It’s 4:37 a.m. on a Saturday morning and you’re sitting on the toilet, trying to pee. It’s your third attempt in 60 minutes and try as you might, nothing’s coming out. Your bladder feels tight like a balloon filled with water, but somehow your body’s not getting the memo because it just won’t release. Jumping jacks, dancing, nothing has worked so far. Panic is setting in. What if I can’t pee? you ask yourself for the gazillonth time.
Two hours later, you’re lying down on a bed in the emergency room at the hospital. “Your bladder is full,” says the doctor, “This is the only way we can help you pee.” He inserts a catheter into your vagina and your body drifts off into euphoria. Finally. By evening you’re home and peeing has resumed to normal.
Five days later, you’re back at the hospital. This time, peeing doesn’t resume and this catheter becomes your constant companion for the next week. Ever go to the park with your kid with a catheter strapped to your leg? You see specialists, but no one can help. Apparently, it’s one of those fluke things that can happen like running into an elephant on the highway. At one point, you decide to find your own answer and it becomes crystal clear. The problem is stress.
Yes, debilitating stress.
Your mom, love her with all your heart, knows stress like she knows her own name. Growing up, there were times when she couldn’t breathe. Times when she, a single mom, was taking care of you and your brother, and going to school full time, walking 45 minutes there and back each day, once in the morning and back again at night. At one point, soars started forming on her scalp, and thick liquid would ooze down her neck. Doctors tried to help, giving her ointments and shampoos, but nothing worked. Finally, it became clear to her too. Stress was eating her alive.
In your case, the answer didn’t come until you did something that should have been done a long time ago, and that was move. Move your body, as in exercise, because the truth is you’d stopped exercising after your second child. The second was move location. You were living in a city that you despised like cockroaches scrambling on a counter when you turn on the light. Everyday was a constant reminder of how much you hated your life. It’s no wonder your body turned on you. How could it function under such circumstances? Once you moved to a city you liked peeing became as natural as water flowing down a stream. Does water ever have an issue flowing down a stream? For your mom, relief came when she decided to settle down, and that meant literally reminding herself to breathe.
So knowing that stress can be ruthless in its ability to cripple us, what are some things we can do to combat it?
You pose the question to Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Isaiah B. Pickens, and he says that first it’s important to notice signs that indicate that we are becoming stressed. “If activities and people that you used to enjoy irritate or anger you, this is a sign of both stress and possibly depression. Constantly feeling a cloud over your head (or in your head) that makes you say more often than not, “I don’t feel like myself,” is usually a sign that stress is becoming overwhelming.” He further adds that the stigma around mental health issues and the push to create super-moms can make many reluctant to admit these difficulties.
When it comes to doing something about it, he advises practicing daily check-ins. “Sometimes our days can move so quickly taking care of children and dealing with our work/home related duties, that we forget to do an inventory for what is stressing us out and how much it is stressing us out. Taking a moment in the morning to meditate or pray, journaling in the evening, or simply having quiets breaks during the day can go a long way to increase our awareness of stressors.”
It’s true because another factor that helped kick your stalled bladder in motion was that you started writing again. Before that, five years went by and you could barely write your name. Perhaps stress is just another name for mess; the messier, the stressier. But somehow knowing that you were able to pull yourself out of it gives you hope. Especially, even now when it starts creeping up on you masked as excess weight or even pimples that make you look like you’re going through puberty all over again. At the end of the day, there’s always hope.