Saturday, December 24, 2011

Xanax and Metamucil

So, despite hanging out here, I never really thought I had a “high stress” job. I mean, I always thought a “high stress” job involves life or death sorts of things—like jobs that require you to carry a gun, catch king crabs, rescue people from burning buildings, or insert stents. Whatever stents are, I definitely don’t want to insert them.

Then, beyond the category of job where one’s own possible death, or the death of others, is part of the package, there are those job situations where stress is inherent as well. Such as jobs where your boss is an incredible dick. Or where you really don’t have any job security. Or where you hate what you do, or realize you aren’t capable anymore of fulfilling your job description. Or your commute is two hours long each way. Or those jobs that are just so physically demanding that people burn out by 45. Not having a job at all, and desperately needing one, is its own peculiar hell.

So what on earth should I have to stress about? I could do my job blind and in a wheelchair. They can’t fire me. My commute is eight minutes long and if I get there before nine I can park about twenty feet away from my office. And my office itself is perfect. Despite being underpaid, I have a living wage, and benefits. I am not in any financial distress. I don’t think I’m in any distress at all. As for my personal life, I hesitate to say it is ideal only because I am loathe to draw the evil eye.

But apparently my body begs to differ. According to my body, I am under a lot of stress. Because after asking me a number of questions about my sleeping habits and my general mood, my doctor prescribed me a bottle full of Xanax, to add to the Ambien I’m already taking. Oh, and the antidepressant, because if I don’t take that, I will spontaneously decide to walk into whirling factory equipment.

I guess it was the sleeplessness and the freak outs that led him to prescribe the Xanax. Because in addition to my problems sleeping (even with the Ambien), I will freak out seemingly over nothing, because I don’t really have “something” to freak out about at all. Last time, I freaked out over the fact that my husband put the tomatoes in the fridge. I’ve told him a kabillion times that tomatoes don’t belong in the fridge, and when I saw them in the crisper I went berserk. Like, “FUCK YOU YOU ASSHOLE MAKE YOUR OWN FUCKING DINNER I TOLD YOU NOT TO PUT THE TOMATOES IN THE FRIDGE YOU FUCKER!” berserk.

Pretty fucking berserk. And let me tell you, putting the tomatoes in the fridge is pretty much the extreme of my kind, thoughtful husband’s transgressions. So now, when I feel that berserk coming on, I take a Xanax. Ahhhh…suddenly my husband can put the tomatoes up the dog’s ass and I wouldn’t care.

But what I’ve been noticing since I turned in grades last Monday is that I don’t need Xanax. Or the Ambien. Or, to be perfectly frank, the Metamucil. Because all semester I’ve basically not been able to sleep or poop. Chewing Xanax and fiber tablets all day is really no way to go through life, but life, such as it is, provides no alternative save for quitting my job. And I like my job. Even more than I like pooping. But it is nice to have a rest, at least until Boxing Day, when I have to start working on the four preps I have this spring.

So, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. Sans Ambien, and Metamucil, at least for a couple of days.



  1. "And I like my job. Even more than I like pooping."

    Stella, we all love you here. And we can tell when you're lying.

    You just barely tried to scratch the surface here. All we're really asking you to do is really open a vein. Pour the truth onto the page. Open your soul. Know yourself before you wither and die of regret. We'll love you either way, but the truth will set you free.

  2. Well, Bubba, you're right. But there are aspects that keep me sane, even as the other aspects make me crazy. I like my office, my little corner of the world. I like getting to talk about topics that interest me. I like...well I like being useful. I like having somewhere to go and being productive once I get there. My job gives me a purpose. And I do like getting paid as well.

    But over time I have come to realize that it's pretty thankless, and considering the way things are, and the way I am, it's not going to get better anytime soon.

    It's the never ending parade of bullshit that keeps me in sleeping pills and psyllium.

  3. Stella, you probably get thanks, but never really notice it. Our students are not going to come right out and tell you, "Thank you!" They have their own odd way of showing it, like not looking the other way when you come down the hall, or actually sticking their head in your office door at odd times and saying, "Hi there, Professor!" These are the little ways that they like to say, "Thanks, you are appreciated."

  4. I wish I could help you find a way to harness the bullshit so that you could profit from its power instead of having it be a burden. Compost can be a good thing.

  5. Something as simple as Tantlinger’s lock revolutionized shipping and made lots of people's lives easier by cutting out the bullshit. You can find a way to do it, too.

