self-pity. Lately, I feel like I have let life continue around me while I try to lose myself in Netflix stored television series as a way to block out all the things in my life that I am not happy about. Occasionally I will go out and create new memories to add to my collection, but mostly I am trying to pass the time as quickly and effortlessly as possible. It means my depression levels are extremely high again, it means I am back on the edge and I won’t know how tenuous my hold on stability is until I have dragged myself back away from the deep chasm of destructive emotions. Years ago, when antidepressants were not a viable option, I trained myself to use apathy to compartmentalized my depression. I would keep it locked away and ignore it. This tactic allowed me to continue getting up each morning and going to work, allowed me to complete college and even allowed me to engage with others in a social environment. It took a huge toll on my body though. It is exhausting to do this year after year. You feed the depression your creativity to keep it quiet. Then you feed it your motivation, then it is your hope. Depression has a voracious appetite. I worry now that I am feeding the depression too much. What if it takes my motivation to keep my relationships alive, robs me of my investment in other people? If I stop caring, stop putting in the effort with others, would they stick by me or let their hurt blind them to my pain? I need to know that I can control this, that I can rise above it. I need to know that depression will not define me or prevent me from living. I need to find myself again, the me that doesn’t allow herself to sabotage things simply because it seems like too much work to do otherwise. I hope I do…before my coffee wears off and I succumb to the apathy.