Stress is an elastic band that gets stretched and stretched until it snaps. Stress is something you get used to living with so that only occasionally do you acknowledge it. Even those close to you start to attribute your grumpiness, sarcasm and low tolerance of frustration to your personality.
‘He has lived with stress at work for so long he doesn’t recognise it’
It’s the year on year stress that does the damage that leads to heart attacks or strokes. In my case stress was a factor in my quadruple heart bypass, probably the primary factor. Of course, I was lucky − a timely bypass is nothing compared to the devastating effects caused by a heart attack or stroke.
This is upper most in my mind as I watch a programme in which Andrew Marr’s wife Jackie Ashley tells of the impact of her husband’s stroke on her as his main carer. He is, of course, is a high profile journalist and presenter and she is a columnist for a national newspaper so their story is newsworthy, whereas for the majority it just a personal tragedy.
After my brother had a heart attack he kept saying, “But I am fit and slim; it just came out of the blue.” He too has lived with stress at work for so long he doesn’t recognise it.
I am not thinking about any of this I’m travelling back from a day out with my grandson. We pass through Sherwood Forest and I say “Do you know who lived here?” Much to his delight, as a clue, I start to sing:
He asks us to do it again and my wife and I oblige.
Now my former colleagues would never have expected their intense, driven, demanding and occasionally stern director to behave like that. Has my personality changed? No, but my stress levels have.