Monday, March 01, 2004

The Dangers of Stress...
Lifted from the Financial Times of London, via, and submitted for your perusal:

If you're really intersted, please check out the comments for the thread in which this was posted on Lucianne's site. There's obviously a great deal of misunderstanding about the consequences of stress on the original thread. Most of the reaction tends towards condescension ("if you can't take the heat..."), or pious lectures ("We must understand that..."). What strikes me as funny about both extremes in the replies is that no one a) seems to take into account just what KINDS of stress cause people to completely lose their marbles and b) just how stress can turn an ordinary, well-adjusted person into either a vegetable or a homicidal maniac.

Well, I'm here to tell you all about stress and just what it can do to you. I did not choose the name of the blog by accident, you know. This is the Lunatic's Asylum for a reason; in the past year, I lost my marbles, big time. A combination of therapy and medications have got me as near normal as I'm ever going to get (normal itself is a relative term. After all, who defines normal?). But I can tell you that stress defininately put me in that position.

In addition to the "normal" stresses of family, job and the fast pace at which we all live, my stress included a few things that the typical stress victim might not always encounter in their daily lives. Being under an airliner as it slams into the largest building in New York City, certainly qualifies as unusual, I would think. Being covered in a layer of dust that used to be concrete, steel, glass and people, would also qualify. Watching people make the dreadful choice about whether to burn, get crushed or leap from 100 stories to their death doesn't help. In this regard, compared to a great many other New Yorkers, I'm not so unique, but when you consider that there are six billion-plus people on the planet, it does put me (and those like me) into an exclusive club.

Let's not forget the stresses those that engaged in rescue and clean-up operations after Spetember 11th were exposed to as well. It cannot be easy, to say the least, to pick through a twisted, burning, pile of steel and concrete, festooned with burnt body parts and the flotsam and jetsom of what used to be offices, your colleagues or your family memebers, with the added danger of the whole thing threatening to collapse and trap you in it as well.

That's stress. That's stress of astronomical proportions. if you''ve experienced anything like these stresses, you too would do things like, walk around armed, be paranoid, watch aircraft to the exclusion of all other activities. You too would jump at loud nosies, dive for cover when the lights flickered, or eye everyone as a (potential) deadly threat.

You might even go as far as to physically threaten someone who sneaked up on you, and since you might be armed, have the means to carry out such a threat. You might not sleep for days for fear of recurring nightmares, stop eating, drink yourself to sleep and often be oblivious as to where you are and what you're doing. You might even wear coats, with hood pulled over your head, at your desk, and perhaps spend time collecting survival gear, hoarding anti-biotics and buying ammunition for the expected Muslim invasion.

Then there are the stresses of everyday life, although I don't know how many of you are stopped multiple times a day by tourists seeking directions to the sight of a terrorist attack. Apparently, people need a map because they cannot find a smoking ruin that takes up 1/6th of the available real estate below Chambers Street without a guide. Many of them seem to need to bring their families with them, and a camcorder to record the event for posterity. A sort of Oprah-like "We were there moment". When you stop to consider that the place is a the scene of a ghastly mass-murder, it does in fact make one think about just how truly morbid, insensitive and stupid your fellow human beings are.

If terrorist actions, turning the scenes of terrorism into a sort of Disneyland, souvenir hunting, and the unbridled and tasteless capitalism that followed (every merchant in Chinatown had 9/11 or WTC T-shirts available for sale the following day, it seemed), don't turn you into an automaton that hates and is disgusted by his fellow human beings, I don't know what will.

I personally can now see why someone might snap and go ballistic in the Great Post Office of Society. I've been there, and fortunately, I didn't hurt anyone.

Just take this as a friendly reminder from your devoted blogger: Stress has the potential to kill, and not just you, but anyone you might choose to take with you, if you were so inclined. Take the time to smell the roses. Forget the fact that you have a deadline occasionally and go to a museum. Play with your kids. Read a good book. Take a walk in the woods somewhere. Life is short enough as it is without you doing your level best to shorten it even more.

And if you think you need it, get some help.

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