After a long day at work last week, I picked up my purse, shut down my computer, and turned the lights out in my office. When I say it had been a long day, I mean it had been one tiny fragment of a streak of long days in bunch of long weeks that have made up the many long months of one long year.
I patted my pockets down in the hallway and realized I’d left my phone on my desk. So I turned back to the office and immediately panicked. I could not see anything. I had gone completely blind.
As soon as it happened, I knew there was no coming back from this. I was instantly, permanently without sight and I knew exactly why. I once read that while Terry Gilliam was directing Brazil, he got so stressed out that one morning he just couldn’t move from his bed, and that must have been what happened to me, too. Stress had taken my vision. I tried not to scream while I flailed around. No need to increase anyone else’s stress by causing a scene over my sudden and irrevocable blindness, I thought.
I was coming around to my new, blind lifestyle (maybe my sense of smell would improve!), when something occurred to me.
I opened my eyes.
It made the difference. Good thing I hadn’t made a fuss.
I’ve never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the box, crayon in the shed, or tool in the drawer, but I used to be the kind of woman who could tell when her eyes were closed. Not anymore. I’ve been so worked up over stuff at work, home improvement issues, work, meth-y neighbors, work, this season of True Detective, and work that I’m very literally tense all the time. I only get a break when I’m asleep, and since I keep having dreams like the one where my cousin is murdered and I have to take over her paperclip-selling booth at a gym while my high school crush laughs at me, things aren’t exactly peaceful then, either.
I’m not just sitting around, though. I’m actively trying to de-stress.
Stress-busters Suggested by the Internet
- Exercise. I’ve been running a lot lately. I don’t really like running, but it’s the only thing I can do at the gym without looking like a total goon. It works for about an hour or so while I’m high on endorphins. Then I get stressed out about how I smell.
- Massage. This might work, except that being touched by other humans fills me with horror.
- Journaling. I’m reading “The Artist’s Way” right now, and it suggests writing three pages each morning. I feel a little bit better since I started, so the pages might be working, but it might also be a coincidence. My money’s on the latter. (This week I’m supposed to be trying to be less skeptical!)
- Taking a break. Experts say this will help. I say if I had time for a break, I wouldn’t be this stressed, would I? Dummies.
- Meditation. I’m not really a sit-and-think-of-nothing person. I’d describe myself as more of a sit-and-panic-about-everything-and-then-get-up-and-clean-sinks-until-you-feel-better kind of gal.
- Cleaning. This one worked for a while because (surprise!) I’m super anal. But then I got too into it and was thinking about cleaning and organizing all the time. I took an anxiety screening test that asked if I had any compulsive behaviors. Hmm, I thought. Not really, no. Then I cleaned my already-clean house for six hours.
Some of these solutions really do work, but they work slowly and I don’t have time for that. I want to be less stressed, like, yesterday. Or last month. Or at birth. So I took it upon myself to think of some new, hardcore stress-relieving strategies that guarantee instant results.
- Commit a crime and go to prison, where you’ll have a job, food, clothing, and shelter. Disclaimer: There will be new kinds of stress. Shanking, for example.
- Fall into a coma and sleep it off.
- Become a monk or a nun. Take a vow of silence so you never have to talk about your stressful past.
- Come down with a bad case of amnesia, forget all your troubles, and come on, get happy.
- Move away from your old life in the night. Don’t tell anyone where you’re going. Don’t tell anyone where you came from. Run! Run and never stop running.
- Renounce society, hitchhike to the Alaskan wilderness and starve to death in a bus. They’ll write books and make movies about you!
This is not the first time I’ve found myself in a stressful situation. For example, I found this list in an old notebook a couple of years ago:
I’m here on the other side of those dark days with hardly an arson charge to my name, so I must have done something right. Maybe I’ll write a self-help book about dealing with stress once I get out of this rough patch. It might be nice to help others.
I’m telling you, though — this box of matches is starting to look pretty good.