‘Stress: The Breakdown’ was published in The Student Advertiser, April 2015
I remember “bad days” like they happened this morning, and all at once. Even now in this moment, they are eroding my happy memories like poison as I attempt to assure myself that at this point in my life, I’m good – it’s all alright now.
A clichéd phrase or two spring to mind… but maybe some people really didn’t “get you” growing up. And how could they? Those teen years were the best years of our lives, remember?
Na? Neither do I.
You wouldn’t understand what stress does to a person unless you’ve experienced a lot of it for yourself. It’s an out-of-body experience, fuelled by your need to do something, be someone or appear a certain way for the sake of looking like you’re in control, when in actual fact, all you want to do is allow the bed sheets to engulf your body every morning the alarm goes off.
No longer do I worry about life beyond the blank walls of my academic tuition, fearful of failure and lost amongst things teachers were telling me I must do to succeed, like many others are too. Little did I know at 17 that the things I ought to fear the most were the ones I truly believed were protecting my future –like, misdirected advice from adults outside of my unique academic and social position, the exact people I was expected to emulate when I was an adult.
The ironic thing about stress, for me, is that a fair majority of these overwhelming emotions arose from the need to appear well-collected. But stress was finding its way of showing me through different ways on my body that the only control I had over it was how much concealer I applied to the eczema under my eyes. I could keep covering the surface but at the end of the day, stress is mechanical deficiency. Like machines, we need oiled and nurtured to continue to work in full-motion. And we just don’t have the ability to care for ourselves like that when we’re stressed.
Stress seeps into our lives like it would a plant’s if we were to start watering it with acid. According to the NHS webpage on student health, the first signs of stress include something as little as a disrupted sleep pattern. This could be waking up frequently in the middle of a sleep, a reduction of or even an increase in sleeping hours. (I know, right? Too much sleep is bad? What?) Further symptoms include break outs on the skin like eczema, psoriasis, acne and dark circles under the eyes. However, given that you face yourself in day in-day out, it might take someone else to point physical changes out to you and it’s important that you don’t disregard their concern. You might find this difficult if you are suffering from a more serious symptom which is depression inflicted by stress. You might feel like isolating yourself from everyone around you, the type of feeling which sees you sitting in the car outside the house long after you’ve arrived home before you step inside where your family are.
This isn’t normal, and it’s not your fault.
For too long we ignore the pit in our stomachs telling us that something isn’t right because we’re scared of change. If work is stressing you out, it could be deadlines at the root of all problems and if you’re as worked-up as you are about meeting them, you won’t want to risk digressing from your duties; you fear the consequences at your job which might follow.
And that’s ok. That’s normal.
What isn’t normal is holding in all of your negativity and projecting it on to yourself. You might not see it in the mirror but your friends do. They see it in the way you’ve lost interest in their conversations, the glazed expression on your face as you think of your unhealthy relationships, or work, or money issues while they’re speaking to you. They see it in your lack of energy for things that once excited you. Your mojo has been sapped out by thoughts you don’t want to have, paving the way to complete self-destruction.
In 10 years will that assignment matter to your life?
If the answer is no, then you’re already half way there. You can see that you might be struggling with stress over things that don’t matter much in the long-run.
If the answer is yes, then do that shit. Get in the house as soon as you’re home and bleed over it until you’ve fixed the problem to the point where you won’t allow yourself to have it anymore. Then submit it, or tell that person how you’ve really been feeling, or write that letter of resignation – because you deserve to be at one with yourself. You deserve to be happy and live a stress-free life full of colour and opportunity and friends who you want to succeed, and want you to be successful in return.
My last piece of advice is this: this time next year, you might not be with that person anymore, or in that job, or enrolled in that course, or in that flat. Heck, you might not have a thing to your name outside of the family who raised you and the friends who stayed by you. But do you know what you can be, if you let yourself?
Young. And happy and limitless.