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Stress Pt. 1

January 28, 2012

So…this stress thing.

Not something I’m used to, actually.  Call it a charmed life for a while there, but I’ve never succumbed to any long bouts of worry, anxiety, stress.  I can tell when it started, though.  Somewhere in May 2010, about 3 months after Alex had been diagnosed with autism.  That day I had a co-worker at the office tell me in a clipped, blunt tone that my work wasn’t good enough.  He meant it and he had proof.  It shook me.

I drove home that evening feeling sick, full of self-doubt.  Was my job at risk?  Could I climb this ever increasing slope at work?  Did I want to?  And then:  What would we do if I did lose my job?  Could I find other work?  How will we pay our bills?  What about medical insurance and Alex’s therapies and Kat’s treatments?  Holy shit.  My heart pounded in my chest all the way home.

I’ve always been very deliberate about my career choices.  I am happy to say that I try to follow my heart.  But furloughs, the greater economy and simple common sense do have the ability to push one into making decisions that are more pragmatic than passionate.  Our hearts don’t always shout out the proper direction when reaching the proverbial fork in the road.  Until then, I felt I had made the right choices.  As I said, a charmed life.

But now worry, concern, angst, bewilderment and even anger started accumulating like snowfall.  Until this point in my life it seemed I could brush off every flake that would hit me.  Not now.  I was getting buried in cold, immobilizing stress.

Things got worse.  I tried to protect that job, to work harder, but I couldn’t.  Alex began getting violent in the mornings as Kat was trying to get herself together for her job while also feeding and dressing the kids.  Alex began banging his head against the hardwood floors.  He would give himself bruises and goose egg sized bumps on his forehead, wailing all the while.  Kat would be in tears.  At least once I was too.  I went to work with stinging tears in my eyes, having to leave her with the boys because my job required me at my desk by 0730.  I couldn’t concentrate at work.

That job ended.  Mr. Mom again for a while, then a better job–albeit temporary, via a friend’s recommendation.  Better working conditions, much closer to home but with less pay.  We make it work, though.  It wasn’t easy.  Still at that job today.  I’m not flying, no.  Which sucks.  But there’s also nothing I could do about it.  My love of flying is immense but I do have to say I love my family more.  So taking any old flying job just to have air beneath me and the earth’s surface plays 2nd string in my roster right now.

Sill the stress comes in waves.  Fatigue coupled with late work hours, embarrassing eating habits and a lack of exercise had made me grumpy and irritable.  I ran low on patience and tolerance.  Arguing with Kat, getting upset with Drew or just having enough of Alex’s now infrequent self injurious behavior are traits that I am ashamed to admit I’ve embodied.  My heart pounds harder, a literal feeling I have in my chest.

The doctor confirmed what I already surmised.  My blood pressure is higher than I’ve ever remembered it being.  I’m 11 pounds heavier than I was 2 years ago.  And I was drinking a pot of tea each morning just to feel reasonably alert.

That’s it.  i’ve had enough of this!  I told Kat at the time that this was the lowest I would ever feel.  Back to the gym with me and my bum elbow.  Elliptical trainer and iPod, weightlifting gloves and bottle of water–these are now a few of my favorite things.  It’s working.  Although I might not have lost more than a pound or two, I do feel more energized.  Plus, it’s an outlet for my stress.

It’s a long, long road for me to get back to that level of fitness I had attained while living in Phoenix in 2000.  But I know I can.  Even that feels better.  Swimming will follow, plus my favorite form of exercising–the bicycle.  Given that we’ve had some of the mildest winter weather this year, I’ve been able to get back out on the bike for more than a few minutes at a time.

The stress is still there.  But it seems to be diminishing.  It probably won’t disappear in my life anytime soon, but the respite does help.  Kat and I need it.  Next week we are taking about 24 hours OFF while Drew and Alex get to stay with their cousins and uncle and we get to stay at a nice resort up in Wisconsin.  We can’t wait.  I’ll leave the packing for this up to Kat.  I don’t need the stress of that, either.

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