I have a confession: I have a superpower.
It’s not as exciting as flying or laser vision, and it’s not powerful enough to save the world. It really only affects me, actually.
You see, my superpower is my mind. And that power only works on my body.
Sometimes, it’s a great gift. I’ve stopped runny noses from turning into full-blown colds and prevented my period from arriving at embarrassing moments just by thinking about it (Yes, I know this might be giving it too much credit, but use a bit of suspension of disbelief here).
Most times, however, it’s a gift I would rather not be endowed with. I’ve woken up with hives on my face, developed itchy patches of eczema, and delayed my period for worrisome lengths of time. I’ve felt all manner of headache, stomachache, and unexplained pains, and convinced myself I was dying of something hundreds of times over. It’s not until I visit a doctor – and believe me, I’ve seen a lot of doctors – that I realize my symptoms are not evidence of a disease, but of my unfortunate ability to wreak havoc on my body through thought alone.
To be frank (and to put this troublesome superhero metaphor aside), when I get stressed, my body shows it. And if my body is to be believed, I’m stressed pretty much all the time. When I consciously think I’m having a great week, a hive will sprout on my hip or my throat will constrict to tell me otherwise. When I get that signal, I remember that lit essay, work shift, or impending social interaction that I haven’t realized I’ve been dreading.
Some might think that it would be nicer to experience stress as a rash or a stomachache rather than a storm of anxious thoughts, but from my experience, it’s just as unpleasant, if not more so. At least when you’re actively thinking about what you’re worried about, you can begin to work through it. When you’re learning about your stressors secondhand through odd bodily symptoms, you have to determine whether you’re experiencing an allergic reaction to dinner or just worried about a test before you can start sorting it out. And it’s certainly no rose garden when you start experiencing worry and its physical symptoms at the same time (realizing the lump in your throat is stress and not cancer is not the same thing as making it go away).
Luckily, once I figure out that a weird symptom is stress and not illness, it eventually will go away. I haven’t had a hive for almost a year. But my mind, like a clever comic book villain (the metaphor will not be put to rest so easily), adapts each time I uncover its plot. In a few weeks, something new and strange will happen to me that will convince me I’m on the brink of death until I notice that it occurs suspiciously close to my deadlines.
So why am I telling you this? Partly because this blog is a place to share my thoughts, and this power of mine has been on my thoughts quite a lot lately (as doctor’s appointments have been on my calendar a lot lately). I’m frustrated, and I want to let it out.
But I’m also sharing this to reach out. I know I’m not alone in feeling stressed out, and hopefully reading this has given you some degree of comfort or camaraderie. But am I alone in experiencing stress in this way? I’m curious. Have you or someone you know been blessed (or cursed) with this superpower as well? Feel free to comment – I promise, revealing your secret identity could be a good thing (I also promise that I am done with this metaphor). Who knows, maybe we can form the Anxiety League or something (I lied. Now I’m done with this metaphor).
Image credit: http://content.mzl.com/quantitative-creative-hbr/