Marriage, Mental Health, mental illness

Coping with Stress in Public

My stress relief plan Part 1

Today I had to sit in a chair in a mechanic shop while our car was being looked at. The car I share with my husband – our only car. It overheated, badly, while we were driving. On the way to the mechanic, which was a relatively short trip but involved much idling at many red lights, my husband was fretting, loudly. Yelling at cars in front of us to move while I stopped myself from reminding him that they could not, as they were sitting at a red light just like us.

I was able to remain very calm until we pulled into the parking lot. We parked in the only easily accessible spot, which happened to be a handicap spot; this worried me a lot more than it affected my husband.

Then our stress roles reversed. I know this is most definitely related to how I no longer had to stay strong for his sake: I went inside into the air conditioning, stuck some gum in my mouth so I wouldn’t clench my jaw (much), and squeezed a Koosh ball that I keep in my purse for such stress relief. J, on the other hand, was trying to talk to me in a rational and calm tone – I was NOT mentally available to speak at this point in time, however. I got to that point eventually, but not until after my hand fell asleep from squeezing the Koosh ball.

My mom picked me up after a little while, and J stayed with the car. We have friends that work at this shop, and they were able to help us right away. This gave me some relief and some feelings of guilt all at once.

(The relief was possibly because I was really worried about the handicap parking spot we utilized, which goes against my principles entirely. Yes, that’s what I was worried about.)

I didn’t have any anti-anxiety medication with me. I haven’t needed to take any outside of my home in probably a year. They live in the bathroom adjacent to my bedroom now, used only once in a great while to help me sleep.

My lack of meds forced me to cope without them. And I did: I focused my thoughts on my breath. I focused my vision on a spot in front of me: a lone dust bunny on a nearby box. I squeezed the heck out of my Koosh ball. I chomped my gum flavorless. And I made it undeniably clear to my husband that I was unable to talk at the moment, but I leaned on him just enough that I think he was aware I love him.

And as soon as I was able, I told him so with my voice. And again, later, via text message.

I don’t exactly know how things will pan out with this car. We desperately need it. Both my father-in-law and my mother generously offered to help us pay for whatever part we will inevitably have to buy and get installed.

Sometimes a bunch of stressors hit at the same time. I haven’t been sleeping well, for whatever reason. J didn’t get the job he wanted so badly, and has to start from scratch with something that isn’t in his new bachelor’s degree-related field. I won’t get another paycheck until the end of August.

It will be okay, says J. We’re going to get through this.

He’s right, of course. I can’t imagine we wouldn’t. After all, if I can get through today’s major stress and long moments of panic with simple chewing gum and a Koosh ball… let’s be honest. I can get through just about anything.


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