Different people respond to stress in different ways.
I have known people shout and scream, over-eat, under-eat, drink heavily. Loose sleep, cry down the phone. I have one friend, a top-of-her-game professional, who carries a bead everywhere soley for the purpose of fiddling with when wound up.
For some people, all interest in life appears to break down. They might still walk through the motions; perhaps they offend people, coming across as distant or rude. Or perhaps they cannot cannot even fake it and the mind simply fails to command the body to function. Even getting out of bed becomes impossible.
I cringe to remember the first time I encountered this. I was a teenager. I was scathing. I told the person to ‘book their ideas up’ (a phrase I’d borrowed from my Grannie) and criticised them for not ‘trying.’ Only after better aquaintance with sufferers from the disease we call depression, do I realise that being depressed is not a lifestyle choice. Inconvenient as depression is for family, friends and work-colleagues, it is one thousand times worse for the sufferer. Nobody wants to feel ‘like shit,’ let alone suicidal. It might be ‘in the head,’ but depression is a genuine and collossal roadblock.
Furthermore, it is not even necessarily triggered by stress. It can even happen to people who ‘should’ be perfectly happy. It can, as far as I understand it, happen to anyone.
But I am not a sufferer and depression is not my story to tell, except to give my support to sufferers and acknowledge that from where I am standing, it looks a much tougher diagnosis than Type 1 diabetes.
The main effect of stress on me is that I start to loose things. It’s as though blood Cortisol also repels small but vital objects. Keys. Wedding rings. Glucometer. Bank Cards. The pen I was using just five seconds previously. Bits of paper with vital numbers scribbled on them. The first sign of stress and all of these things just sprout legs and scamper off. Upping and scampering after them is in itself stressful: there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to find the one small item that you desperately need to enjoy the rest of your day.
Of course, the most useful thing you can say to me when I’ve lost something is: ‘Why the hell didn’t you put it away carefully in the first place, then you wouldn’t have lost it?‘
Closely followed by: If you had downloaded that app onto your phone when I told you to, you’d be able to go online right now and find out exactly where your phone is.
Let alone, ‘you really should have backed up that year’s worth of photos of Tiddler and Toddler, you know.‘
I can only thank the dice of the Gods that my partner rarely says this sort of thing. Rather, he shows great compassion when I loose things: in fact, the blood-cortisol-that-makes-inanimate-objects-sprout-legs gene is strong in him as well. It makes for a kind, understanding household if a slightly chaotic one.
So, this week has been a double first for Toddler: nursery and big-girl-pants. Being Toddler’s parent has been exhausting. When I got home on Tuesday evening to a plea of ‘You didn’t take my car-key to work with you by mistake this morning, did you?’ I knew we were in for a long night. In fact, it turned out to be a very long week.
By Friday morning, our house was spotless. The carpets had been hoovered, every toy-box emptied and sorted out (a small triumph to return a full complement of Tiddler’s building bricks back to the wooden trolly); every drawer had been rifled through; every surface cleaned.
We’d had a great time emptying the wardrobe. We’d found hubby’s oldest garment (‘My Auntie Irene gave me this t-shirt as a present when I was fourteen’), his formal shirt (‘Don’t look so surprised, dear. You’ve seen it before. I think I might have married you in it’) and his second-favourite shirt (‘If I send it to my Mum, do you reckon she’ll sew the spare button on for me?’) We’d also found scores of bras in a collassal range of sizes, all of which I’ve worn in the last decade. Not to mention enough hats to equip two nine-edges challenge runners several times over.
In fact, we had quite a nice time and would have been extremely pleased with ourselves, had the car-keys not remained conspicuously absent.
Who knew how many of those ‘fake pounds for the shopping trollies’ you can accumulate in just three years? How many odd baby socks can be found in the cracks and crevaces of a house, where the only set of car keys is not?
On the third day, Toddler said suddenly, ‘I know where it is. It’s in your blue rucksack, Mummy.’ Who knew that we had so many objects in our house that could potentially be interpreted as a ‘blue rucksack’ by a three year old? All of them seemed to have many pockets, none of which contained any car-keys. This is regrettable, because I became prematurely excited when she first uttered the line and had already planned a blogpost about why one should always listen to one’s children.
Neither of us got any running done all week, but hubby acquired an excellent understanding of the local bus routes and is just a little fitter than he otherwise would have been. He also became adept at entering and exitting the car through the sunroof that he had mercifully left open. This way, he retreived vital items such as the buggy, baby-sling and shoes.
The lost keys had a massive impact on Toddler. The first week of nursery involved walking to and from the bus-station, passing multiple blackberry bushes at which Toddler would normally be allowed to stop and feast. Walking past blackberry bushes is difficult for Toddler and her habitual response to inner conflict is to tip her head back and yowl. I have never been so aware of the importance of teaching her to recognise stress and deal with it appropriately. I sometimes think, when she is bouncing on the bed at night instead of sleeping and I am welling up to shout, that I am not the best role model.
Anyway, I am proud to report that the car-key ordeal, at least, is now over. The damn things have been found: in the pocket of some trousers in the washing-basket. Nobody can remember wearing those trousers.
‘Thank Goodness for that,’ I say. ‘Now. We’d better get ready for this run. Because it’s tomorrow.’
So we put the kids to bed and start to get ready for our run. But we’re tired: it’s been a long week. And it turns out that neither of us can remember where we’ve put our running shorts.