Addicted to Stress: Some Things I’ve Learned So Far

Today I did my first full-on yoga routine in I don’t even know how long. During the relaxation pose at the end, I began to tear up – I still feel like curling up and bawling. While I was laying there on the floor, I kept thinking, “Why is this so hard?” Not the pose itself – please, it’s laying on the floor like a starfish and listening to chiming – but the allowing myself to do this.

I’m not at all a new-age sort of person. Hippie-speak tends to make my skin crawl. But I’ve come to realize in the past few weeks that I have lost something in myself which is very necessary and very difficult to get back  – my center. In late August, I went to my doctor with a notebook piece of paper filled with symptoms I have noticed in myself for quite a while now: extreme fatigue, muscle weakness and pain, insomnia, nausea, headaches, occasional vomiting for no reason, unbelievable brain fog, and many more. She said she believed I had fibromyalgia and she sent me off with a prescription for Cymbalta and an order to commit to 5 minutes of walking a day. Well, that wasn’t enough information for me. And the Cymbalta, once tried, increased my brain fog.

So, I checked out some books from the library (my Lord, I love the public library), and began reading about alternative treatments including herbal supplements and anti-inflammatory diets. But I don’t think I really realized what my root issue was until I was laying on the floor today. Since I was pregnant with my youngest son (that’s the nearest I can pinpoint the start of my fibromyalgia symptoms) I have made it a crime to STOP.

At the time, I was working for a county library (a job I loved and still dearly miss), had two very small children and a husband. On top of that, I was trying to complete my fantasy novel (remember, due out in March!). While I worked full-time, I did give myself permission to take the occasional days off to simply rest and be by myself. But since moving to Oklahoma and becoming a stay-at-home mom, that all changed. Suddenly, I was with two other human beings ALL THE TIME. My oldest never wanted to take naps and so I was always on. Even if I wasn’t doing something physical, half my brain was always keyed in to my child. Always watching, always on guard and ready for an emergency or a need that needed to be filled.

Slowly, it’s now come to the point that I’ve finally blown a fuse. And that’s what fibromyalgia and its related conditions are to me. Your body and brain have finally reached their limit and simply cannot go on anymore.

Once my kids started full-time school, I thought I would be a bad-ass full-time writer. Pounding out a bestseller a day. The reality is, I’m lucky if I get 500 words of fiction written. And each day, I go to bed ashamed and frustrated because I feel that I’ve wasted the day.

But today, as I listened to my breathing and tried to still the racing thoughts I’m plagued with, I realized I have to get better. I have to STOP. My kids are out of the house during the day and I have to use that time not to get ahead on my manuscript but to heal so I can get back to that manuscript with all the fire and passion with which I wrote the first book. Realizing that needs to happen, though, does not make it easier to accomplish. I feel lazy, like a loser, if I rest; if I don’t “accomplish” anything. I feel worthless and like I have let my family down. I, like so many people in this country, am addicted to stress and it’s nigh impossible to get that monkey off my back. Because unless I let it ride me, I believe I am not doing anything useful and thus, a failure. The paradox being that while it rides me, it renders me so exhausted, so brain-dead I can’t get anything done anyway!

You know, if I had cancer, or diabetes, or a leg amputated or something of that nature, I think it would be easier for me to STOP. Those conditions are SEEN. They can be measured. They show up in blood tests or X-rays. So they are REAL. Fibromyalgia and other invisible diagnoses can’t be quantified and so it’s easy for people – especially the patient – to dismiss them as imaginary. Mind over matter, and all that rot. But they ARE real. And they are all the more terrible for being elusory. Like those ghost-story movies where you never actually SEE the ghost. You just feel its presence or come across the damage it causes. But if I’m not careful, if I don’t learn to STOP, this haunted house is going to collapse and I’ll have no one to blame but myself.

So, if there are any fellow sufferers out there, feeling down and guilty, just STOP. Stop with me so we can get back to moving forward.

3 thoughts on “Addicted to Stress: Some Things I’ve Learned So Far

  1. Oh how I can relate! I don’t even have as much on my plate as you do (I do have two furkids, but not quite the same thing 😉 ), but there is that sense of shame and negative thinking if we don’t get a hypothetical amount of work done, especially in regards to our creative work. I’ve been thinking about doing the yoga thing too, I have absolutely no center at this point either. Good luck to getting back to yourself!

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  2. Pingback: Addicted to Stress: Some Things I’ve Learned So Far | R. L. Martinez

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