I live a highly strenuous and stressful lifestyle.
Paradoxically, I feel both loving and hateful sentiments towards this.
A synopsis of my life:
I am a full-time student with three departments (three majors).
I work two jobs.
I am very passionate about my studies and my work to the point where I spend my “free” time learning, investigating, researching, studying, reading, writing, to gain more and add more to my comprehension and development.
Consequently, it is not work for me; it’s a hobby.
At heart, I will always be an athlete.
I’m a fierce competitor; I’m passionate; I am dedicated; I am aggressive.
I run; I box; I workout; I practice yoga.
I have so much energy but I contain it within (for my true, highly intensive self is a part of me that I keep for me- not as a secret, but for focus, self-control, and motivation).
I am an introvert living abroad in a crazy, fast-paced, extremely social and emotionally charged culture in which I am blatantly foreign to in both mind and speech. My mind works in double-time to process the new information and stimuli while attempting to do so in real time.
I am a full-time sister, daughter, friend.
I take any and all relationships I have very seriously and I do anything and everything (to the best of my ability) for the people I love and care about. If a phone call will make you smile on a bad day, you better fucking believe that I will drop my work or sacrifice sleep to talk to you. I strongly believe that the most important thing in life is to improve the human experience– even something as seemingly minuscule as a moment of happiness (a smile) betters a life; I treasure this and make this my goal.
Even within the paradigm of caring (a seemingly positive attribute), there is stress (and a lot of it). It may seem odd to some, but I feel for others (and so intensely at that). I am very passionate and caring that I actually take on the stress of others and carry their burdens (most of the time without them ever realising it)as if they were mine to bear. I do this, mostly subconsciously, because I invest so much care into people. I feel obligated, as if it were my duty, to take on the pains and stresses of others (whether it is individuals, families, societies –the human race even–) and it is extremely exhausting. As a vividly passionate and methodical human being that has the ability to problem solve abstractly and process information rapidly on multiple levels, this is my design.
So, let me reiterate: It’s a love-hate relationship.
I love being this way for I am passionate;
I am creative and vivid;
I have the ability to see things others cannot.
My mind is a gift and I can use it to help people.
There is a polarised sentiment to this for I also hate being this way.
Having so much energy is very draining.
A highly active mind sometimes feels as if you were your own hostage: you are the one that is tied up and blind-folded, but you are also the one holding the gun against your head.
I am a very complicated person in which I have this extreme sense of duality. My mind races with thoughts that I cannot quiet and this is excrutiatingly exhausting. When I am tired, my focus dims and the unwanted thoughts and pains take over and fog up my head. This results in a very deep, internal depression which spreads through my being like a virus. Once the idea of depression is apparent, it multiplies rapidly and takes ahold and, some strains, distort my thinking so much by clouding my clarity and are extremely to fight.
I use the world internal because I am a strange one for emotion. I am a quiet person, I keep the majority of my thoughts and emotions inside and only share them after I have carefully constructed them into their most concise, precise, condensed form for the higher probability of achieving my ideally intended interpretation and understanding to reduce confusion and unwanted judgements.
I also do not like to show outwardly how I feel, especially when the emotions are very negative.
I do not reveal my problems to people, for I believe that I am Atlas in the sense that if I can handle everyone’s problems, I can sure as hell handle my own.
I get this stubbornness and resilience from my mother;
I get the selflessness and drive from my father.
These past few years, my amount of stress has increased exponentially. The internal method in which I bottle emotion and suppress stress is not healthy (in fact it is one of the extremes that is the worst possible thing to do). Emotion needs to be released and this is why:
Since I was about ten years of age, I experienced weird phenomenons of “fainting.” In stressful situations (early on it was mostly social stimuli combined with hot temperatures), I would black out and collapse. As I grew older, the frequency of these events increased.
Last year, when I attended university in the United Kingdom, they increased dramatically. My plate of stressors mainly included: studying full-time, working full-time, and being involved in an abusive relationship. This became so severe that I was passing out multiple times a week. In turns out that I wasn’t merely “passing out;” I was having seizures.
After frequent hospitalisations, one thousand and a half tests for epilepsy, a bazillion EEG scans, and tests, tests, tests, galore, my bizarre health mystery was solved.
I suffer from PNES, also known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. Contrary to epileptic seizures are physiological which are caused by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain, PNES are psychogenic in which they are strictly psychological or emotional in nature. The origins of PNES may be caused by underlying psychological and emotional disturbances, but the symptoms are real. The stress signals are unconsciously converted into a neurological like condition that mirrors epilepsy.
