Under Pressure

A few days ago my back gave out. I wish I could say it was because of a sport injury or a sprain or that I fell down. If anything, it was the opposite of that. I think it was just too much sitting, in fact.

And the stress. Did I mention the stress? Most of it is work-related, of course. I’ve had trouble with work for a while now. While I can take demanding schedules and difficult deadlines, I crumble when I feel like I’m being disrespected and misunderstood, and that nobody has my back. Pun intended.

I have a vacation coming up and I thought I would hold myself together until then. But psychosomatic symptoms are too real. The day the stress really got to me, I was feeling the beginnings of a cold come on by afternoon. I went home, completely resigned to the fact that I would wake up the next day with the flu. But by evening, I felt my back stiffen and I knew it would be something else. I stretched and took a shower, hoping the water would help. It didn’t do much good. I woke up the next morning with ridiculous pain in my lower back and very limited mobility. Four days later and I still haven’t recovered.

I know that a large part of this was my body telling me not to go to work. Of course I listened. I stayed home until the weekend, and didn’t leave my house during the weekend as well. I tried to take care of myself, took muscle relaxants and wrapped up my back every waking hour. I’m getting better now.

But I wonder whether it’s more than just work stress. It seems like I’m always stiff; I can never seem to fully relax. My brain is always operating at a million miles a minute. I always feel like there’s not enough time to do everything that just has to get done. Some of it is important, like buying groceries for my family and working on my schoolwork. But some of it isn’t – it’s just stuff that needs to be done, like ironing and buying my allergy meds. But I worry about it. I worry about everything.

Do we put this pressure on ourselves? Is this stress that I’m under self-inflicted? Society is brutal, that’s for sure. I know that some of it is caused by society’s standards, and those made by my family and my friends and my community. I have to be doubly good at my job because I’m a woman. I have to be twice as hot as everyone else because I’m single. My schoolwork has to be stellar because I’m an international student – an Arab, Muslim international student. I should be aware of political happenings and fashion trends and the latest music and pop culture. I need to be dressed well, and carry a designer bag.

When does it all end? What do I choose, and what should I leave behind? What stress is good, and what is destructive? What’s actually worth stressing over?

I have none of the answers. I just have a lot of pressure.