When we don’t take care of ourselves, we tend to overreach beyond our boundaries, if we have them. I tend to do this when hyperfocused on interesting projects. Unfortunately, this happens at work also.
In the beginning of this year, one of my co-workers had quit and I took over some of her responsibilities. I already had a heavy workload, so to have another person’s work though temporary was a challenge. It was one I was willing an able to handle. But after a month, I was overstretched.
In addition to the heavy workload, the 30-mile commute to the office though only 3 days per week also became more challenging. Maybe it’s because of the increasing population in the bay area and more traffic on the freeway and Caltrain. I had been driving a little car to the office by myself after failing to coordinate carpooling. Carpooling worked fine when driving with my co-worker who lived in the neighborhood. She’s the one who quit.
Little by little, the commute to work added schmerz to my life. This pain from stress started to affect my home life, and I got annoyed by little things my roommates did. Eventually, the schmerz was so bad, I became unable to concentrate at work. I thought about applying for disability, but I didn’t realize at that time that the commute was the root of the stress.
In general, we human beings can handle a certain amount of stress. We develop coping mechanisms and find ways of alleviating stress, like massage or meditation. For me with PTSD when the stress level gets to a not-very-high point, none of these coping strategies work. Stress becomes compounded and I become mentally disabled. This is one reason why PTSD is a disability. The thought of sitting in traffic for more than 15 minutes in either direction inhibits me. (I’ve tried to do sensory regulation on it, but haven’t succeeded yet.) I get stuck at home trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do to get to work. Routines end up stuck too.
To think that I once could respond heroically after witnessing a major catastrophe feels like having an alternate reality. I don’t think I could handle another disaster. When Hurricane Sandy came through, I left New York. Earthquakes don’t scare me though. 🙂
I decided to move. Like I need more stress. But I’m moving slowly, one armload at a time into a temporary space where it’s easier to get to Caltrain. My roommate has been awesome; supportive, understanding, encouraging. I won’t miss her much though, because I plan to visit often.