Stress – that pervasive monster

Prior to 18 months ago my mindset was all over the place. I:

  • couldn’t focus on tasks,
  • allowed myself to be distracted
  • avoided taking on tasks (even though I volunteered for more positions)
  • had trouble sleeping through the night
  • was diagnosed with sleep apnoea
  • had no regard for my family
  • had a constant battle to face each day.

To resolve that panic, I took on other tasks and roles, believing it was right for me.

It all came to the fore 18 months ago when the struggle at work was too much so I resigned. I then panicked about whether that was the right move. To resolve that panic, I took on other tasks and roles, believing it was right for me, but in reality it just fed the avoidance as I could just say I am busy with other things.

I started to neglect my family and withdrew into myself.

With Centrelink now having to pay me the dole, there was a number of hurdles I had to get over. These requirements fed my avoidance quite well as I could take my time doing those tasks so would wait for something more important to come up and then re-prioritise everything to place the most inconsequential thing at the top of the list and the thing that would have the most impact on me would find its way to the bottom.

With the pressure to find work, I found myself becoming a taxi driver, in December 2019. I was so happy with this job as I was only really responsible to myself. If I had a good day, I would collect a lot of takings. If I had a bad day, I just scraped through with the takings. I also found that due to the shifts of 12 hours a day, with 4 to 7 shifts a week, I could avoid everything else. I had to sleep, right?

While driving the taxi, I was at peace.

While driving the taxi, I was at peace. Just talking to passengers, sitting alone while waiting for passengers, and clearing my mind. However, on occasions, I would have a full taxi of party-goers and they would distract me while driving. So I started to accumulate demerit points for my driving.

12 months later, I had accumulated enough points to have my driving licence, and my drivers authorisation for taxi driving, suspended. I was given two options:

  1. Opt for three months on suspension and no driving at all.
  2. Opt for two points for 12 months, but if I lost those points, it would be suspended for 6 months.

Having assessed the risks involved with these options, I decided to take the first one and stop driving all together for three months.

So now here I am after 4 weeks of not driving, and things have changed for the better:

  1. I am sleeping quite well now. For the first two weeks I was restoring myself to a normal daily routine and getting rid of what I call “shift-lag”, like jet-lag having to reset the biological clock.
  2. I discovered niggly health problems: aching joints and bones, numbness in areas of the body, fatigue, feeling of constant unwell, etc. I wondered if it might be due to the lack on sun on me. I spent four days in the garden and improved greatly, so I put it down to vitamin D deficiency.
  3. I am a lot calmer now than I have been for a while.
  4. I have regained roles that I used too have and want to continue with and producing great work in them. Other roles I have left by the way-side as they were too much of a burden for me.
  5. A job opportunity has come up and I just now have to wait for the outcome.

All in all, while it has been a long struggle, knowing it was stress at the outset would have helped all concerned, but I think protocols with employers and the medical profession precluded my diagnosis early. I visited a couple of psychologists who gave me pointers about strategies to deal with what I told them I was going through, but again, my mindset was only willing to tell them what they needed to hear and not what I was really going through.

I felt the stress was feeding on itself. The main part for me was avoidance, and that avoidance caused me to take on more work so I could have more to avoid and avoid the most important things in my life.

I feel now I can tackle the world again, having had that purge, sudden change of lifestyle, the repeat of what I went through while at Royal Australian Navy Recruit School, knocking me down to nothing and then building me up to be a good sailor.

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