I suppose that when anyone is under a lot of stress, they don’t function at their best. For me, however, I might as well say that I don’t function at all.
- I can’t think.
- I can’t focus.
- I can’t make decisions.
- I have little impulse control.
- My anxiety skyrockets.
- I can’t cook.
- I rarely clean.
- I can barely move.
- I cannot speak.
- I cannot hold a conversation.
- I can’t follow directions.
- I forget most of what I know.
- I fixate on the issue.
- Nothing exists beyond right now, and right now is hard.
Of course this is somewhat expected, for a short time at least, when something really bad happens. Lost your job? Okay. Going through divorce? Okay. Death of a close family member? Okay. For a while. Okay. Only people forget really fast. That, or they expect grief to be brief. For a family member (human at least), who is very close, they may even give time off work. A day. A week maybe. Then you’re expected to be right back at it – as if your world didn’t just fall apart beneath you.
And like everyone else, I grieve during those times. The stress is hard. I don’t function well. But it seems to be much harder for me to overcome those things. It takes a lot longer, and I just don’t pretend well.
The summer my first cousin died, my dog died, my grandfather had a heart attack, and went in for a triple bi-pass, and my son’s father and I broke up… that was a hard summer. My son was 14-17 months old during that time. My little cousin, that I was babysitting, was 7 months younger. I had always been good with babies.
Babies and animals. That was my thing. But take all of the list above, with all the major stressors I was going through at the time, and add in two babies… I didn’t do well. It was hard to even stay awake, let alone supervise well. They both survived that summer. I am thankful for that. But I didn’t do well, and it took me years to get over it. Even the stress of that time took me two years to get past. Two years in which I was in deep depression, and afraid of everything.
Two years. My aunt and I both had to start work again right away. We had to, but I shouldn’t have. Expected, but not right. Not for me. And I didn’t do well. Not for a long time.
It isn’t just the negative stress in life that effects me that way, I have found. When I got married, I took a week off. I should have taken a month. I was babysitting then, too. Nothing bad happened, but I certainly didn’t do well.
Or there was the rather neutral stress of coming home from a three month vacation to visit family with my four children in tow. We were happy to be home, but it was a transition, and transitions are stressful. My younger three and I, and especially my middle daughter, had such a time with that transition. It didn’t help that my guinea pig died within days of getting home, though he wasn’t yet a year old. Her stress, and my stress lasted five weeks – at the end of which, our adoption fell through, and ‘our’ three younger (foster) children were moved from our home. We got them back for a year, but we never overcame it.
I suppose, if all of us knew how I handled (didn’t handle) stress, we should have instead had a lot of help during those weeks. Then maybe we would have survived it.
For when I am under stress, I can’t function. It isn’t “if I try hard enough,” or “if I push myself through it.” I can’t. I can’t do it. And a day, or a week off isn’t going to help much. For me, it might take a month, or it might even take several years, before I am strong enough to live, or work, or be myself again. And that, I have found, is a necessity – not a choice.