Comprehensive Stress Management Program Project – Written April 28, 2005

Apology

This is a segment outside of my project I’ve chosen to include to give some perspective into this project. What I came to understand in the one day I wrote this entire project was profound; in an attempt to capture what I experienced that day, I have done little editing, hoping that the unorthodox style that has come to be my usual style will be understood by you. I express myself through words, so I apologize most for the length of this report and how late it is, and most of all I want to really let you know you did a lot for me this semester. Somehow I managed to have the most academically relaxed semester of my life with more stress than any semester since freshman year when I was thrown out of campus housing. There is no denying that every action I made this semester led to the point I am at now, whether it was talking with you or a neurologist; I never connected harder in a meditation than I did in your class, and I never would have dealt with my newly-discovered anxiety disorder if it wasn’t for some of the techniques learned in this course. It is apparent now that I am living in a world of fear, a world I am determined to change. The short time I have spent with you will be engraved in my memory for a long time, and believe me when I say the document I give you now is one of the best of my career as a writer. It has been an honor.

Sincerely,

Joseph Fritz

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II. General Introduction

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I can’t lie; the reason I am in this class is Sam Closic. He told me that I should take this class, and after he took a philosophy course with me last semester, I owed him. Besides that, I’m one of the most stressed people I know…it’s almost like I feed off it. Some days it’s like I eat it, others it’s like it eats me; in the end I know it’s unhealthy and if it hasn’t driven me crazy yet, it will someday. I can’t say if the stress is what makes me who I am or if the way I am leads to all the stress. If someone else lived my life, I wonder how they would live it, having seen what I’ve seen and gone through all I’ve been through. Eight moves in fifteen years gives a person an ability to deal with stress and build relationships easily only to realize that the dealing is just a façade and everything that was thought to be real just isn’t. The friends aren’t real. The life’s not real. How real can I be as a person? What I’m about to show you is all I have, real or not, it’s the best I can think to explain myself in the situation that I am in. As far as how other people would live my life…well, they’re not me. But of all the dreams I have, it is to be able to truly call my life my own. All these things have slowly become evident to me as I have progressed through this project, class, semester, academic career, and indeed my whole life.

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III. Stressor Category One – Everyday stressors

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Each day I am confronted by massive amounts of stressors to the point where I don’t even regard them as that anymore. A stressor can be anything from getting frustrated while driving to a video game to a fight with a friend. If one was to look at my life, one would most likely say that I am on the verge of a heart attack – most of my friends do. I yell often and rarely for any reason. Maybe it relieves stress. But what stress do I have? I’m a college student that sits around smoking weed and playing video games, moderating a web board and thinking about life. It is, in fact, that very knowledge that stresses me out. Undoubtedly, this will be a complex concept to explain.

It’s amazing how, in hindsight, everything can appear so clear; looking at these 14 papers that really don’t mean much of anything, I understand a lot. I don’t know much of anything, and I need to start accepting that. Stress that exists in my life exists because I allow it to. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I allow it, but I don’t do very much about it. It’s not my style to do so. For the last few years, and really my whole life, I’ve followed Tao, the idea of The Way, a great path similar to ideas of destiny and providence. One simply goes with the flow of things and everything turns out fine. For much of my life, this has been simple – my parents moved, I moved – my friends stopped talking to me, I found new friends. Whether my personality is this way or if it is the way I have lived life that has made me that way is irrelevant – I am that way. I can pack up and leave my whole world in an instant if I choose, and lately I wonder why I don’t choose, because perhaps it’s never really been my choice before. Sartre said that we are all doomed to be free, and there is interesting truth in that.

I have been diagnosed with essential tremor and an unnamed hyperventilation-based anxiety disorder since a panic attack that occurred on Good Friday; the attack itself was due to a simple everyday stressor that struck me in a certain way and made me react the way I did. However, I am convinced that the true nature of the attacks go deeper than simple stressors. I have had these kinds of episodes my whole life, though never as intense as this past time. While I smoke marijuana every day, it has been determined that my excessive use in the last three years isn’t what has caused these attacks. The disorder is inherent – the essential tremor is basically an over-activity of neural impulses that causes me to shake in my arms and legs, especially as weight is added. If I am in motion my activity is up, and when I stop my signaling will look like a normal person’s, but within a few heartbeats my arms and legs will begin to shake slightly, as if my body understands how it should stand still but has no interest in that fact. My body inherently has a different reaction to stress than anyone else. It’s easy to think of it like when you’re pulled over by a cop – you sweat, your mind races, you shake –the part of our brains that controls the shaking, in my brain’s case, is at that elevated level constantly, and obviously has a few more effects than just the observable shaking. My mind is always on-edge – I overanalyze everything – everyone says I think too much and I don’t care because I like to think. The problem here exists when I hyperventilate. When a person hyperventilates a bunch of things happen; one of the things that happens is a decrease of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream (which is why they say to hold a paper bag over your face). When carbon dioxide isn’t high enough, the body will do many things, one of which is release calcium. This calcium reacts with my neurons, which are already tweaking because of my essential tremor, and make them start firing like crazy, facilitating all the reactions seen on Good Friday. So the stress itself is just that simple – yay – we’re done with the project!

