Major stress doesn’t just END neatly

A peaceful setting on the greenway, mother with stroller and child

GETTING BACK TO NORMAL?

Outside stress

I told myself that when the Electoral College did their thing, the stress about who the next president will be would lessen.

It did.

But not enough.

There’s a pandemic going on.

I had hoped the arrival of vaccines would help, and it did – until I realized that even though we’re over 70, and living in a care facility, those of us in Independent Living will not qualify for the vaccine for quite a long time. Staff will be ALL vaccinated first – not a bad thing, as they are the ones who DAILY go back into the community.

People in Assisted Living, Memory Support, and Skilled Nursing will be vaccinated.

We will not. Not at first.

And it will be a VERY long time before I don’t have to worry about my children (late 20s, early 30s), because they will be among the last vaccinated, which means their quarantines (and ours) will not end for many months.

Medically-induced stress

I told myself that when I found a new doctor, completing the process of picking one more deliberately than how we found our first Primary Care Physician (PCP) when we moved here over two years ago, and met him or her, and things seemed more to my liking (the first physician was fine, but we are not, it turns out, on quite the same page philosophically as I had hoped), that I could relax.

It did – I had a wonderful first visit yesterday during which all we did was talk, and at the end. I had asked the nurse, ‘Could we do this at the end?’ when I got there, and she agreed with no hesitation (good sign), because I was so stressed about having done that horrible thing, CHANGING YOUR DOCTOR), so that when she took my blood pressure, it was fine (Note to self: make sure I send a note to the cardiologist).

It would have been lower, I’m convinced, if I didn’t have to fight so hard to have the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines for accurate BP measurement followed.

I get it: they’re busy, and they have to process people through quickly. For most people it doesn’t matter much if the nurse talks to them continuously through the process, they’ve exercised (getting to the doctor’s office DOES constitute exercise) within the past half hour, or they’ve not been allowed to rest quietly – or any of the other guidelines.

But for those of us for whom going to the doctor brings up a whole host of issues, stress significantly raises the measurement taken under not ideal conditions – and that is the number that goes into your permanent medical record.

So that particular medical stress has been lowered – but is not gone. And the contortions I had to go through in my mind and in person left me completely exhausted and unable to write a word yesterday. I couldn’t even nap!

And, of course, my medical system still doesn’t have someone with expertise in ME/CFS I can talk to – I continue to be completely responsible for whatever self-care measures I can find and execute to deal with what, for convenience and so readers can understand because it’s FRESH, is exactly like what the Covid-19 long-haulers are discovering: no one knows enough to help them get themselves back after a virus, and for some it’s been almost a year.

Removing the stress isn’t a panacea

In many ways, it dumps you back into the situation you lived in before the stress started, but at a significantly lowered coping level.

There’s the long-neglected to do list.

There are the problems with money, which for some are an annoyance, but are a major new source of stress for those getting unexpected bills, do not have the expected income, or are even worried whether their investments will be ravaged by the stock market rollercoaster – and they will have to depend on their children to pay the bills because their nest egg will not get them through!

I won’t be able to relax completely about the election until Biden is IN the White House, either – too much nonsense has gone on.

There have been some new health challenges – notably the blood sugar rollercoaster (much better, thank you) – which consumed lots of time and caused much worry. The kind that RAISES blood pressure (yup, all stress reinforces other stress).

I don’t know how to get back to – or to – ‘normal.’

Nobody does.

My resilience has been challenged by 31 years of chronic illness.

And we’re still in lockdown, not particularly conductive to relaxing, abetted by the news that California’s screwed up bigtime. If you look at all the graphs, it is likely much of the soaring covid and covid death rates were NOT helped by Thanksgiving, and we’re about to repeat that with the year-end holidays.

We take it day by day.

But it’s been incredibly hard to write. To create NEW fiction. To find a time during the day when the brain is functional (not just in survival mode) so I can use it.

And ignore the guilt that comes from not using some of that ‘good brain time’ to do things that really should be done, and which I’ve been planning to do in the evenings AFTER writing – something that just keeps not happening.

Be kind to yourself

And everyone else.

Be especially kind to those who have been working because they have to – we have an amazing staff here, but they are human, are working under plague conditions, and have had to live with weekly testing, knowing some of their colleagues have tested positive, and that a mistake on their part might severely damage one of the old people in their care.

And don’t expect to get back to normal easily or quickly.

Because we don’t.

Stress stays there, like a phantom limb, even when it’s technically reduced or gone.

