What does stress feel like for me? How is this feeling any different than what “normal” people experience? Does stress really affect me more than the average, mentally healthy person? What do I do to mitigate and recover from the effects of stress?
To answer the first question, I think it’s important to note what it feels like for me when my bad stress levels are low…even to the point of being near nil. Obviously, the answer to this question is: It feels great! And, it really is that simple. I am much more creative during these times, and my interactions with others tend to be happy ones.
Then, oftentimes without notice, some bad stressor occurs, triggering a cascade of thoughts and feelings that at the very least throws me into a depressive state and at the very most brings back my psychotic symptoms (paranoia, for sure, and even auditory hallucinations at times). To say the least, this ain’t no fun. My brain goes on lockdown. I have trouble discerning what is real and what is not real. It is as if my brain has been overtaken by an icy fog. I feel encroached upon by people. Any slight from anyone feels like a personal attack, the magnitude of which is akin to a wrecking ball slamming into a skyscraper.
I feel everyone encroaching upon me, and I struggle to keep my personal boundaries afloat. Keeping my personal boundaries in tact, something that most people take for granted, is a mighty and tiresome struggle for me…not unlike a paraplegic relearning how to walk after a tragic car accident. The struggles of my unseen disability are that great. And, to compound matters, I feel as though I must hide those struggles, because some people will take advantage of my weaknesses.
I don’t know how “normal” people experience stress…at least not on a “gut” level. I do know on a cerebral level that some people thrive on stress. It’s good that there are people in the world who are like that. I’m not one of those people. There are a couple of old sayings that I think are appropriate:
“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
“No pain, no gain.”
While these sayings may sound good and may even pertain to a section of the population, they definitely have no place in my world, and I am pretty sure not in most people’s who suffer from my disorder. While some thrive on stress and while it does create a sense of personal growth for some, it has no growth factor in my world. I do not get stronger from stress; I gain nothing from its pain.
Does stress really affect me more than the average, mentally healthy person? Yes. I think I’ve outlined that well enough not to go into it any further.
What do I do to mitigate and recover from the effects of stress? Mitigating stress is difficult. Since I am continuously trying to keep my personal boundaries intact. It is a 24/7 job. I’m not so sure I do a great job of mitigating stress; more often than not, stress gets to me, and instead of mitigating it, I have to devise ways of recovering from it. More often than not, I physically try to separate myself from the stress. Hopefully, this gives me time to recover and allows me to gain a better perspective on my stressors. If this doesn’t work, let’s say because I can’t physically get away from my stress or the stress continues or gets worse, I will eventually shut down. My brain will cease to problem-solve. During these times, I spend quite a bit of time in bed. On rare occasions, I will get angry. I try not to do this, since this isn’t the best coping mechanism. In fact, this usually backfires and causes my stress levels to skyrocket. If I feel myself getting to this point, I try with all of my might to suppress this anger and separate myself from the situation until I have gained a better perspective on things.
In closing, I would like to iterate that, even though I can write a fairly coherent post, even though I can hold a decent conversation (sometimes), and even though I may seem “okay” on the outside, I still have a severe mental disorder, one that affects me daily. To put things bluntly, this disorder sucks. There are silver linings, however, for the most part, I would rather not have it.
A final note: A quick “Thank you!” to Dr. Nancy Merbitz, Ph.D. for encouraging me to write this post. Her guidance and encouragement have helped me tremendously.