Within this, my body produces too much adrenaline (stress response hormone used in fight-or-flight) and this consequently makes me deal with stress (and relating stimuli) interestingly- usually seizures and occasionally in the form of “panic attacks.”. Stressor stimuli, ranging from daily and seemingly mundane/typical contexts to more complex dilemmas abroad, become amplified for me. If I do not cope with the stress signals appropriately, my body converts the reaction to stress to an electrical charge that mimics the same firings as those in epileptic seizures. It is quite challenging to cope with.
How does one maintain a stressful lifestyle when they have an intense stress-related disorder?
Well, it’s a challenge.
I am determined to maintain my way of life as much as possible. That which pains me the most brings me the most joy. Chaos is my life and maneuvering through it carefully is challenging- this thrills me. Yes, I often get severe depression (especially which the disassociating effects from the frequent seizures) but this comes in waves. I get high-highs and low-lows. I am an organised being and can prioritise my emotional reaction and often postpone them (by pushing them off as much as possible, sometimes to the point where I forget them entirely).
Battling stress has become of full-time job for me.
As an energetic lass and an athlete, exercise and physical activity is my greatest love and escape. When I am stressed, when I need to clear my head, when I want to focus, I put my sneakers on and my headphones in and I take off running. In listening to lectures, news, language studies, and music, I can focus on the one stimulus of the sound as I run the streets of Anatolian Istanbul. Like any student in the 21st century, I am a killer multitasker but I believe that changing the focus from quantity to quality is needed to look at the details and conduct a thorough job. Directing sole attention to one task changes the perspective and allows you to see the detailed and notice things that you would pass over and take for granted if you were not focused or looking carefully. This is the difference between going fast to get many jobs done and doing decent, mediocre work versus slowing things down, putting care and consideration in your work and adding yourself to you work and being creative. In a fast-paced world, it is challenging to slow down but it is necessary for clarity and is worth every sacrifice.
In a similar regard, everyone needs a restful escape too. My dad calls it “healthy mind down time” in which one cleanses the mind. Especially in times of high stress or anxiety, taking a quiet break is healthy. Taking a thirty minute time-out doing a quiet, independent activity is great. I find my escapes in books, I practice and maintain my languages, I release my thoughts through writing, I chill out and watch an episode of M*A*S*H*, I play sudoku (papa Hughes got me hooked), or I close my eyes and listen to music. This also slows down the mind and, by focusing on one task, allows you to re-focus and regain both attention and clarity. With this, one can once again retain the ability to think both logically and rationally. It is not selfish, one needs a break. It is more productive and helpful to take care of yourself in this regard, for when you are healthy and of sound mind, you are bettering yourself and others. It is influential to others and is crucial for sanity purposes. Stress is inevitable in life, but it does not need to control or dictate your outlook on life and consequent demeanor.
Another critical element is sleep. Stress has inflicted me with horrible insomnia, consequently making a perpetual cycle of seemingly never-ending stress that spirals down a deep and dark path only leading downward to negativity and depression. I have been teaching myself how to combat the symptoms of PNES, how to control stress to stop a seizure or get myself out of a panic attack, but the hardest challenge for me has been sleep. I have successfully learned how to focus my attention of a single element, but shutting my mind completely is difficult. I practice meditation and slow down my heart rate and pace of mind, but stress has a tight grip around my brain and I have yet to learn to release myself entirely- I can just loosen the grip now.
Sleep is important, it is the ultimate time of rest where your mind and body can recharge. In today’s mentality (more so in the western world), people are so focused on material life: success (perceived by many to be synonymous with happiness) = money; money = the main focus and goal in life. Due to this, the perception of the twenty-four hours in a day has changed. To some, it seems so short and thus people change their priorities to accommodate their visions for success by sacrificing natural necessities- like sleep. Yes, sleeping schedules, patterns, and rates have changed (dramatically so, especially within the past twenty years), but this damage is not irreversible. Ideally eight hours is prime but, if this is not obtained, never fear: the nap is an amazing thing. There is no shame in napping and the stigma of such is waning for there is truly power within the “power nap.” Taking a timeout to sleep during the day not only boosts energy but it confers both serious cognitive and health advantages as well. Allow me to blow your mind with some awesome benefits to naps: they boost capacity for creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual learning, object learning, and statistical learning, naps also help improve upon logical reasoning, increase reaction times, and boost symbol recognition, as well as improve our mood and feelings, and they are even great for our heart health, blood pressure, stress levels, and weight management.
Consider this as a public service announcement.
Stress is inevitable in nature. This fact does not dictate its course for stress does not have to define or control our actions. With the appropriate responses and counter actions, we can preserve our ideal lifestyle and promote the same well-being and stability for others.
For just ten simple seconds, pause and surrender—that is, soften all resistance— and let the water of life carry you.