I’ve Been Stressed Lately But I Hid It From Myself

Over the last few weeks my back has filled up with knots. I can feel them when I’m sitting down, like big and unnecessary weights deadening my shoulder blades. I’ve started grinding and clenching my teeth in my sleep too. I wake up each day with a strained jaw and a sore mouth. I didn’t consider these things to be as a result of stress until someone looked in from the outside and saw that it was.

This is the thing about mental health – sometimes you don’t know there’s a problem because it’s become your normal version of life.

And of course once it was pointed out to me it became very clear that I’m quite stressed. The stress comes from me. It comes from the pressure I put on myself to be in a different stage in my life. This is such a common form of stress which is rarely addressed because it’s so difficult to articulate. But I will try now to explain these pressures and why they are making me stressed.

First and foremost, I get stressed about my writing career. I’m 26 and I compare myself to writers 10 years my senior, giving myself grief for not being further along in my career. I put so much pressure on myself to write that I cannot enjoy any time spent not writing, because I feel like I should be writing. Therefore, every minute of my life spent away from the laptop becomes stressful because I am not doing the thing which I am putting myself under pressure to do.

Secondly, my day job is not one in which I find fulfilment in. It is a job rather than a career and it has become more difficult in the last year working from home. I feel I should work in a more satisfying role. However, I also know this role allows me the flexibility to write more, and that’s my real passion. Some days I get stressed about finding another job, maybe even in another country, and this adds to the pressure I put on myself.

I also want to travel and to be anywhere but Cork, and it’s not possible. The lack of control can be stressful because there are things I want to do which are undoable which adds to the stress. I also feel stress about my relationship status because I compare myself to others.

Very often I feel lost. I don’t know what the path ahead holds. I don’t feel like I know where I am going. There is solace to be found in having the ability to express these concerns in writing. Yet, some days I put myself under so much pressure to be further ahead that writing also becomes stress-inducing

There is nothing here so concerning or unfixable. The point I’m making is I’ve stressed about all of these things for such a long time that they’ve become normal. And this has hidden the stress. It hides the fact that each day is filled with anxiety and pressure. These feelings have become my norm of late but they certainly don’t have to be. I ignore the feelings because I don’t want to feel them, but this doesn’t make them go away.

In order to make sure the monsters stop existing we have to look under the bed. I am doing that now. I have always prided myself on being someone who is stress free but it’s not true. It’s a lie I’ve told myself in order to ignore all the pressure. But the stress is here – it ties knots in my back and it grinds down my teeth in the night.

So what’s the next step?

If the stress is coming from the pressure I put on myself then I need to show myself more compassion and take the foot off my neck. I spend so much time looking at what I haven’t done or achieved that I ignore the things I do have. Gratitude is an antidote for this pressure. Accepting where I am in my life is a way to relieve some stress. It may not be where I want to be right now, but it’s a lot further along the right path than this time last year.

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t talk openly about my mental health struggles when they happen. I can’t tell everyone else to open up whilst I attempt to battle my own problems behind closed doors. So here’s me saying that there are stress-related problems in my life right now. But at least I’m aware of them, and at least I’m willing to try and work them out.

That’s all any of us can ask for. If you know there are monsters lurking in the dark, turn the lights on and look at them. It’s the only way to accept what they are and stop yourself from being scared.

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