**********

24 thoughts on “Major stress doesn’t just END neatly

  1. Lynda Dietz

    Stress can wreak such havoc on a body. Even a body that starts off relatively healthy can suffer quite a bit. I’m VERY glad you’ve found a doctor who listens and who you can relate to easier. That makes all the difference in the world. My husband has gone through that with a couple of doctors over the past few years, and it took me a while but I finally realized that just because I’m the type of person who can overlook certain things, my husband isn’t, and if he’s not comfortable at his own doctor’s office, why are we there? Thankfully, just about everyone we deal with right now listens well and provides the information we need.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It’s a subtle thing, sometimes, but I dreaded going to the doctor – because I knew/thought/had experienced that I would have to fight for what I needed. It was more adversarial – could be entirely me – than I was comfortable with.

      I forced myself to go, to communicate (the online system they have here is amazingly better than anything we had in New Jersey), to ask for the one thing I needed, to discuss things rationally.

      Not his fault – but I shouldn’t feel I have to take my husband with me to make sure there is a man/witness with me.

      No actual complaints – just not a comfortable feeling.

      Then I asked myself whether that would work in an emergency, a major health problem, in the time of covid – and switched. I was lucky in who I found.

      The stress is lower now. Which is good, because the outside world stress seems to ratchet up by the day! This virus is nowhere near tamed, nor is the presidency occupied yet by a grownup.

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  2. joey

    I’ve actually heard several people complain “I don’t know why I’m so stressed out!” and I keep saying the same thing, “We’re living through a shared trauma.” It’s all I can do to not bug my eyes out and scream, but that’s not the way.
    When I’m out in the world, I generally see people working and feel more grateful for my own job, which doesn’t involve many people or too many items shared. I have been tasked with the responsibility of sanitation stations at our office and I’m grateful there, too, because if I’m the only person who wiped down counters before the virus, it should surely be my job — a little OCD can be useful in these matters 😉

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Considering how untrustworthy some people have become, it’s good to keep it under your own control. However we survive this, it WILL end.

      And then we’ll have the task of picking up the pieces, and putting them together again – maybe better.

      Reminds me of ‘Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.’

      I think we have learned that there is a lot of hate out there, and that some people think they’re being denied something rightfully theirs.

      It HAS to be addressed – it’s been festering forever.

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      1. joey

        At the post office, a woman announced we wouldn’t have to wear masks if Trump won. Further, she said what the damn liberals need to do is check the damn aliens at the border for TB. Many of us simply stared at her maskless face and shared knowing looks with one another. The post office clerk told her to put her mask up or leave. Then we all shared smiling eyes. People are obviously bonkers.

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          My friends seem all to be reasonable about masks – but I am baffled by these people who think 45 knows anything about public health and viruses and safety.

          I’m glad you’re on ‘my’ side – this has all been very puzzling, and it isn’t just here, it’s worldwide.

          A lot of people think they’re immune, or they will catch a mild case and be fine. The medical personnel caring for the very sick and the dying are having a hard time coping with that mentality.

          LA has ZERO % empty hospital beds – and California, which was doing okay, suddenly is the nation’s hot spot.

          Things are getting WORSE, not better, and the best timeline for the vaccine, the shortest, is vaccine + 3 weeks to second dose + 2 weeks to best immunity. VERY long.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. joey

          I will take the vaccine. Hopefully I can take it on a Friday and rest up, because you know, sensitive. I simply do not want to get sick like that again. (I’m sure everyone would agree, but then I think about the maskless asshats and realize I am wrong for assuming.)

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        3. joey

          No. But I generally run a fever and go to bed after most of my shots, so I always try to get them on Friday. Lounging and recovery both easier on weekends

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  3. marianallen

    I haven’t written anything in months. I’ve tried, and I ground a few paragraphs out. Not BAD paragraphs, but the story just isn’t there. I know where I would have it go, and pretty much how to get there, and the characters are behaving as they would, but it’s soul-less. Not quite ready to drive a stake through its heart, but it may come to that.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It’s really not a year to make any permanent decisions in for you. You’ve had one of the hardest things in life to deal with – on top of everything else.

      Please be patient. When it comes, if it does, it will. I think it’s a bit premature for stakes. YOUR call, of course, but waiting, putting it away to be taken out later, won’t hurt.

      Remember very famous-now Stephen King put the manuscript of what would become Carrie into the round file.

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  4. Lloyd Lofthouse

    Have you heard about the Yale Study that reports “Long COVID May be Caused by Friendly Fire.”

    https://khn.org/morning-breakout/long-covid-may-be-caused-by-friendly-fire-yale-study-finds/

    And I am also waiting until Biden moves into the White House on January 20, 2021. I do not trust Trump. I do not trust Trump’s loyalists in the Republican Party. I do not trust any of Trump’s base of supporters, not one of them. They are royally, autocratically, messed up big time.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      That may be the same thing caused by other viruses that leads to something like what I have.

