28 September 2015

Domino effect

The day-to-day difficulties that I face are, by and large, insignificant in the grand scheme of things and I often berate myself for fretting over trivia. However, giving myself a pep talk about retaining a sense of perspective doesn't necessarily keep anxiety at bay. And a succession of minor woes can, in fact, have the same negative effect - cumulatively - as a single, much larger one. 

Last month, my woes began when I took my car in for its MOT. In spite of a low mileage and a solid engine, I always expect some repairs to be needed; it is, after all, 18-years-old. What I didn't expect was that it would take seven trips to the garage to effect them.

The mechanic had to work through a number of possible fixes that took days to complete, so, every morning, I left the car with him and waited with bated breath for The Call. Would today be the day he'd finally resolve the issue, or would it take yet more work that might prove too costly to warrant keeping the car? 

The stress mounted, as I waited to find out whether I'd end the month with or without four wheels. A catalogue of mishaps and errors contrived to drag out the process: a critical piece of garage equipment broke; the supplier forgot to order a part; then, when the part finally arrived, it was damaged.

On visit No. 4, I decided to wait while he carried out the work. An hour and a half later, I'd put my back out from sitting in an awkward position to work at a table in the garage's reception. Within 48 hours, the pain was so bad that I could hardly move from kneeling to standing.

I began taking the strongest possible painkillers...which, within a further 48 hours, had triggered stomach problems. My back was so bad that I couldn't turn over in bed, and concern about my car vied with gnawing indigestion to keep me awake - the resulting insomnia didn't help the situation.

Eventually, two weeks of garage visits - and £500 - later, my car was patched up and back on the road, and my own 'repairs' were also well under way. 

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982/
None of this was either life-threatening, or even permanently life-altering, and I'm certainly fortunate compared to many. Sometimes, though, reminding yourself that others are in a worse predicament is of no help. 

Katie Piper, who was the victim of an acid attack and who spoke at a conference I attended a few years ago, talked about this. Apparently people frequently preface conversations with her by saying 'Of course, my problems are nothing compared to what happened to you...' She always tells them that they shouldn't play down their own feelings and experiences, and she pointed out to us that there were plenty of people worse off than her.

There are times when life can get even the most optimistic person down: perhaps we just need to acknowledge that and be a bit kinder to ourselves when it happens.


Lindsay said...

Oh this sounds like a horrid time - I hope all has improved (especially your back - have problems with mine at the moment so can sympathise). I agree with the idea that because someone else is far worse off, doesn't make ones own problems less. It may help put them into perspective, and I think we should try to retain that perspective, but they are still things we have to deal with which can be stressful.

Anonymous said...

Very recognizable for me

Helen Barbour said...

Ineke, thanks for your feedback - though sorry to hear that!

Helen Barbour said...

Lindsay, thanks for the support - I'm much better now, thanks, though my stomach is still giving me problems! I hope your back improves soon.

ocdtalk said...

I think your last paragraph sums it up. Don't be so hard on yourself :). Hope you are feeling better!

Unknown said...

Another interesting post! Years ago I read 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' and the thing that has stayed with me was not to make every situation an emergency. Being a creature of habit I get stressed when things don't go to plan. I have to remind myself often to calm down and look at the big picture. Glad to hear you're on the mend!

Helen Barbour said...

ocdtalk, thanks for the support. My stomach is still troubling me, but generally things are a lot better, thank you.

Helen Barbour said...

Amanda, thanks for the feedback - and I very much recognise myself in your description about being a creature of habit and not liking it when things don't go to plan! As you say, it's important to look at the bigger picture.