They say that certain amounts of stress are good for you - that there is good stress that drives you to succeed and good stress that is a crucial component of the fight or flight stress response.
I think I definitely have a fight or flight response. I would also argue, however, that I have a third response. I think my response 'toolbox' contains a fight response, a flight response, and a fashion-a-new-alternate-reality response.
I think my husband would back me when I say that night waking hallucinations, talking in my sleep and what my mom would probably call "extreme open mindedness" play a key part in how I process stress.
Poor Kenny has awoken to me sitting on the edge of our bed, halfway between the worlds of wakefulness and slumber, doing things like chairing work meetings, talking about lasagna, pointing out insect infestations, grabbing at falling babies... the list goes on and on. He's even had early morning chats with me when he thought I was awake and engaged until he heard me give some sort of ridiculous answer to his question like, "Yeah, my bonus is going to be at least $500 thousand, so our mortgage payment should be fine on Friday." Umm... I work for a nonprofit organization. :-)
I really freaked him out one night when I kept pointing in the corner saying there was a man standing there. Poor guy. Once he's freaked out, there is no sleep in sight for him. Meanwhile, I generally drift right back to Sleepytown and don't even realize what's happened.
Recently stress and I have become reacquainted. In the last month I have gone through a laundry list of stressors:
Annual large scale nationwide fundraising event at work? Check.
Separate health scares for me, my mom, my dad and my grandmother? Check.
Everyone in our household gets a cold? Check.
Mom gets pneumonia? Check.
Son screaming, coughing, teething for 3 nights straight? Check.
Daughter diagnosed with asthma? Check.
Daughter gets ear infection? Check.
Son driven by a frantic me to hospital gasping for air at 3am? Check. (Croup, thank goodness!)
Needless to say, I'm starting to wonder if there is an end in sight!
But, I will say that I have been entertaining myself by observing my reaction to all of this stress. For example, I would say that I responded with the "fight" response when Knolan recently started wheezing and gasping for air. Poor Kenny had to just do his best to do exactly as I said or risk me freaking out. When your kid is in peril, it's amazing how the most mild mannered of us can turn into momma bears!
I observed a "flight" response when we were all sick and I just couldn't handle it all anymore and sent my kids to daycare and just hid under the covers with a box of Kleenex, my precious, precious Tylenol Cold tablets and a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
My "fashion-a-new-alternate-reality" response finally reared its strange head a few times during the last 2 weeks of this insane month. Kenny has reported a few odd conversations he's had with me during the night, and I have noticed that I've had to literally shake my head and wake myself up a few times over the last few weeks when I caught myself sitting bedside re-setting my alarm clock for crazy waking times like 3:11am. I vaguely recollect that one of those times I thought I had a conference call at 4am. Um yeah... I do a lot for my employer, but I think I'd draw the line there!
But fashioning alternate realities isn't limited to my sleeping hours, and I guess I can say that it isn't limited to times of stress either - it's just exacerbated when I'm stressed! I was a bit of an odd kid, and I think some of that has lasted well into my adult years. I recall one span of a few months where I had myself basically convinced that I was the only person with a tongue. I kept trying to sneak glimpses into people's mouths to reassure myself that yes... other people had tongues too. So weird! I went through another phase where I was uncertain about mirrors - I basically kept trying to catch my reflection not doing what I was doing. Likely a result of too many episodes of Twilight Zone or something like that (and at the risk of opening myself up to ridicule, I'll confess that I was at least 16 when this was going on!).
Anyway, while I was at my parents' house recently I think that the stress in my life lately created the perfect foundation for another one of my weirdo moments. I was at my parents' house to help them out after my dad had been rushed to the hospital with chest pains (he's fine, phew!) on the same day that my mom was still suffering from pneumonia AND had a medical appointment at a hospital in a different city that she needed to find a way to get to. I did my part to help them get through that day and stayed overnight to make sure they had someone to count on if things got worse overnight. I woke up much earlier than Mom and Dad the next morning, and I didn't know what else to do besides cook. So, when my parents eventually woke up after their tour of southwestern Ontario hospitals, they found me in the kitchen with their counters covered in muffins, coffee brewing, and soup ingredients everywhere. I kind of feel like it looked like I'd snapped, but I was honestly just trying to use my time there wisely and do something that would help them get through the next few days while they were both recovering from different things.
What they didn't know, though, was that I had just had the strangest moment! I would argue that it was because I was feeling so stressed out and not thinking straight, but anyone who knows me well might counter-argue that I'd have a moment like this on the best of days. This is where my mom's "extreme open mindedness" theory comes into play.
When I went to the basement to look for soup ingredients, I opened the chest freezer and was face to face with the weirdest looking bag. It was kind of frozen/stuck to some other stuff in the freezer and I wrestled with it until it came loose and set it aside while I looked for chicken and frozen corn. Once I found what I needed, I went to put the bag back and I noticed another weird looking bag. They were white bags, so you couldn't see what was in them, but they were long and kind of weirdly bent. I found myself trying to figure out what on earth was in these bags. They were too big to be pork tenderloin... what were they?! Art projects? no. Paint rollers? no. Frozen compost? no. Cookie dough? Please, please, please be cookie dough! no.
Then, before I realized what was going on in that poor, vulnerable little brain of mine, a thought drifted into my head 2 seconds before I realized what was in the bags. I wasn't really seriously considering this option, but there is no denying that this thought fleetingly popped into my head. It was kind of like a stream of dozens of options were scrolling through my head, and this just happened to be one of them.
For an instant I thought: serial killers?
Yup... that's right... I went there. What kind of daughter lets that thought cross her mind!?
Thankfully, I suddenly realized they were fish from my dad's fishing weekend up north. I quickly abandoned my plan to sneak out the basement window into the backyard, grabbed the chicken and the corn and headed upstairs.
I didn't feel relief because I wasn't seriously considering the serial killer option, but I did have a big nerdy laugh all by myself about it. I probably needed one at that point!
I, of course, couldn't resist telling my parents, and although I caught a glimpse of shock pass over my mom's face before she broke out laughing, they fortunately thought this was pretty funny, and figured it would be a good story to share with Dad's fishing buddies.
So, I really, really hope that my son's trip to the ER is the grand finale to this latest string of events - it will feel good to get back to a normal routine and normal thought patterns. :-)
I have to wonder, though... am I the only one whose brain works like this?