Guest Post from Jo Ann Plante: Stress – A Blessing or A Curse?

Last Updated on: May 6th, 2014

The following is a guest post from Jo Ann Plante. This is her true story!

Jo Ann

Stress – A Blessing or A Curse?

COPY CODE SNIPPET

The holidays were nearly here. It had been a tough year for me.  I quit my previous job due to unethical behavior by the staff and manager, thinking I could just get another job. I was wrong. In April, I went to a temp agency and they sent me to a medical clinic office. I liked the job and did the best I could. I wanted this job badly. When it finally got posted, I was told that it would be a union job and that several people were already lined up for this position.

Taking this in stride, I asked the temp agency for another position. This time they gave me a job at a prestigious university. I was doubly thrilled, because this place is a powerhouse for creative thought and famous people.

I was told the job would only be for 4 months, but I took it and enjoyed every minute. Slowly but surely, low self-confidence and worry crept into my world and I began to worry about not being permanently employed. I had great credentials, but no job offers.

By the time the holidays came, I was getting very tired, even though my routine had not changed. By New Year’s Day, I had a cold and was spending most of my time in bed. I went to the doctor and even he thought I had a cold.

By March, I thought I had pneumonia. My Mom begged me to return to the doctor, but I was having difficulty to making ends meet and didn’t want to spend the money on a doctor visit. By this time, I was collecting unemployment compensation and had no health insurance.

By the end of the month, I could hardly breathe and finally I drove to the doctor’s office. The doctor took one look at me and told me to head into the city. I needed the best hospital in the state and he told me not to drive myself, but to find someone to drive me in.

I was amazed. I thought it was only pneumonia. I did as I was told and not a minute too soon. By the time I got to the hospital, about an hour later, I could hardly breathe. Every time I inhaled, I got a sharp pain in my chest. My fingers started to twist and bend and my face was bright pink.

I was admitted and diagnosed with lupus. What an ugly word! The doctors kept me in the hospital until I was able to go home, a few days. I went home, but by then, I was losing weight, a pound a day. I hardly recognized myself when I looked in the mirror and the smell of food made me even sicker.

A few days later I was back in the hospital. This time they told me that my kidneys were affected. I started to cry. I just couldn’t believe the luck I had. They also told me about all the things I would not be able to do: staying outside in the sun, strenuous exercise, clear skin on my face, maximum of 8 – 10 hours of sleep a night, little or no alcohol consumption and the list went on and on.

The doctor came to see me at 6 p.m. that evening. He sat on the edge of my hospital bed and started asking me about my life and my work. I told him about the job loss, the temp jobs and all the things that bothered me. He smiled for a moment and said, “Do you know what made you sick?” “No,” I answered. He smiled again. “Stress,” he said slowly. I immediately told him I didn’t have stress and that it must be something else. He just shook his head.

This was one of the moments in my life, where reality slapped me in the face and my life changed forever. As I lay there in my hospital bed, looking up at the ceiling, I thought about all the things that bothered me. I realized that the doctor was right. I was so-o-o-o stressed out that I couldn’t even have a conversation with him.

I realized, too, that I had to calm down and get some rest, so my illness wouldn’t get worse. After staying awake most of the night, morning came and the doctor came back to see me. He asked me if I felt any better. I told him I thought about what he said and he was right. I felt sick and ashamed of myself.

He sat down in a chair and we talked for a few minutes. He gave me the best advice I’ve ever received. He told me not to worry about the things I couldn’t do, but do the things I could do. He told me that I would be so busy doing what I could do that I wouldn’t have time to think about the things I couldn’t do.

It was great advice! As I began to get well, I focused on getting from my bed to a chair and then getting from my bed to the bathroom. Each day offered me a chance to stop and appreciate the things around me. I used to whiz by everything. I was always in a hurry to do more and more, thinking it would make me a better worker or better person. I was wrong.

I couldn’t move around too much, I was so tired, but I did notice little things around the house that were there for years, but I never really stopped to look at them. As my appetite came back, I enjoyed my food more. I ate more slowly and really got to enjoy all the flavors.

