As a person who suffers from anxiety, I understand the feeling of pressure. It hovers in the background of my days and dreams. Sometimes I’m aware of its presence; often I’m not. Often it’s just this invisible thing propelling me forward, or rather, away from the agony of the pressure, which doesn’t necessarily lead to anyplace that can be called “forward”—though sometimes it can.
When I become conscious of the pressure’s existence, I can often identify causes. Often, the causes I identify are superficial, regular-life stuff. For example, my mobile phone is on its last legs, and I’m currently embroiled in the stressful process of researching options for a purchase. (This type of task is particularly stressful when you have limited computer time due to a concussion and a double arm injury . . . and also a blog to keep up with!)
But when I examine the pressure further, it’s often the case that the superficial, regular-life stuff is just a proxy for more deeply embedded issues. For example, why is it so important that I get the perfect phone, as soon as possible? Is this a perfectionism issue—a symptom of my tendency to want the very best for myself, no excuses, can’t fail, must be absolutely perfect? Is this an issue of fear—being terrified to go to a store without a reliably working phone, when I could get concussion symptoms at any moment and need help?
One could argue that these are both valid concerns. Why wouldn’t a person want to get the best gadget for the money? Why wouldn’t a person want to avoid being stranded with concussion symptoms?
On the other hand, one could argue that these concerns are not as nail-biting as I’m making them out to be, inside my own head. After all, my phone has not died yet; so perhaps I have plenty of time to make this decision. As to getting stranded, well, this has happened, or almost happened, before. Twice in the past year, I was out and about, suddenly had concussion symptoms, and had to sit down on the pavement. Both times, I had not been sitting more than a minute before a good Samaritan came along, asked me if I was okay, and offered to help. One of those times, I did not need help; I just needed to rest for a couple minutes. The other time, the good Samaritan sat with me until a neighbor I knew arrived to help. And I never felt that I was in any physical danger; I was only in danger of having an exasperating, days-long increase in symptoms (which did not occur in either of these two cases).
Armed with these rational explanations for why I should not be feeling so stressed about my phone purchase, I examine the pressure further. Is this something embedded in my neuropathways, something better explained by nature and nurture? Is anxiety part of my genetics (yes)? Is anxiety something I cultivated as a young child for some reason (yes)?
But, I mean, deciding which mobile phone to get, amongst a bewildering array of options and prices, and possessing a truly ancient phone, while being a person with a concussion—that would be a bit stressful for anyone, would it not?
I go around and around with all of these explanations and come up empty-handed. I feel pressure. The pressure exists. And explanations do not, in the end, really help.
But I have not yet gotten to my point with all this! To be continued next time . . .
What’s stressful in your life right now? Does this stress go deeper than it seems? (Also: what are your thoughts on Google Pixel vs. Samsung Galaxy???)