“You are doing well. You’re on the rise!” People said around me. Enthusiastically I pressed the buttons of higher and higher floors.

Indeed, lately I feel good and see that my life, according to the social norms, is heading in the right direction. I started exercising, I finally have a steady relationship, and I teach more courses. People are happy for me and I am also very happy for me as well! But alas, if things are going well, I want more. Then I want a ‘normal life’ like everyone else that has no disability.

My spring courses had almost come to an end and I dreamed of organizing an extra course on my own. After all, I was doing well, so why not? Organizing some activity is unfortunately not my strongest quality and it cost me more stress than I had anticipated. But at the time I didn’t want to pay any attention to it. I kept going, because I was on the rise.

A few weeks before the start of that course, fear hit me. Already a couple of times I woke up anxiously, but still I ignored it. The stress continued to increase and in the end I thought: do I really want this? Is this really good for me? On a whim (or was it a firm action?) I pressed the emergency button of the elevator. I canceled the reservation for the location, emailed everyone that it did not go through and made my apologies. A burden fell off me and I could breathe again.

Now the central question is: have I acted well? Did I take good care of myself this time, or did I let myself be guided by my fears again?

Identify stress in time
That remains difficult. I suffer daily from anxiety and stress. But sometimes it is clearly worse. At times I wake up in the morning with a shivering body as if it were electrified. Even this, though, I’m able to ignore. I think that I have to be strong and should not nag about it. The signals can also be more unclear. Then my days become increasingly chaotic. I do everything and nothing at all. Those days can last for a long time, but in the end it gets me down.

So the question is: When do you signal stress in time?

Weighing the signals
You can detect stress or other signals in time, but then you still don’t know how to react to it. This time I didn’t ask myself well enough how serious the signals were. I said to myself: “Ah, dude, tension is part of it. You can handle this!” In the end, I woke up in sheer panic. Only then did I realize that I had previously weighed the signals too lightly.

So the question is: How burdensome and urgent are you signals?

Much on my plate
As I said, if things are going well for me, I want to do more and more, to be more like people without a disability. Then I take more on my plate. I forget, however, that I only have a little plate to fill. Naturally, it is not a good thing to drop everything when a bit of stress and anxiety hits me, to protect myself excessively. In that case I would let myself be governed by fear. Conversely, it is also not smart to pretend that I can handle everything. Then in the end the burden will put me down as well, even worse. The question I should ask myself is whether I can really handle the stress and fears which come with that activity.

So the question is: How much is good for you?

The price I want to pay
Ignoring and underestimating signals has a price. Taking on an activity also has a price. Overestimating signals and doing no more activities also have their price. What does it really cost me and what does it bring me? So I have to wonder what the real price is and if that price is a good price for me. It is not only the question whether I can afford it, but also whether I want to pay that price.

So the question is: Which price do you want to pay?

Endless wavering
Looking back at my decision, the burden of giving a self-organized course and the stress it gave me, does not outweigh the pleasure and satisfaction that I would get from it. If I am realistic and mild to myself, I shouldn’t want to pay that price. So, in this case, it has been a good decision to press the emergency button! Of course, it remains a laborious and uncertain compromise between two extremes of too early & too late, of too light & too heavy, of too little & too much, and of too low & too high. But be on time to signal the stress and ask yourself what it’s all worth to you and what price you really want to pay.

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Rogiér Cenin

I am a philosopher, teacher and experience expert in the field of anxiety, PTSD, depression, personality disorders and just life! I am coming from far and would like to share my experiences and thinking with you.

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