Surprise! Stress approaching!

Sunday morning. Breakfast in bed with a steaming, sugary latte and the sound of white noise lingering as the tv news reports murmur and traffic starts to build outside. You munch a pain aux chocolat (because you’re classy…even if the pastry is landing all over your Egyptian cotton sheets) and sip at your coffee, savouring the taste from each mouthful.

This is what Sundays were made for, isn’t it?

It’s misty outside and your partner wraps up warm to walk the dog. As he leaves, you put the coffee machine back on and inhale the fresh coffee beans from the brand new foil bag as deep in your lungs as they’ll travel. The caffeine flows around your blood vessels making you a little jittery as you talk to the resident android.

“Alexa, turn the heating up to 24”

Your lodger from Amazon that still doesn’t pay rent responds positively straight away. You listen to the boiler clattering and bustling to life, indicating she was true to her word.

It’s 8.30am and your 5-year-old is finally stirring. She hollers to anyone listening “I want some milk”, her usual derogitory tone, indicating that to her, you are nothing more than a maid. “What do you say?” you holler back, but with ten times more attitude than she can produce. “Mummy. PLEASE can I have a warm milk”. She’s a good kid but her manners need refining. Her cheek still makes you grin while you place a mug of full-fat dairy in the microwave for 30 seconds. You decant it into her favourite Paw Patrol mug and deliver it promptly. You have no desire to allow a tantrum to disturb this peaceful Sunday morning.

“Here you go darling”. You open her bedroom door and a wave of warmth hits you. Her smaller room holds on to the radiator’s comfortable temperature and mixes with her own body heat. It’s the cosiest room in the house. She takes full advantage of the warmth, barely revealing an arm to snatch away the warm milk, and immediately gestures for you to leave. She has plans with her PlayDoh Barber Shop and doesn’t want to be bothered.

You finish the basic sustenance chores by placing a cup of coffee on each bedside table and rush to snuggle back under those freshly laundered sheets. The thickness of the 13.5tog duvet was possibly your best purchase to date.

Your partner walks back in with the dog. They are both crunching as they move, having been frozen by the iciness outdoors. You can see his breath, but he defrosts quickly, throws his pyjamas back on, jumps back under the covers with you, and places a blanket over the dog. She snuggles instantly and her snores are audible in seconds. Your man passes you the Sunday papers (one tabloid and one broadsheet, so you can satisfy your inner gossip but balance that trait with an up-market read afterwards).

Your Sunday continues in waves of playtime, cuddles, watching TV, reading, and the odd rest here and there. The roast is happily cooking in the oven, with potatoes crisping, gravy bubbling, and a blend of carrots and parsnips honeying.

This is a Sunday ritual you all cherish until you have to give in and housework, homework, gym visits, and Sunday roasts have to be finished.

It’s at this moment, this perfect, pillowy-soft, riding on a fluffy cloud moment, that something totally random, something you could NEVER prepare for, is sent to test you.

How dare you spend a Sunday morning thinking life is good? Because it bloody ain’t. You can’t rest, feel tranquil, relax, rejuvenate or feel calm. Fuck off and deal with some shit for a change. It’s been 24 hours since your last crisis.

Ten minutes ago only positive thoughts were brimming in your mind. It was almost zen, but you’d never admit that in case fate or some wild superstition tried to ruin it. You weren’t thinking about worries, stresses, or strains. No work, school, or raw-nerve provoking is allowed on an easy Sunday morning. It’s an unwritten rule. But you still know you should have seen this coming…

A shock. Overwhelming anxiety rises as you face the reality of an incident you’d never considered. Your peaceful weekend is rocketed back to earth and everything crashes around you. You’ll be putting out fires instead of relaxing today. Fuck zen…this is an all-hands-on-deck situation.

Your coffee spills all over The Times, the potatoes go past golden to decidedly blackened, and the harmony and warmth of the house is forgotten.

