Stress Rhinos

I don’t handle stress well.  Have a good laugh at that, because it was a joke.  No no, in reality it’s much, much worse than “not well”.  I react to stress the way I imagine an infant would react if he were being charged by a pack of flaming rhinos who wouldn’t halt until he solved a Rubik’s cube.  I go through my own Kubler-Ross series of emotional processing.  

disbelief 
They’re certainly not going to continue running at me.  Surely they’ll tire or get distracted or have a sudden hankering for a cheeseburger.

shock 
How are they still running?!  Don’t they realize they’re on fire?!

frustration
God damnit, I got the green, but then to get the blue, I have to ruin the green.  Who came up with this hell toy, anyway?

terror
THEY ARE NOT THAT FAR OFF AND THEY ARE STILL AFLAME

determination
I will craft a horn from the earth around me and begin to run as one of them.  I will beat the odds!  I will survive this!

anger/indignation
I’m a fucking baby.  Why am I lying in a savannah anyway?  Where is my guardian?!  Who is so irresponsible as to let a baby alone with all these rhinoceros roaming about?  And this toy is far too advanced for my current cognitive stage.

regret
This is my own fault.  Every 3am feeding session I’ve demanded, every big poo I’ve taken that’s smudged up my back, every time I’ve pulled the dog’s ear until it plays dead in hopes that I’ll get bored and find something else to ruin… it’s all lead to this moment.

bargaining
I swear I will never throw another cheerio under the fridge if you just call off the rhinos.  Okay, okay, that’s unreasonable.  I will at least not eat them four months later when I find them.  Not while you’re watching at least.

acceptance
Well I can’t exactly remove myself from the situation, can I?  My legs are like walking on warm glue sticks.  I guess this is happening.  Maybe nobody will yell at me for hoarding legos down my diaper in heaven.

That’s a pretty accurate analogy.  Only I am not an infant.  I am a grown ass adult.  It’s much less adorable when I panic.  My emotions culminate into this spectacle that is likely both horrifying and amusing to those around me.  

I recently took a big exam that was the final step in entering into a new career field.  Everything was riding on this last push.  The pass rate was beyond poor.  Stress levels were not low.  Now, this was the third in a series of mandatory tests, so my loved ones were not blind-sided by my behavior… but expecting it doesn’t make it any more endearing, does it?  The preceding several months had been kissed by a steady, low volume flow of stress, but things really began ramping up to an epic climax about a week before my final test.  I announced to my boyfriend that I would be simply unavailable to him and his needs for the next seven days.  Off to a good start; people love hearing that.  I organized an insanely anal retentive schedule that can likely be used as evidence if ever I need to plea insanity in a court of law.  I was well aware of the fact that if anything unexpected occurred, I would not be able to handle the pressure of reorganizing my time and would likely shrivel into oblivion like when you hold cellophane too close to a flame.  But no need to worry!  I got this shit.

It’s good to remind you here that I am already a bit over-passioned.  If I’m outside of a very restricted emotional range, I’m crying.  It doesn’t matter if I’m happy, sad, angry, frustrated, excited, surprised, constipated… if I’m too much of it, I need to cry it out before anything productive can happen.  And that’s when I’m level-headed.  Like, that is best case scenario.  The fact that I have any friends baffles me.  I must be insanely charming in my moments of lucidity.

I ate two full sized bags of M&Ms that week.  I cried in the shower three times.  After telling the boyfriend he was temporarily dead to me, I became upset that he didn’t pencil me into his schedule.  I screamed senseless profanities at people in traffic.  I wore the same socks for three days.  I wrote a flashcard that said “FUCK” on one side and “THIS” on the other.  I watched an episode of a slightly emotional TV show as I was preparing dinner one night and was weepy about it for the rest of the evening.  I was demented.  My reasonable self had vacated the premises and my unhinged doppelganger had taken the reigns.

Against the odds and evolutionary pressures, I survived the week.  The morning of the exam, I woke up feeling peaceful.  I texted the boyfriend a lovey message and ate breakfast with my roommate.  When I showed up to the testing facility, the proctors would never have guessed that a mere eight hours prior, I was unabashedly insane.

I passed the exam and that was it.  Just snap!  Back to normalcy.  I could tell the boyfriend thought it was some sort of mirage.  He tentatively approached me, partially expecting reasonable Emily to dissipate and to be faced with lunatic Emily again.  I, meanwhile, was mystified by the kid gloves everyone seemed to be using on me.  Why?!  I’m such a pleasant, well-mannered individual!  They’re so silly.

On the one hand, it’s nice to know I can compartmentalize enough to survive stressful situations and still revert back to a mostly agreeable individual.  On the other hand, it’s fairly unnerving to know that at any moment, Mrs. Jekyll could be invited to the party and I can’t do a damn thing about it.  But you know, that seems like a problem for the future.  In the meantime, I’ll just play with my Rubik’s cube and read up on rhinoceros diversion.

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23 thoughts on “Stress Rhinos

  1. you are adorable. also, if it makes you feel better, you’re totally not alone in your ability to come completely unhinged when faced with stress. I’ve been kinda stressed out about life in general lately, and on Sunday I for some reason decided to run a trail race I hadn’t registered for, but I was running late and when I showed up there was NO parking and then I realized they probably wouldn’t even let me register two minutes before the race so I turned around and drove home SOBBING. and then I SOBBED to my boyfriend and yelled “WHY AM I SUCH A QUITTER?!??” and then I curled up under a blanket and ate like 6 Thin Mints and then in 10 minutes I was normal again. seriously, he’s a saint.

    • I loved how you captured every moment! Your writing style is awesome! It provided for a hilarious read – while still getting your point across! You aren’t alone! I am the baby in a basket raft on a swampy mud hole in the Everglades with hungry gators and huge snakes approaching quickly!

  2. Congrats on surviving all of it! And congrats to your boy on surviving you. Please share the results of your flaming rhino research? (We are so related.)

  3. I love this I feel exactly like this as well my doctor calls me bipolar I call it overreacting my mother calls me schizophrenic so I don’t know what i really am- overly- worked, overly-stressed, under paid,call it anything you want this was a spectacular blog and I absolutely enjoyed it throwing cherios!!!

  4. “I am a fucking baby. why am I lying in a savannah anyway?” had me choking on my gatorade. this is so accurate and amazing. and, to echo the comments above mine, you are absolutely not alone.

  5. I totally identify with you in this, my own experience is that I’m like a bad tempered toddler under times of stress and when the fury builds up too high I have to hit or smash something (I’ve gone through two phones and a laptop this way, plus having to replace doors in my home). I’m not proud of this and I never do it in public or to other people, but it’s like in cartoons when steam comes put of people’s ears…. Except the steam valve on my temper doesn’t work and if I don’t scream or throw something I’m going to explode haha. I’m a thirty year old toddler, so thanks for sharing that, it makes me feel a little less ashamed.

  6. Honey, is that YOU (lol)? Wow, this sounds terrifying familiar! May Peace be with you (and especially your boyfriend, poor dude)! Brilliant analogy, sort of a “Saw” kind of feeling, like the trap is closing.

  7. Yessss – all of this. I just finished up my master’s thesis, and there was (minimum disclosure) a full bag of Starburst jelly beans and a too-long-to-be-empathetic-with laugh/crying episode involved. Congrats on getting it done!

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