When Things Go Wrong

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut

Setting aside the news (which is a heavy lift right now, believe me, I’m so angry about the state of the world I could spit venom), the past couple of weeks have been rough.

I’ve started a new contract that is really exciting and challenging, but I’m not going to lie, it’s not always easy. There are a lot of structural issues to overcome, a less than ideal staffing situation, and frankly not quite enough budget to do what I want. On my good days, I see these as problems and puzzles to solve, which my personality loves, but on rougher days I’ve had a few moments of wondering how on earth I’m going to be able to accomplish what I feel needs to be done.

Gotta laugh.

Dealing with this has thrown off the habits that are usually so good at keeping me healthy and have put me at the best personal performance that I’ve experienced in years. Stress at work has fostered an uptick in my anxiety while workload has made it harder to exercise or keep to a schedule, which has made the anxiety worse, and in turn completely upended my sleep habits.

And then, our apartment sprung another batch of leaks which flowed for a week in spite of any number of increasing irate or panicked phone calls and emails to every person we were directed towards. The flowing water kept me up at nights, exacerbating the sleep situation, a smell of damp grew which was making me ill, we had to set up rubbish bins and buckets in two rooms of our house and couldn’t use our master bathroom. Eventually I had a full blown migraine attack at work, which triggered vertigo, sensory overload awful nausea, and general embarrassment. I looked and felt like something the cat had dragged in, which is NOT how I want to present myself in the workplace…but I didn’t want to go home because goodness knows home hasn’t been a restful place.

I didn’t realize how much of a haven and safe space our apartment was until it became so badly compromised. I’ve been so proud of the house we’ve put together in this space. Having damage spread throughout which we were powerless to stop and had next to no help resolving has felt awful.

Finally, this weekend, part of our ceiling collapsed at 4 in the morning.

I. Was. Done.

We sent off some blistering emails and spent the day sorting our apartment out to the best of our ability. We got some commitments from the landlord (who, to be fair, seems like a perfectly nice man who is equally annoyed with the lack of response we’ve been getting from the two companies he pays to manage his property), and cleaned up the mess as much as we could. For the time being we’ve set up a camp-style bedroom in our living room, but if there isn’t a solution in place by Monday or a timeline to fix the damage, I’m not sure what the solution is besides finding somewhere else to sleep–temporarily or permanently. I’m tired just thinking about the potential logistics.

But weirdly,having something happen that forced me into action was really good for me. Anxiety for me often takes the form of free-floating dread and a growing since of doom that I cannot stop, resolve, or calm down about–usually about circumstances completely beyond my control. That’s the problem. I hate not being in control of things or feeling like there isn’t an action I can take in response to problems. So while the last thing I wanted in the world was a ceiling to fall in, it gave me something to do in response.

I’m not sure what this says about my eccentricities as a person. I’d ten times rather something really bad happened that requires me to do something than the swirling dread of a potential catastrophe. I’d rather the lightning bolt strike.  Which got me wondering how you, the faithful coterie, manage your stressful situations. Do you avoid? Problem solve? Preempt? Disengage? And what techniques or practices help you rebalance when a situation has thrown you off your game? Lend a girl some tips!

3 thoughts on “When Things Go Wrong”

  1. Poor you! Nothing is worse than a shitshow in your home — the place we go to unwind and REST. The landlord MUST give you a major discount on your rent (I’d ask for at least one free month) and/or pay for you both to stay at a hotel until this is resolved. This is outrageous!

    As for managing stress, well as someone with a breast cancer diagnosis out of the blue…don’t borrow trouble, as my Jamaican friend says. Anxiety and worry (to be unkind) are ultlmately self-indulgent and exhausting. Save it for when you really need it! And, even with my medical issues — anxiety and worry will not do a THING to prevent a recurrence or mitigate the shocking nerve pain I felt this week. (so bad I had to sleep with an ice pack on my breast.)

    Save $ for emergencies. Have a solid network of loving pals (as you do) to listen to you vent and offer smart solutions. Lots of VIGOROUS exercise helps reduce my stress (pre-op I was doing spin 4 x a week and even now am doing it, mid radiation, 1-4 times a week, to my MD’s delight.) Meditation. Self-soothing is key.

    I freaked OUT this week about the pain and one of my seven (!) MDs kindly told me “Please do not live in fear.”

    Not sure if this is helpful….

    The illusion of control is only that. When it gets shattered, it’s a hell of a shock.

    1. The landlord has agreed to both those options, I’m glad to say.

      Yes a thousand times yes to the illusion being shattered and shock. Blech. I hate it.

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