This was us last Sunday. We were having a quiet, simple morning, enjoying each other’s company and generally feeling relaxed with the status quo.

What happened? I can hear you asking me. What happened to ruin this harmony?

Our daughter decided to use her safety crafting scissors to cut her hair.

Their safety function makes it impossible to cut or harm yourself, but our daughter found their kryptonite and went to town on her beautiful tresses. Looking away for just a couple of seconds was long enough for her to style herself a ‘new-do’ not dis-similar to the lead singer of a 70’s soft rock band.

I’ll let that percolate for a second.

Now here’s the serious side of the story…

She’s 5 and has only ever had trims. Because of ill health, I’ve lost around half my hair in 2021 and it’s only added to my social anxiety and paranoia. As her mum, I feel responsible to make sure she has the choice to do what she wants with her hair when the time comes. One day she’ll be old enough to make HER OWN decision on style because she was SUPPOSED to have clean, straight, long hair. A blank canvas, if you will.

On Sunday morning she’d styled herself a hap-hazard, spiky fringe, not even a single cm long. Suffice to say the scissors were thrown away and (thankfully) I know a wonderful hairdresser and raised the alarm with her. Also a mum to a toddler, she understood my panic and came the following day to make the best of a bad situation.

My partner found the whole episode pretty hilarious, repeating to me that “It’s only hair” and “It’ll grow back”. Unfortunately, my monstrous overreaction was already in full swing within seconds and any rational thinking was immediately ignored.

But the reality is, for me at least, something like this happening on a Sunday essentially sets the tone for the week. And true to form, the week so far has been f*cking abominable. I’m tired of it and can’t wait until this coming weekend rolls around and there is a fresh opportunity to HOPE for a quiet, restful, zen Sunday that sets a better tone for a fresh week.

I can hope, but I mostly believe it won’t happen.

I know stress is never far away for any of us. Some of us can handle it well, some of us really struggle to get past it. I’ve said before, we’re all just one piece of bad news away from feeling low, sad, depressed, or maybe desperate. These small events build a mountain until you find yourself with such crippling anxiety that you analyse every moment and start actively looking for things that can go wrong.

Rather than enjoying life as it happens, you end up trying to pre-empt what’s coming. That’s no life, is it?

I hate to say it, but it’s actually quite bleak.

But it’s how I live.

I’m in that constant pessimistic frame of mind, thinking that there is a disaster looming and I need to have several solutions ready to try and avoid a direct hit. And it’s not exclusively mentally draining. Your physical self catches up with stress and you end up with masses of tangled pain and physical symptoms that make the anguish worse, which then exacerbates the problem. It’s an infinite loop and you can’t grab on to it and slow down the momentum.

Surprise stresses are far worse than anything expected and have a lasting effect on your ability to believe in good/happy / satisfactory endings to normal day-to-day situations.

In the extreme, paranoia can lead someone to live a very limited and insular life with few people to talk to, talk through the pain with or simply share a coffee and a cake. Those people you mocked when you were a teenager, the ones who looked different, were always alone, never opened their curtains, never spoke to you – the likelihood is they were probably paranoid, afraid, or unable to engage socially. They were anxious.

So I guess the message with this is to remember to live, even if you are so paranoid that you still have to do a lot of planning. Despite my own paranoia, Sundays are still enjoyable in this house (as you probably realise from the depiction above) and we all look forward to it. To be honest, it’s allocated as the only time of the week that I believe it might be possible to relax. There’ll be no post, no rushing to get our daughter ready for school, no forgotten assignments, no unexpected visitors, no phone calls…the usual triggers are removed.

So if you’ve had a surprise stress, however big or small, don’t let it stop you enjoying the stress-free moments that ARE coming in the future. Enjoy them, revel in the quiet, read the agony aunt pages, nap inbetween meals, give up at the crossword, stay in your pyjamas, eat an extra Yorkshire. The more you do it, the more you’ll be grateful.

Everyone deserves stress-free moments.

Everyone deserves peace.

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

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