A Cockroach, a Mouse, and a Barbell

THE BUILDUP

The spider eating a gnat in the bathroom sink on Monday morning should’ve been my first warning that it was gonna be a stressful week. But I chalked it up to “eh, it’s the Army and they never clean this bathroom” and got on with my day. Then Monday night, my hair dryer attacked. Completely ate my hair, so badly that I had to cut my hair free with a knife from the kitchen. On Tuesday, there was a cockroach in the work bathroom, slightly smushed, and still kicking; it got eaten by ants throughout the day. On Wednesday morning, a cockroach scurried out from underneath the fridge in my hotel room and I had to kill it…twice. On Thursday, we started a new segment of training with a new instructor and he lectured at a dead-on sprint while we all strained to catch up. Oh, and then I dropped a barbell on my lumbar from overhead. On Friday, it was more drinking from the firehose in class, and wanting to PUNCH PUNCH PUNCH everything because none of it made sense. On Saturday, my hotel friends who had been here as long as I have returned home to their regularly scheduled lives, leaving me here alone with the hotel transients.

Seriously??
Seriously??

THE CRASH

And then on Sunday, I just lost it. All the stress caught up with me and I just broke down. My boyfriend and I had headed out to the range to practice, and it was a perfect day for it – sunny, slight breeze, 75 degrees, low humidity. We had the whole place to ourselves and couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

Except I was a wreck. I managed to shoot like 3 magazines through my pistol before I just broke down crying. And mind you – I never cry. With no logical explanation for why I was so sad on such a beautiful day, I was left bewildered, disillusioned, and even sadder than I was before.

THE EXPLANATION

But then on Monday morning (after pulling myself together…barely), I ran across an article on the Wall Street Journal about a recent study linking stress to depression. They tested it on mice (of course), and found that under normal circumstances, good things like a ball to play with, would release pleasure-producing chemicals into the mice’s brain. Happy stimulus = happy mouse.

But then they exposed the mice to sustained stress for several days, and that same stimulus had the opposite effect. Instead of bringing the mice pleasure, the ball would just bring the mice irritation, to the point where the mice would avoid the ball entirely. Stressed out mouse = sad mouse.

stress mouse

So it stands to reason that the same kind of scenario applies in humans. We have hobbies and activities that bring us happiness (i.e., shooting, Crossfit, baking, whatever.) But then we get a little too into our hobbies and shoot a few too many matches, or do a few too many Crossfit competitions, or sign up to bake 100 perfect cupcakes for a school fundraiser.   Suddenly the things that used to make us happy, stress us out, and after we push through the crisis, we don’t want anything to do with those activities for a while. We put away our guns; we turn into couch potatoes; and we can’t bear the sight of a cupcake.

My only consolation in all of this is that it’s normal. There was nothing wrong with me last Sunday. I was temporarily experiencing the chemically-normal post-stress crash. This too will pass!

THE SOLUTION

It’s been a few days, and I’m in a much better mental and emotional state than I was over the weekend. Attribute some of it to getting some good sleep. Chalk some of it up to the new topics in training finally starting to click. But I am now thoroughly convinced: there are very few stress-bombs in life that can’t be defused by 1 solid hour with a heavy barbell.

Today I squatted. I cleaned. I deadlifted.  Just good, old-fashioned weightlifting.

The bar was very heavy. But now, my burden is much lighter.

Restoring sanity, one rep at a time.
Restoring sanity, one rep at a time.

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