They Say Stress is Natural — But I’m Saying No.

by / 3 Comments / 215 View / October 7, 2014

“Were all the stress headaches worth it?” She asked, and suddenly it all came rushing back. The auras, the scratching, the pounding, the nausea, the hypersensitivity, the days I just laid in my bed hoping it would disappear. The night I called friend after friend to know I was not alone because my skull felt as if it were about to burst due to my anxiety. Just one symptom. It went along with the sleepless nights of agonizing, the loss of appetite, the shedding of pounds as if they were clothing, the feeling of falling apart at the seems, the unhappiness, the feeling that I would never crawl out of my anxious situation, the fact that I didn’t go a day without thinking that I should have been working on my college applications—that there was some way they could be better.  My essays more thoughtful, one more leadership opportunity to seal the deal, or more so, that I would be an inadequate applicant.  That even though I had done as much as I possibly could I hadn’t worked on a political campaign or taken a gap year or worked towards finding a cure for cancer.  That April 1, 2014 would never come and that when it did I would find myself surrounded by 8 rejection letters proving the inherent sense of worthlessness.  Proving that I wasn’t smart enough, witty enough, charming enough, unique enough—good enough.  

So were they worth it?  Was the pain reasonable for the reward? Yes, I got into my dream school.  Yes, I’m happy now. Yes, my symptoms have mostly disappeared.  But was it the right path to the exciting end?  The immense and overwhelming feeling of joy seeing “congratulations” on my computer screen at 5:03 pm on March 27, 2014 in Columbia blue on a note signed by the dean of admissions was the best moment of my life.  Hearing my friend on the phone say “You’re part of the 7%.  That’s amazing” was the icing on the cake.  Three years of hell paid off, but I don’t know if it was worth it. I don’t know if anything would be worth it. 

You can’t live a life sick on stress. When you get to the point where the stress is inescapable, and you can’t crawl out of the incessant hole you’re digging, people don’t understand.  People say it’s normal.   They say everyone is stressed—that it is just a part of life.  But I’m saying no.  You shouldn’t need your teacher to stop you in the hall to ask if you’re all right.  It shouldn’t take weeks of auctioning off beautifully made cheese sandwiches to your lunch table for your friends to finally question your health.  By the time it gets to the parental intervention of sorts over breakfast on a Saturday morning, it’s becoming a close call.  That French toast in front of you may smell, taste, and look delicious, but it is nearly impossible to swallow and nauseating after the fourth bite.  It’s hard to come to terms and it is even harder to tell the ones who care about you.  They can’t see the affects as well as you can though—they need your help to help you.  You may be able to slip your pants on without unbuttoning and unzipping them and your cute skirt you bought two months prior might now need a belt to stay up, but your teachers don’t know that.  You’re parents don’t know that you don’t eat your lunch and you’re friends might not realize the bags under your eyes.      

So, before you get to the point of sickness, tell someone.  Don’t be ashamed.  It is not a sign of weakness.  You have the responsibility to love yourself, to care for yourself, and to speak for yourself.  You are your own best advocate.  Ask for help.  There is no need to be embarrassed.      

  • Halifax Steppenwulf

    Your article raises a big question about the upper echelons of higher education: What does it say about our elite colleges that it’s almost a requirement to be accepted that you work so hard that, even if you don’t end up with an anxiety problem or depression, you’re at the very least sleep deprived and always teetering on the edge of a complete burnout? To me it seems like we’re laying the groundwork for a society where the highest achievers are mental and emotional messes who are held together by a cocktail of drugs to rebalance their neurochemistry or are well on their way to self destructive behaviors and subastance abuse.

    • Fiora

      I don’t think this can be extrapolated to say that everyone who’s in the upper echelon of higher education is a burnt out mess. A mental disorder is not a prerequisite of entrance, and mental illness generally just doesn’t appear as soon as college applications begin.

  • Lena Johnson

    We should be able to avoid this toxic level of stess