My Dark Passenger
Stress is my constant companion. I live with it the way other people live with a spouse: it’s always there. You can fight and battle with it when the occasion rises, but, chances are, it’s not going anywhere. The only difference is that I hate stress and am constantly looking for a way to eliminate it, whereas most people love their spouses and want them to stay regardless of the typical disagreements of any relationship.
Not only does stress make me feel awful, but it also prompts me to act like a pretty terrible person. It affects my mood in ways that are positively vile. Most notably, when I'm stressed, I become short-tempered, easily irritated by common events, and quickly brought to anger by harmless comments. During those times of intense stress – which I seem to be under all the time lately – I know I’m difficult to live with. I don’t even like me, so how in the world can I expect others to be tolerant?
A Competitive Field
Take, for instance, Mother’s Day, an occasion that is supposed to be stress-free and spent with friends and family. This year, my sister decided to take my mom for a little shopping and then dinner. Her plan was fine by me; it seemed easy and precluded both of us from having to cook and clean. But at the mall, I nearly went into convulsions when I learned that my sister had bought an expensive piece of jewelry for Mom’s gift.
“I can’t compete with that,” I exploded. Tears filled my eyes as I thought of the yellow gift bag waiting in my car, filled with a DVD and two CDs my mom had been wanting. I'd spent a little less than $50 on her, and now my sister had purchased a nearly $200 necklace. As I stood in the mall, feeling helpless and insignificant, my frustration began to mount.
“You don’t have to compete,” my sister replied sensibly. “This is simply the gift I decided to get her. She understands we each can afford different things.”
At this last comment, I turned on my heel and stormed out of the mall. Once outside, in the sunshine and fresh air, I took long, deep breaths until a small measure of calm returned. Deep down, I knew my sister hadn’t intended to hurt my feelings, but that’s exactly what she'd accomplished with her extravagant gift and insensitive comments.
It's All Relative
I realize that I have a tendency to be overly sensitive about my financial situation, and it’s also become one of the biggest stressors I have in my life. I worry day in and day out about having enough money to keep up with bills, pay for gas, and manage all the other expenses that come just from daily living. But money isn’t the only thing I worry about. I also stress about keeping up with my work, specifically meeting advertisers’ expectations for the weekly newspaper that I manage.
Some days I wish I could lead a normal life and act like a normal human being. I hate being tense and upset all the time. Years ago, when smiles came easily and I anticipated each day with a sense of freshness, the world seemed to hold far more possibilities than responsibilities. Now I feel like I don’t have time to be happy, because I have to devote all of my energies to work. It’s a terrible feeling.
I truly worry that, as my anxiety continues to swallow me whole, I’m turning into a terrible person. I don’t want to ignore time with friends and family because I have to work; I don’t want to waste time being mean and spiteful because I’m bitter and stressed; and I definitely don’t want to spend every waking minute consumed by financial worries. Only I can change all of this, so I just have to find a course of action and stick to it.
Maybe it’s time for a new job?