My problem is two-fold (and probably many more folds than that). First, I allow everyday stressors to influence myself too much. Second, I allow stressors that are larger in my life to constantly infiltrate my mind to not allow me to properly deal with the everyday stressors so that those seemingly simple stressors are just inflamed to the point where they are no longer everyday stressors and can consume me.

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IV. Stressor Category Two – Seldom Stressors

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I can see this entire “Comprehensive Stress Program” being different from any other, as I interpret stress differently than anyone else. There is no easy way to put this. I stress about everything. Every single thing I could stress about, I will. I’ll worry about my girlfriend being away from me, and if I want to be in the relationship, and if she does, and if she’s safe; I’ll worry about a job, what job I want, what job I can get, how I can get it, where it will be, and if I can still be with my girlfriend with that job; I think about graduation and if I can graduate with a degree that will allow me to get a job, and then can I be happy, and how? For me there are no seldom stressors. A seldom stressor is a non-stressor, and there are none of them, either. If it isn’t enough to stress me out at all, then it does not exist. Because when I’m frustrated at a random part of a video game, a seldom stressor in my life as I am pretty good at video games, the stress is caked, because I’m not just thinking about the game, I’m thinking about twenty other things, including how the role I play in the game relates to the job I could get in real life, and the motivations I have and the life I could want to lead myself. Did I mention I overanalyze everything? But these small stressors – even the eustress of hearing music that I’ll love still makes me think of my life and how I’m living it in all the ways I live it.

The more I write all this, the more I realize just how screwed up I really am. But there’s no real telling what’s wrong. All this is or could be is the testament of a man that has had serious mental problems his whole life and is just now coming to grips with them. Whether it’s the drugs that caused it or inflamed it or just exposed it I have not determined and regardless my usage has not lessened in regards to smoking weed. My caffeine intake is down, but I haven’t noticed many changes so far with it, except that I sleep like a rock. It’s hard to explain why I smoke like I do. Imagine when you’re driving down a highway, and you look out the window at the scenery – it moves by you so quickly that you can see that it’s a forest or a field but you don’t really know specifics about it. But if you slowed down to twenty miles per hour, you’d be able to see all kinds of things clearly. Marijuana has never inhibited my ability to think or remember – I’ve always been pretty absent-minded because I’m constantly thinking about things, so I think about new things all the time and forget anything I was previously thinking. This is why stress never gets dealt with. I may see the stress and even figure out a way to deal with it but if I’m lucky enough to remember it I still have to put it into action.

The actual action of life is the real key to all of this, because I can theorize about my mind and my stress all day, but the real fact is I understand my stress perfectly fine, there just seems to be an inhibitor stopping me from doing what I need to do. I remember I was once told, “procrastination is like masturbation; it’s wonderful until you realize you’re just screwing yourself.” Sorry, no citation for that. But it’s interesting – the longer I’ve waited to think about how serious my relationship with my girlfriend is, how to beat that level, where to get that job, when to pick up that ounce, what to do when I graduate, how to organize the house, when to feed the fish, who to talk to about all this – it all just builds up until it’s a pile of nightmare. It’s to the point where I’m actually thankful a force outside my life is ripping into me. Huck me into the world! Ship my dumb butt out of here because I have been killing my mind. Drugs are not what I need, and neither is all this schooling. I need the world; I want it all. I can’t sit around dealing with all these small things – they don’t mean anything to me – I procrastinate because I don’t want to do them, but I don’t want to deal with things because I really don’t care about most things. If I didn’t beat the game, get the job, get the pot, feed the fish, have the girl, the house, the life, then what? Would I be a different person? I doubt it. Life would change but I would remain myself and Tao would progress me to the next point. My problem is I lack the actual guts to do it myself.