      It doesn’t matter. The answer still has to be: what damage has been done? What can we do to treat that damage? And is a cure possible, or do we just deal with symptoms forever?

      The research has to answer those questions, though part of it may peel off and work on how to prevent those responses from happening, and whether if intervention happens much sooner, before the damage has been around long, will it help more?

      I am decidedly nervous about Biden trying to incorporate the reality of the situation – half of our Senators and Congresspeople are still Republicans (there was no massive change at that level) – and how that will affect his ability to govern and to reverse some of the damage done to the nation and the world.

      I wouldn’t have his job now for anything, but I’m not a politician. He knows. He was Obama’s VP during much of the worst of McConnell’s destructive interference. And he is still willing – and will still be so much better than 45 merely by existing.

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  5. acflory

    Stress is the monster none of us recognize until it’s gone…if it goes. If it doesn’t, most of us just wonder why we feel so bad. And stress over a long period of time does do bad things to your immune system. After my mother died, Dad [who had mild dementia] came to live with the Offspring and I.

    I didn’t recognize the daily stress that built up over the last years of his life until after he died. Within one month, I had an awful abscess on my tooth. Within three months I was diagnosed with cancer. Both were fixed [10 years and counting], and both were at least partly due to neglect – I simply didn’t have time or energy for me-stuff – but I’m convinced stress had a lot to do with it too. These days I’m much kinder to myself.

    I fear the medical impact of covid will go on for a very long time. As for the economic and political impact? God knows. I just hope we don’t paper over the abyss and hope we don’t fall through.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      The first step is to recognize it, and then to measure it.

      I am always surprised when people aren’t aware of the concept of taking a stress inventory, and that there are online tools for doing so, free. If you google it, you can find a form – and an explanation – that will allow you to know how much you’re under now, how much of a risk that is for major illness, and then to keep an eye on it over time.

      Caretakers should know, monitor, and relieve as much of the stress they’re under as possible – and often don’t realize it. Being in charge of another human who won’t get better is very hard.

      Most of the time that hits people for the first time when they care for their parents. I watched the toll it took on my mother when she and her sisters supervised and took care of my grandmother. My sisters took care of my parents – they’re in Mexico; my SIL took care of husband’s parents.

      It goes on for a long time, another major problem with stress.

      And I have a chronic illness, a misunderstood and often disbelieved one – I have to watch myself carefully not to let it win.

      At least I get the concept, and work on the relief – just got up from first nap.

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      1. acflory

        I’ll do a search for that stress thing. And yes, it does go on for a long time. With Dad, I tried to relieve the stress by playing games ‘after my duties were done’, but I didn’t have enough mental or emotional energy left over to look after my own health. Oddly enough, I avoided it because it would have caused /more/ stress. -shrug-

        Chronic illnesses generate their own, unique brand of stress because of the fear factor. I’m glad you understand your own illness, even if you can’t ‘control’ it the way you’d like.

        I think we have to congratulate ourselves for every win, no matter how small.

        In case we don’t have time to chat before xmas, I wish you and your husband and safe and contented festive season. -hugs-

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Thank you – and I hope you and the offspring have the best Christmas possible under the circumstances. At least your country is doing better than mine.

          I’ve known about the stress inventory since my grad school days, it seems. When I was a younger working mother, it led me to seek help. Unfortunately, stress was probably a contributing factor to getting sick – but millions of working mothers manage.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. acflory

          We have an outbreak happening in NSW [I’m in Victoria], so the state borders will probably be closed again. There goes xmas. To be honest, we were growing complacent. Much needed reality check.

          As for working mothers. Do they manage? I was lucky enough to be able to ‘work from home’ as I did tech writing for the husband’s IT company. But the stress of being sole caregiver and writing in nap times and the middle of the night took its toll on me too. I cannot imagine how young women these days do it all. Something has to give, and I suspect it’s their long term health. 😦

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        3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Their long-term health is the ONE thing they need to protect!

          I am proof that if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.

          My new doctor had her first at 36, ten months ago. I had my first at 36. We understood each other immediately.

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        4. acflory

          Ah hah! And she’s back at work? I bet you went back to work soon after too. I had my one and only at 34 so I’m up there with both of you, but my Mum was a stay-at-home mother so I felt compelled to be one too, as much as possible. But the ex worked 14-16 hour days so there were times when the loneliness almost drove me insane.
          Please tell your lovely doctor that she needs to look after herself too. She probably won’t listen, but we have to try. Trying to be ‘superwoman’ is a load of codswallop.

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