I got some sobering news on Monday. I, along with everyone else, am dying. Not necessarily today, or tomorrow, or even next week, but I am dying sooner than I need to be.
It makes little sense in that I live in the richest country in the world, and am doing well even by our standards. I am able to buy the safest foods on the planet, and can be picky about how its grown and by whom. I have health insurance, and could even afford at one point to see some of the best doctors who don’t even take insurance – he actually caught something serious that none of the insurance-accepting doctors could take the expensive procedure to find out. I am not overweight, my blood pressure is below what is considered “normal”, and (most of) my bloodwork has come back normal. By most objective standards, I should be feeling fit as a fiddle.
But I’m not. My body aches like what I would imagine an older person feels. Some times it’s so bad that I can’t even sleep – no position feels comfortable. My stomach can’t take the simplest of foods. I’m bloated and gassy most of the day. I have a headache from when I wake up in the morning till when I go to sleep at night. And it’s all my fault.
I’m killing myself, from overwork and stress. Stress is a funny thing, one that I can’t really put my hand on, but one that I know leaves me feeling like crap. Stress is objective – doctors do “stress-tests” on hearts and pregnant women to see how the body reacts to different types of pressure. And by objective standards, I have a fair amount of stress in my life – I am a full-time PhD student, I have two children, I am married. I have the responsibility of a family on top of the responsibility of a new career. I teach a yoga class and I blog. I maintain friendships. It’s objectively stressful. Fine.
But the other side of stress is about perception and coping. How do I deal with the objective stress in my life? Do I eat, drink, or otherwise attempt to “be merry”? Do I crawl into a ball paralyzed several times a week? Do I do yoga, journal, cardio exercise, read self-help books? Or do I ignore it and act as if it’s not there?
I’ve told people many times that on an every day, my life does not feel stressful. I think that I don’t allow my brain to register the stress because to do so would be to inject a large amount of unhappiness in my life, and why would I want to do that? I love my life – I am doing exactly what I want to be doing with exactly who i want to be doing it with. But life is crazy hectic, and as my husband says, sometimes I go through it crazy reckless. No, instead of dealing, I convince myself that everything would be better if I just organized a bit better, came up with a better schedule.
But my body knows the difference. My body knows that I am under stress and the ignoring it is not coping with it. My body knows that the frenetic energy built up from hours of thinking and organizing and planning and worrying is trapped inside with no outlet outside of a 6 minute bike ride back and forth to the department. My body knows through migraines, heartburn, depression, IBS, and now this, that something ain’t right.
But don’t worry. I’m on the case. Bloodwork is okay, although shows that I may be fighting some sort of viral infection. Doesn’t explain my 2-month long symptoms, but maybe accounts for feeling pretty bad right now. Back to the doctor tomorrow, who so far as recommended reading this book. My friend, who is moving this weekend, was going to lend me her copy, until she decided it was so valuable she didn’t want to risk not getting it back. So we’ll see what happens. I do know it’s not this – apparently I’m too old.