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V. Stressor Category Three – Routine Stressors

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Each time I feel I’ve really hit a nail, I move to the next stressor category; routine stressors, what is that for me? How about waking up in the morning? Or is that really just an everyday one? For me, especially right now, this is irrelevant. No stress is getting properly dealt with, so until I figure out how to deal with the stress, it doesn’t matter how much I have or how diverse it is (because it is). There are just many more pressing issues at hand here than how much I yell or use body language to express myself or how assertive I am. I can assert myself constantly but that doesn’t change the fact that I never actually have action that takes the assertions and makes them reality. The decisions move around in my head until I am forced to take action, and it’s so illogical I’m not sure what more I can write about it to explain it. To drop another quote in, this time from a film called Three Kings, “The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of, and you get the courage after you do it, not before you do it.” Could it be possible that I am living in a world of fear?

I’m the one that constantly says how this media bombards us with this constant fear propaganda, between the news and the advertisements and the sitcoms, it’s all made to freak us out in the end. It’s unfortunate that I’ve been rendered susceptible to the same Fear as everyone else, despite my fear being different that theirs. A hero of mine, Hunter S. Thompson, who killed himself just a few months back (greatly adding to the stress in my life, I should add) talked a lot about America’s Fear and Loathing. People say I’m pissed off all the time; I claim to hate everyone. Maybe it’s just that I’m scared and can’t admit it.

Now would be as good a time as any to interject a section of my life that isn’t covered in my daily assessments: spirituality. For me, spirituality has been a constant quest, and I’ve always seen myself as one of the most spiritually secure people I know. As long as I can remember, I have contemplated existence, even from when I was a toddler and would ask questions that no one could answer for me, parent and priest alike, at least not answers that were good enough for me. By the time I became a teenager I had blown the roofs off most religions and thought if a God did exist, he wasn’t here. Not dead, but not caring, either. And not smiting. These were all mortal qualities. As time progressed, I found Tao, and came to understand that the religions I had stomped upon in the past had plenty of validity when applied in the right setting. I began to meditate and attempt to better understand the world around me, beginning in my senior year of high school and continuing to this day. In reality, I rarely meditate anymore; after a couple of years of cultivating my chi I realized that I could call up my energy on a whim. But the reality is, I know I could be greater, that I could have sick energy if I would learn to harness it; I just don’t. That isn’t fear. That’s laziness. Getting back into procrastination. What is the true enemy here – fear or laziness? Tao says to follow a path, and mine has led here, but I don’t know where it might now lead. I know the resources here that I have are not the ones I seek. In the last few months I’ve wondered how fantastic it would be to be a monk, just living life farming and thinking, becoming one with myself and the world. I look around the class when I meditate and think I wish these people could just feel a little of what I feel right now, because they wouldn’t believe it. I don’t know what allows me to do it like I do, and I have a variety of methods to cultivating my chi; by experiencing chi in all aspects of life I’ve understood how to pull it from many sources, which is very helpful. It’s relation to stress? It is obviously the most natural and perfect stress reliever I have. If given the right opportunity I could master my chi and surpass even my own delusions of grandeur. Unfortunately, smoking a bowl is easier than meditating for a half hour, which leads to the true routine of my life, the one that needs some serious overhaul.

If I am to ever understand myself and my energy I can’t be on any substance. No caffeine, no weed, no nothing. Sadly, I’ve always loved intoxicants, but I’ve felt for the last year as if I’m growing tired of them. And based on my mental situation, it’s obvious that what I do isn’t good for me, regardless of if it’s the speed or the altered thought. The biggest enemy to my chi is marijuana – I know this. The irony is that it’s easier to smoke a bowl than it is to meditate for a half hour. Back to laziness. There are becoming very evident facts within this entire situation. Serious life changes need to occur for my life for it to exist the way I desire it to.

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VI. Stressor Category Four – Long-Term Stressors

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This is where the whole thing gets really real…getting towards the end, and we have to pull it all together. I’ve jumped around this paper so much that I’m worrying about how you’ll feel about it, but it’s honest and you said that’s what you wanted. This is indeed the most real document I’ve produced, by far the truest. Funny how a class you thought you never should have even taken ends up enlightening you more than some philosophy courses. I’ve never been good at following directions, but I don’t know why. I like to cause conflict, and I like stress, but I hate it all so much. It’s eating away at my life and my soul. Worrying about how Sam and Megan will have a life, how I will have a life with Mieko, how I’ll get a job, how I’ll beat Doom3, how I’ll finish my rhetoric project; all this is fully covered by Tao. My faith in Tao has been sound before, but for some reason it is no longer. It’s not explained by some biorhythm or horoscope or divination or mushroom trip. I have hit yet another wall in my life, a point where I realize that all the information that I need to progress in life exists for me, but it is up to me to understand this information and apply it to myself. All that is left is time.

