What Stress Does (Or, My Steady Descent into Madness)


Hello, internet people! I am presently sitting diligently in the study area of the library in my lovely castle school in England. I have just had two Coke Zeros and an entire bottle of Crystal Light energy water. I also ate half of the mini cake my mom sent me for my birthday and there is an open bag of fish crackers (aka Goldfish as most people call them) on the desk beside me. I am wearing my sweatpants and a t-shirt and my bangs are pinned back because I mean BUSINESS. I ought to be at the height of productivity right now, racing through the outline I’m working on like it’s NOTHING.

Instead, as you can see, I am typing a blog post. The reason for this is that I seem to have completely broken my brain. Never has the stress reached such a level, but apparently the addition of travel and British weather to my normal school regimen has utterly defeated me. The lack of sunlight and warmth has sent me into a state where most of what I do is huddle irritably under the blankets and curse the universe. Also, there is probably not enough Taco Bell, Chinese food, and chocolate in the whole of the UK to satisfy my need to eat in order to alleviate stress.

I had to battle a hoard of old ladies to get my hands on this.

The past few weeks I have sat around moping, sleeping, and eating. I have then gone to the gym in a spiral of guilt hoping to somehow make myself lose 10 pounds while still eating everything that I encounter. My face has erupted into a terrifying mine field of pimples and blackheads that won’t be extinguished no matter how many times I wash my face, avoid wearing make up, and slather up with facial creams. My bowels are in a constant state of utter rage and confusion, refusing to function properly no matter how much Activia I chug (yes, go ahead–laugh and do the jingle, you know you want to). I am constantly tired, yet when I lie down to go to sleep every worry I have ever had attacks me in an army of self-hatred and stress that threatens to strangle me.

And yet I can’t summon the will power to do the one thing that will make all this stress go away–actually DO the work that’s stressing me out. Instead, I spend a lot of time sitting around thinking about how sad it is that I have to write a paper and a short story between now and the end of the semester. I feel as if my ability to be creative has been sucked out by a hoover (that’s what they call vacuums over here, and some of them have FACES. It’s either adorable or terrifying, I’ve not decided). As an extension of that, my ability to write an actual scholarly paper is floating somewhere back in last semester, completely beyond my reach.

While I recognize that I am still a capable and intelligent human being who will at some point write this paper about Chaucer’s treatment of women and will even somewhat enjoy the topic because she did, after all, pick it herself, that seems very far away at times. What seems more present now is my desire to fly to Malaga where there will (presumably) be sun and warm. What seems even more present is my urge to bake something, because that is what I normally do when I am stressed. I daydream about my kitchen constantly. When I’m not doing that, I daydream about what it feels like to be warm, because that has become a virtually foreign concept. But most of all, I daydream of the magical day sometime after April 18th where there will be no papers and no homework and all I will spend nearly two weeks traipsing about Italy with my friends and generally not worrying about things.

Remember this thing? Well, I sure don’t!

Clearly, stress has dissolved me into a being made up mostly of two things: Odd desires for food and warmth, and a slow deterioration of all normal bodily functions. Apparently, THIS is what happens when stress attacks overseas and you can’t cope in the normal ways.

But don’t worry (because I know that you are dissolving into panic mode at the evident decline of my mental and physical capacities.) I’ll be fine. I’ll muddle through. And a long weekend en Espana is bound to refresh me enough to defeat this honors paper ONCE AND FOR ALL!


Stress, Health, and Sleepless in Dusseldorf

Hello, internet people! I’m bringing this to you from my bed of sickness and woe, where I’m trying to recover from a health flare up due to my poor inability to cope (physically) with stress. My little lecture to you today is STAY CALM. Don’t sit, obsess, and stress because then you’ll make yourself sick. Like me.

Unlike me, however, you probably didn’t spend this past weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany with two of your closest friends. So on that count, I’m going to have to tell you all about it.

Our triumphant moment when we reached the platform on time.

We started off Thursday night, taking the last shuttle in to town and then hopping on a (pre-reserved) train to the London Stansted airport. It was a night of firsts for me–my first train ride that involved changing over was the first of many. We had a bit of worry when our first train was running a few minutes behind schedule, but still managed to make a mad dash and successfully reach the platform for our next train in time to get everything going smoothly. Already exhausted, we found ourselves at last in the airport, where we headed over to the many, many chairs and staked out our spots for my second first–“sleeping” in the airport.

