Before you dismiss this post as something akin to many everyday things, let me assure you that it isn’t about that show on the popular network. This post isn’t about those dots that come into your eyesight if you look at the sun for too long and it isn’t about that horrible no-man’s land over your shoulder in your or any other car. This post is about those spots that each of us carry that we can’t acknowledge.
Most people with a mental illness can recognize that our mental illness directly affects our physical health. For instance, when I am happy my hair shines brighter, my breath smells better, my medications worked just a little bit better and even my children seem just a little bit more settled. I can acknowledge when I have a cold and when there is something physically wrong with me and I can take steps to eat, drink and sometimes if I am really happy, exercise right. All this is possible because when I am happy, I pay attention. Simple as that; I could go on, but why? I wash my hair, I brush my teeth, I take care of myself because I know it is important.
When I am in a bad spot things are much different. I won’t brush my teeth every morning and I won’t always take regular showers and wash my hair. If I get sick I tend to convince myself that there is nothing to do about feeling horrible and it must be part of the disease; this leads to doctors cringing when they see the x-rays of my lungs. I don’t notice my children as often simply because they have learned to handle me in all my moods and I tend to loose focus at the easiest hint of an escape hatch. I don’t pay attention. Simple as that; once again, I could go on but why?
If you take a bad spot and then add stress you get a whole new can of worms. In normal, healthy people, whether they are adults or children, stress can harm the physicality of ourselves rapidly. For those without mental illness, the level of stress held within the body affects that body. For those with mental illness, the level of stress held within the body can make or break the whole enchilada. There is a difference. However, I am sad to say that unless you feel both sides, the differences will always elude you.
Lately, I have been having numerous symptoms that require me to admit something is going on. Nausea off and on, hot and cold chills that last seconds and have literally no cause, no sleep, shoulders so stiff that I can’t turn my head to look at the aforementioned blind spot in my car, weight gain (which okay, is good), and worse of all, the biggest panic attack I have had in years. Before you convince yourself that maybe I am pregnant, let me assure that I am not. It isn’t possible. There are other symptoms, most of which are too weird to list here.
To control these strange symptoms that started three days ago, I would have to go to about four doctors all who would give me more medication and more diagnosis. And it would probably take weeks. And while I have thought of going to the doctor that controls my medications, the idea of having to take each of my numerous pills one at a time in order to figure out which one is causing trouble, if it is even the medications in the first place, is not only cumbersome but seems somewhat ridiculous.
As I went to my therapist today, I carefully outlined all my problems to her. The good news is she doesn’t think I am dying. The bad news is the symptoms that I display doesn’t fit easily into any problem. Could it be stress? Sure, we all have it. Could it be cancer? Well, I suppose but are we going to freak out this early? Could it be nothing at all? Maybe, but I am not one to make up symptoms just for the fun of it. The truth, and we both know it, is that my symptoms are most likely caused from stress. Simple and easy as that.
The problem, as I see it, is that I have no idea what stress is the cause of these symptoms. I recognize it probably all comes from stress but what stress in my life? I live in this world, there is literally stress on every inch of my day, and sometimes deep into the night. I have stress about the ruthlessness of this disease. I have stress about the financial bind that is growing each and every day, I have stress regarding my children, I have stress about my cat destroying more of my house, I have stress because I won’t be able to go to a festival that I love this year, I have stress that I have to fly to my in-laws and I still don’t know any details at all (and I am not kidding; I had to ask what airline we were flying), I am stressed that my father is coming in town which tends not to go over well with everyone, I am stressed that we are going on a cruise and the aforementioned financial issues are going to create major problems. And then there is the stress of my face breaking out, my intimate life with my husband, my neighbor who is so nosy it is strange to me that you can’t see it on her face. There are the things that I have to do that requires me to go to new places, by myself with some computer generated directions, and be the adult for long periods of time. You name it, there is stress. And I have no idea how to deal with any of it, any more than I can proactively deal with the stress of living in this world.
So which of things listed above is the cause of my symptoms? Which of the things that I am living with and which fluctuate daily do I blame and try and put in perspective? Which of the symptoms do I tackle first in the vain hope that I can figure out the stress that is causing it?
I am the first one to recognize that there are uncontrollable aspects in many of the things I am stressed about. I have to wait out my financial situation. I could ignore my neighbor. I could even let go of the in-laws trip and give my control freak self a break. I could even go to that festival which I am sure my mom would pay for.
But when you look at it as a whole, there isn’t one thing that is going to change the story line nor control the symptoms I suffer. When you look at the full story (and I didn’t list the full story) the stress that I am experiencing is in most ways my own issue. My husband isn’t turning green randomly. My son is able to turn his head. My mother has never had a panic attack in her life. So the blind spots begin to build.
And when one is looking at blind spots it is hard to tell how many there are. It is hard to decide what action will mitigate some of the stress in the vain hope that I don’t throw up at the worst possible time. Blind spots cover up the doors that allow you to put things in perspective. Blind spots don’t give you time to adjust. I think of it this way…imagine that hallway (Matrix, Alice in Wonderland) full of doors and no windows. Which door contains the answer? Which door contains the question? Which door makes it possible for you to survive this hellish place we all call life? Which door will take it all away?
My therapist assures me that I am going to be fine, and I have no reason to doubt her. After all, I am familiar with blind spots; I live in a world of them. And while it is vitally important to me to figure out a way to mitigate all the symptoms of what is possibly a reaction to stress, it doesn’t really matter. Because tomorrow’s stress, while different in some key ways, will still be there waiting for me. At least until I travel down that black hole of depression and find a way to quiet the world, and sometimes my head, and find my way to my own self.