For as long as I can remember, I’ve never quite handled stress well. For instance, my body’s physical response is to get sick, mimicking a stomach virus, if you get my drift. Prolonged stress would bring on IBS and ulcer-like symptoms. I remember at the age of sixteen, I developed an ulcer due to a very stressful event in my life. It went away thankfully, but it really did a number on my body and psyche. I would steer clear of certain foods and would develop fears about getting an ulcer once again. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, it was generalized anxiety type of stressors, like the pressures of work, relationship issues and so on. All of us have stressors, but for some people like myself, I process it much differently. I internalize a lot of things and it ends up giving me a “stomach virus”. I even develop a low grade fever with it. I then started developing new symptoms to stress, like bleeding in between menstrual cycles as well as fainting spells, which happened at my last office job where I had to be taken out on a gurney and off to the hospital. I’m very familiar with the hospital due to my inability to strengthen whatever it is to cope with stress. I’ve gone to therapy, I’ve hired personal trainers to better my health and tried almost every natural homeopathic way available. Some worked, but only for a short time.
One of my fears is also driving to places which are far away, due to my IBS symptoms from stress. Many of my friends, including my in-laws who I love dearly may think I rarely visit because I don’t enjoy their company. It’s so far off from the mark. My in-laws are my family. I love them with all my heart, and it kills me to say, “I’m sick” when I know it’s from stress. Many people in my life probably think I’m a bit aloof or that I really don’t care to visit. Especially with sleepovers or if family and friends are generous enough to offer me a place to stay since the drive is long - I decline right away. For some reason, the most difficult thing for me to do is fall asleep in someone else’s home. It can be the most beautiful, safest and cleanest place on earth, but my eyes will be opened all night long. It has nothing to do with my OCD. It’s all about my comfort zone and fears. Another “real” factor of mine is that I am highly allergic to dog hair & dander through trial & error as well as diagnosed by my allergist. It never fails, all my friends who have dogs are constantly inviting me over, even though they know I’m highly allergic. I don’t want to insult anybody or make them feel as though their house or apartment is “dirty” in any way just because they have a pet - it’s just my awful response when I walk into a place that has dogs or cats. I get asthma-like symptoms. And as strange as this sounds, some dogs don’t have any affect on me whatsoever.
Here’s another thing that gets me... The other day my legs were killing me from all the stats they had given me during my hospital stay. I was told, “You think your legs hurt, but they don’t.” As I’m rubbing my legs to get rid of the knife-like jabbing pains, I was just so surprised to hear someone say that. It’s not in my head - it’s in my legs! Another time, someone had made a statement about how bad I handle menstrual cramps, while “every other woman” are able to cope with daily activities. I have dysmenorrhea which is a condition that interferes with daily activities due to the severity of the pain and nausea. I also have fainting spells when this happens. So when this friend of mine made this remark about how I should deal with it better, and that I should stop blaming it on being “sick” because all women get it - I literally stopped inviting her over and I also stopped going to her house just because she also thinks “it’s all in my head”. I wish that she could feel and experience just 2 minutes of what I go through for five entire days of intense pain and nausea. I’m not “wishing” her pain, I just wish some people would understand that sometimes it is a physical ailment. That’s why I think it’s so important that people don’t compare their life, ailments, lack of ailments or health with anybody else’s. We’re all different and handle things in our own way. None of it is “right” or “wrong” - it’s our own response, whether we choose to change it or not - or in some cases, unable to be changed. I wish more people could accept that other people aren’t like them.
I’m known to break plans more often than not. I remember one evening I was driving over to my friend’s house which was approximately 45 minutes away. After 20 minutes of driving, my vision started to get blurry and everything was so incredibly loud. I had to pull over because I felt the oncoming anxiety attack about to strike. Tractor trailers were hauling ass passed my little car, making it wobble a bit while I was parked. Each “swoosh” and wobble would set off a bigger attack. I soon was unable to breathe or drink water because it would come back out of my mouth due to my throat closing. Now, this event can be “all in the head”, but wow, the physical symptoms that your mind can give you is definitely real and scary. I called my friend and told her what had happened. She knows I have anxiety, but I think she also believes that it’s ‘not that bad’ because I don’t harp on it much. She made a “tisk” sound like she was pissed off at me and said, “Whatever, Deb”, and then hung up. For me, I couldn’t possibly hang out with her again only because she’s not “safe” to be around in my mind. She gets angry at something that is out of my control - or in this case, maybe I could have grasped some control. Sometimes it works and other times, it’s just a matter of time until the anxiety subsides.
Of course this brings me to another challenge in my life: depression. I feel as though people assume that I’m lying about my anxiety or “making up a story up” so that I don’t have to see them. I then start avoiding my friends and some of my family members because I’m scared to make empty promises. Most of the time, I’m okay, but that small percentage of when I get those extreme anxiety attacks are when I just wish more people would understand that it’s not about them at all. It’s not an “excuse” so I can go somewhere else or stay home. It’s about “me” and my lack of coping skills that I’m continually working on. Now with all that’s going on between my dad and my family, my response to stress has just been out of control. “Put it out of your mind,” someone said to me. How? My dad is literally dying right in front of me. How do you put that out of your mind? How does anybody put it out of their mind while seeing a loved one suffer? I can’t. I have so much great sadness to see my dad suffering every. single. day. for the past year and a half. I know people have seen and been through worse situations, but for me, this is the first time anyone in my family was facing the inevitable. My family is so close ---- so close, that it can easily be a double-edged sword and break us apart. There's always that fine line. That’s my worst fear. My sisters are my best friends. I love each one so much in such different ways and love my mother more than life itself, and my dad is my little buddy who makes me laugh even when I’m in the worst moods. Maybe I love them too much, because if I ever lost anybody in my family, I would die of a broken heart. I know I would.
So if any of my family or friends thinks that I don’t like them because perhaps I don’t call as much, or visit that often, or maybe I’ve just been ‘distant’ lately --- you’re wrong. I love you. I love you so much that I keep my distance so you don’t have to hear or deal with my bullshit ailments or anxiety. I don’t want to put that burden on anyone and feel bad when people take it the wrong way. And you know something? --I’m even going to blame it on having too good of a childhood with my parents and sisters. Maybe if I didn’t have such a wonderful childhood, I could cope better. (Hope that makes a bit of sense.) Maybe I’d be less ‘emotional’ with more of a grim childhood to look back on. Maybe it would have made me a stronger person. But, when therapists and others ask me about my childhood and I respond with, “All I can think of are wonderful things” - they all give me that doubting look, as if I’m lying. Of course we’ve all had our moments as a family, but we have been so fortunate for so so so long, which I am so grateful for. So, if I “appear” as distant lately, please know that I’m doing this for you and my family as well as to heal myself in the process. I’m different. I’m not like ‘you’. So, please accept my apology...and please accept 'me'.
(I usually don't write these types of posts, however I have never written something so deep from my heart before. I'll return back to 'normal' - whatever that means.)
For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com
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