As it turns out, however, “sleeping” in the airport actually involves sitting upright (or perhaps lying down if you can find a big enough row of chairs without armrests) for the night, waiting for the time to pass until they open up your gate. We did a bit of reading, took several walks around the airport, looked at menus for Crepe Affair and Krispy Creme, shopped around the convenience store, and otherwise generally tried to pass the time. But finally, eventually, the airport came slowly back to life around 3:30AM and we prepped ourselves to get up, find the Ryanair check in desk, scamper through security and then… wait. Again.

One thing I’ve learned about Ryanair and flying in general is that sometimes, they don’t like to announce your gate for an extended period of time. So instead you get to sit around in a crowded mess of people, surrounded by some of the weirdest, most ridiculous shops you’ve ever seen, and wait to be told where to go. Anyway, eventually our gate opened, we boarded the plane, and arrived in “yet another on time Ryanair flight” to Dusseldorf Wesse airport. Which, as it turns out, is a good hour and a half shuttle ride outside Dusseldorf.

An hour and a half later, we hopped off the shuttle and scampered quite literally into the first restaurant we saw. Tired and hungry, we let Gina order us all roughly the same thing–a chicken doener, which was this fabulous sandwich type thing with chicken and various other bits, including some blocks of what I think was goat cheese. I don’t know if it was the hunger and exhaustion or not, but it was about the most delicious thing I have ever eaten.

After wolfing those down in about ten seconds flat (seriously, we were wild animals by that point) we bravely headed off towards the tube (or U-ban, as the Germans say) station. In another new experience I found myself riding the subway for the first time. Didn’t have long to be excited, though, because soon we were stepping out into the sunshine (ish) and heading down the road towards our hostel. Which, really, was more like a hotel. We had a four person room, the three of us being the only people in it for most of the first day, and en suite bathroom and shower. We happily took off our (heavy) backpacks and freshened up a little bit before bravely embarking out again to see the city.

It’s a funny thing, being somewhere where you don’t speak the language. It seems quieter, for one. Even though you still pick up snippets of conversation, they don’t mean anything to you, and you quickly tune them out to a whole new level. It’s also terrifying, however. I found myself cowering behind Gina, whispering to her what I wanted to buy and then having her take care of it for me. It was a little bit frustrating, feeling so helpless. It also sent my brain into “foreign language mode,” which for me means Spanish mode, and which does very little good in Germany.

The city itself was great. We explored a lot of the various shops, running across Barenland, our one destination of desire, completely by accident within the first few hours. Barenland is a shop devoted entirely to gummies of all sorts. But mostly, of course, gummy bears. We stocked up and then headed back to the hostel for an early night, seeing as we hadn’t slept the night before.

The next morning we woke up and, low and behold, a fourth person had shown up in the night. As we soon came to know, her name was Jacky, and she was awesome! She joined Lesley and I for breakfast, where we got to talking and learned that her best friend was studying abroad in none other than Cincinnati, Ohio–my very own home town! It really is a small world out there! Then we all headed back upstairs, where Gina, Lesley and I prepared to embark and we exchanged numbers with Jacky to meet up later.

A lot more shopping ensued. We eventually did meet up with our new friend Jacky and shopped a little more, then stopped in for lunch. Gina and Jacky stumped us all by having conversations in German while Lesley and I looked on, completely stumped. We had a bit of German frozen yogurt, which was delicious, and just generally enjoyed exploring around town. We picked up some drinks and supplies for dinner, headed back to the hostel and chillaxed for a while. I got a little sugared up and had a Smirnoff and ended up essentially putting on a concert by singing my favorite song, Straightjacket Feeling, so loudly in the shower that Gina and Lesley could hear me (sorry about that again, guys. It’s just a really good song).

Too tired to remember what excitement looks like.

The time came once again to tuck in, and we got all packed up for the VERY early start of 2:30 AM Germany time, in order to set out by 3 and walk to the bus stop that would take us back to the airport. A quick morning walk in the slightly misty air, and we found ourselves shoving on to the bus like sardines, then it was the whole airport deal, a flight home, several hours AGAIN waiting in London Stansted for our train to show up. During that time, I ate my first crepe–a basic sugar and butter crepe from Crepe Affair. My verdict? It ought to have been a cinnamon sugar and butter crepe, but was otherwise delicious.

Finally, our train came, we rode awhile, made one switch, phoned a Taxi, and finally, finally found ourselves back at home base, Harlaxton Manor. At this point, we were content with our weekend but completely loopy from sleep deprivation.