01 February 2005

8. Stress

Dear stress,

I know I ignore you a lot. It's my coping mechanism or whatever, and it's gotten me through many a tight spot, which would be a good thing if I dealt with you afterwards, but mostly I don't. Which is bad. For one thing, your effects, combined with those of boredom, often leave me crushingly depressed, which is probably a topic for another letter. Lately, however, I've been becoming more aware of the fact that when I tune you out with my mind, my body takes a beating.

Headaches, sometimes even migraines, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, and most recently a return to menstrual irregularities the likes of which I hadn't seen in a few months, since before I switched birth control hormones. I just finished a notebook, which meant rereading it, which in turn meant revisiting all my health complaints of the past four and a half months. And with the exception of a particularly wretched bout of stomach flu, just about all the health problems I complained about coincided neatly with the times I had the most to complain about stress wise.

Usually work was the culprit. But whatever. I mostly don't have to work with the guy who it turns out literally makes me sick anymore, and I've started a new job that's much more mellow and self-directed, with coworkers who are at once friendlier and less immediately involved with what I'm doing. Somehow it's easier when I'm responsible for everything, which I guess makes me a control freak. No big surprises there.

But meanwhile, stress, you haven't been getting as much attention as you deserve. It'd be one thing if I wasn't paying attention because you weren't around, but you're definitely out in force, and I'm probably building you up in my mind even as I pretend you're not there. And it's not like you can advise me on how to deal with you better, though that sure would be great if you could (while I'm dreaming, I want a pony). My head-in-the-sand habits might make more sense if you were always a bad thing, but you're not, and while I'm acknowledging that, thanks for all the fight-or-flight endorphins. They've come in handy from time to time, even if I suspect they've got something to do with why my body hates me so much sometimes. You're really not to blame here; my response to you is. So I'm going to have to learn to recognize you instead of ignoring you, and deal with you in a more responsible way than pretending you're not there and getting sick later.

Exercise might help. It's good for all kinds of things, and there's far worse ways to burn off those fight-or-flight hormones I thanked you for earlier. I'm thinking of taking a yoga class, maybe even learning to meditate. Writing letters like this one, letters I can't send but need to address, seems to be good for my heart and my head, which I hope will translate into fewer headaches and less physical trouble on the whole.

Can we work together, stress? I hope so. Because making myself mentally and sick for lack of a better way to cope with you is pretty miserable.


Started 28 January 2005; last updated 1 February 2005