In less than a month I graduate school, assuming by the grace of Buddha I pass my classes, which while suffering from my procrastinatory nature have suffered more from my spiritual and emotional losses; that is apparent now. Mieko got a job in Kentucky two months back, which is why I went to visit her over Easter, when I had my attack. Could it all have been too much all at once? And too little in other parts? I now plan move there with her, where I will be unable to find anything resembling a job I am qualified to perform; the decision to sacrifice my life for my happiness exists and it is up to me to decide. We’ve been together for years, and being apart for just a few weeks is hard – I can’t imagine life without her. I can’t imagine life without video games, or weed, or friends, or anything that I have in my life. I know it will soon all be gone from me; someday it will all leave me, whether by its choice or my own, or be it death that takes life from me after I’m done waiting around to live it. Sam and Megan and their drama won’t exist unless I choose to go to Delaware and continue it, which I won’t. I will continue to smoke as long as I have friends that do and the desire to do it myself. I will keep loving who I love no matter how much I may see it might hurt me, but I have no idea if I will be willing to move to Kentucky to be with a girlfriend I’m not sure I want to spend more time of my life with.

Life is uncertain, and has always been, I think. Earlier, I was at least going to school, I at least had insurance, and didn’t have to think about things like car payments. It’s so much I feel like my head is caving in, but it’s not – that would be a gift – instead I’m forced to live it in this pathetic world of self-loathing and fear of that which I can’t understand. I can understand! I choose to not understand!!! My understanding is dependant on my true desires. Stress shows me power, and I like it. But power is slowly showing itself to be similar to sin, a thing I never thought existed until I experienced greed. The power I have or pretend to have is still miniscule to the power I could have if I would stop seeking these lesser forms of it. My only hope is the greater power, and my ability to find it. Luckily, there are aspects of my life that will be destroyed after I graduate, their destruction leading to my creation, plenty of relationships and problems left in this town when I leave wherever I go. But others will follow me, and it is up to me to deal with them. Some, while I wish to deal with them now, I am convinced that I can’t, like the old prayer about changing that which you can and accepting that which you can not. I refuse to give up, and yet at the same time I feel that I have no fight in me, as if the fight is over. Could it be that you witnessed it? Is it all just a matter of understanding?

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VII. Personal Contract

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I have never liked contracts, agreements, and laws – I’ve always seen them as things to be broken. I think we’re both aware that I possess the skill as a writer to write the language required for a contract, and while it would be nice to explain how I would negotiate a deal with myself as to how not to miss class, I think at this point it would be arbitrary. This project goes way beyond your class and yet without this project the “way beyond” that are the happenings of my life would have no connection to themselves. I wouldn’t understand that my life is a perpetual cycle of fear based in the stress that I can not handle, but am handling now. So what do you want from this contract, a commitment? You want me to talk about how I will by this date be a better person otherwise I’ll be forced to flagellate myself for not meeting the terms of my agreement? I can’t give you that: not if what you want here is honesty. If I’m to be honest, I’ll say that I am resolved to be better than I am at this moment. I want to take control of all aspects of my life and choose the ones that I will impact and that will impact me. There is no reward for this other than the life I want and there is no punishment other than anything less! I will not be subjected to other people’s critical thoughts of this section or of my project altogether nor fears that you will give me a bad grade on it (you want to talk about fear…). My contract has existed for eternity and will – it is my contract with existence – I have a choice to make, a choice already made, to do with my life as I desire based in what I want.

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VIII. Conclusion

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This has been a wild ride. I think it is possible that I have learned more writing this document than any other I have ever written for academia; that is no lie and no ass kissing: it is truth. Some of the words written here easily stomp A-papers I’ve received in classes of my major…I’m honestly astounded. When this all first started, I figured I’d lay down some typical B.S. that would score me a solid B without worry, but the truth is that for all the faith I’ve lost I still have it in you, that you will understand. Prior to writing this, I have had three other documents I have produced that have been of similar caliber, which I have attached in the appendix of this document. They are long and would take a very long time to read, especially on top of all of this. But I hope you’ll enjoy them, and I hope you enjoyed this. If you’ve been able to understand all I’ve learned here then there is really nothing more I can write to make it any different than it was. We were both there; we both experienced it in our own ways. No one else that reads this could ever understand exactly what I’m saying here because they weren’t in that office, they don’t know that we think like we think, puppet masters pulling the strings. My conclusion is that my stress is wholly my own, and there is no control outside of myself. Any control anyone else has over me they are given by my choice, whether it’s the power you have with a grade, a government has with a jail, or a girl has with love – they are only valuable if I place value on them. I must choose what I wish to place value on, and I choose that now. This is the greatest act of Gonzo journalism, the truest testament to my mind and thought, and while it may not be exactly what you asked for it is what I have to give. I choose to have faith.

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