  6. When I get near campus, my body immediately goes into its fight-or-flight response. From that feeling, I realize how completely stressed I am on a daily basis. That said, I also have the same response when I drive into a Walmart parking lot or step inside an unfamiliar church... so... I wish you well with the Xanax and Ambien and hope that taking the pills gets you to your next vacation. I'm not sure I DISLIKE my job so much as I am resigned to it... where else would I get the quasi-vacations where I actually have to work?!

  7. I always think ahhhh, I've got my life totally under control, in the summer or on a sabbatical. Then I go back to work and my blood pressure skyrockets, my eating habits go to hell, and I start yelling at my partner. And I LIKE my job -- I have awesome colleagues, interesting grad students, and undergrads I generally like. But there is something about the number of balls I have to have in the air that is borderline intolerable.

  8. The need for metamucil and similar substances as a sign of stress is one of those unpleasant surprises of middle age (I used to wonder what all those ads about "regularity" were about; now I understand a bit better, despite the fact that I'm actually quite fond of whole grains and nuts and fruits and similar foodstuffs, and eat a reasonable amount of them, as well as less-healthy stuff). Glad to hear I'm not the only one.

    I, too, am feeling considerably more relaxed in many ways since getting final grades in (one section a bit past the final deadline, but who's counting? it was quite a semester in many ways, and I have, especially, spent many hours cursing our new LMS, and, especially, most recently, its gradebook, which refuses to do many useful things that the old version did quite easily).

    Happy holidays/break/whatever you celebrate (or not) to all, and commiserations to those who don't get much or any break (as we were reminded last year, the online degree-factories chug on regardless of holidays). I'm going to go try to be un-miserable, less stressed, better fed, better exercised, more sociable, etc., for a week or so. See you all in 2012.

  9. Sometimes we're in denial about our jobs.

    I had some major research deadlines, I thought I was handling everything well, plugging away, but at the same time I was waking up with a sore jaw each morning. My dentist fitted me with a mouthguard to wear at night, and at the time I was thinking "I'll do this just to rule out that I'm grinding my teeth to the point that maybe I'm stressed out about something." After I've seriously warped and crushed the mouthguard in a matter of weeks, I realized, okay, if I'm using my jaw like power equipment each night, there must be some serious shit going on in my head while I sleep...

  10. I have noticed generally - not 100%, but generally - for my life that high productivity correlates with low stress and low productivity (whether because of my own distractions and lack of focus or because of petty bullshit obstacles) with high stress. It isn't the time spent trying to work that causes stress. It is the ineffective time spent. I can put in 12-15 hour days and love it when I actually get shit done. I don't always love those phases (while reading a stack of poor term papers I can almost physically feel myself getting dumber), but I often can. On the other hand, I can be screaming for another job after two four-hour days in a row if the time is spent doing bullshit self-audits, distracted by internet addiction, when constantly interrupted or fighting computer problems.

  11. Forgive me for not knowing the latest slang. I know that some people abbreviate Christmas as Xmas (and for some unknown reason, a few buffoons even pronounce it "ex-mas"). What does ChristanaChrist mean?

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  13. One doesn't need to carry a gun in order to have a stressful job. Indeed, when I did carry a gun when I was in the U.S. Navy, things were less stressful. Sane people were -much- less likely to rude to you!

    Say, does this make a case for arming teachers, like Chuck Heston was advocating? "Bobby, STOP TEXTING this minute, OR ELSE..." It might even solve the problem of how teachers get so little respect, these days.

    Physical danger can be stressful. Often, though, it's over in a few minutes, so the stress hormones get a chance to relax. You have to put up with chronic stress, and in something that affects people's lives every bit as much. My best to you!

  14. Stella, you're singing what used to be my theme song; I had those kind of freakouts too, and it's worse when you have kids. Like Prof Poopiehead, I'm cursed with a bad case of bruxism, to the point where I have Stage IV arthritis (TMJ) in my jaw joints. I took Xanax to sleep, Cymbalta to control the stress and anxiety. Ambien, I discovered, gave me storms of nightmares, so that was out. The Xanax did a nice job of knocking me out, so it wasn't for daytime use, though my doc had prescribed me tablets 3x daily for panic attacks.

    Then our asshole dean finally left. Stopped needing Xanax to sleep. Then I finally made it through the tenure process. Got off the Cymbalta (though it was like trying to kick a heroin habit, in that I needed a methadone-like substitute to wean myself off the shit--).

    I hope you find something that helps you de-stress. And poop.

    In the meantime, I wish you the best, and I hope you enjoy your break.

  15. Don't think that quitting teaching is going to make the stress go away. It took me 2 years after I left my position before I got rid of the tension that had built up during the time I was an instructor.

  16. "Ahhhh…suddenly my husband can put the tomatoes up the dog’s ass and I wouldn’t care."

    Does the dog?


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