It took a year before I was back to feeling “normal”. I would be on medication for the rest of my life and I hoped my illness wouldn’t get any worse. I couldn’t go through that again. Ever! I knew in the back of my mind, I could never make the same mistake again.

A friend came over to visit me and commented on how the past year was such a waste of my life. She lamented about the fact that it was too bad I was so sick. I missed out on so much. She was wrong!

I learned a great deal from spending time by myself. I had time to really think about things, about what I wanted out of life and what I had to offer. I enjoyed little things like never before. I found out who cared for me as a friend and who didn’t. In some ways, I had to learn to re-live my life. It was a chance to start over and not make the same mistakes.

I started to feel good about myself and started to take walks to strengthen my legs. I met people on the trail, who didn’t know me or my illness, but waved or smiled at me anyway. I got my confidence back to start living again.

I continued to follow doctor’s orders, but I also focused on the things I could do. With every passing day, I went a little further on my walk or tried to do something new or just took pride in how far I had come.

Since my lupus flare-up, I have become a different person. I have different interests now and see things in a different way. I decided not to return to work, but start my own virtual assistant business, so I could work from home. I’ve taught myself how to set up and run a home business, learn new technology, market my business, write a blog and use all of the skills I acquired as an administrative assistant. I even go camping in a tent, so I can relax and watch nature.

I am not as self-conscious as I was and I take things in stride. I no longer feel I have to conquer the world or compete with anyone, because I have conquered the world in many ways. I nearly died. I’ve been given a second chance and I want to make the most of it. I don’t miss the things I can’t do, because I’m too busy doing the things I can do.

Lupus actually opened my eyes to all the other possibilities out there. It has  opened up a whole new world for me and all I had to do was just take the time to rest, not stress, stay calm and not get alarmed over things that really don’t matter. Having gone through all of this, I am happy and healthier than I was and I plan to stay that way.

Jo Ann is a certified freelance writer with articles published on various websites.  Her blog is “My Virtual Assistant Blog – How I Got From There to Here” at http://write4yu2.wordpress.com, where she writes about a problem or condition in her life that she has overcome and that led her to start her own successful business. Her website is www.VirtualColleagueLLC.com.

Do you have any questions or comments for Jo Ann? Use the feature “leave
a comment”  and speak your mind!  (look under the title for this feature)

35 thoughts on “Guest Post from Jo Ann Plante: Stress – A Blessing or A Curse?

  1. says

    I only have the one blog so far. I am a novice and I’m trying to distinguish myself from the other virtual assistants by writing about my past and how it relates to my present and future life choices.

  2. Fortunately, I have been fairly healthy (knock on wood) even though I do have enough stressors in my life. You make a good point that we need to take things in stride more often.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      Hi Mark! Welcome!

      I think everyone has stress in their lives, to a certain degree. Each of us has problems, regardless of who we are, how much money we have, what we have accomplished in our lives, and how successful or unsuccessful we are. How we deal with stress, however, is up to us. Identifying our stressors is as important as how we choose to deal with them. I would like to point out that there are two types of stress: positive stress and negative stress. Some people thrive when they are “under pressure” and are more productive as a result. For others, the opposite is true.

      Since stress is directly related to our health, and our health should be a priority, it is vital that we learn to recognize things that are “abnormal” and attempt to “fix” them. Our lives just may depend upon it!

    • says

      Thank you, Mark, for your comment. I know it is easier said than done, because life is full of stress, but I have learned a lot about stress and now, when I feel it building up, I have a few things I do to try and relieve the pressure. It is a life challenge, but the payoff is that I’m in good health and having a full life.

      • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

        Jo Ann, thanks again for your contributions to this blog! I appreciate the time you have taken to respond to those kind enough to leave comments for you/us. Thanks, readers, to you, too!!!

  3. I’ve been there but I was lucky. I avoided really getting sick. Instead I took action and never looked back. Life presents us with many things. If we’re paying attention, we can spot the signals that tell what we need to know and hear.

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      You know your body better than anyone else does. You are the one living in it. If you think something is wrong, you are usually right.

      I agree with you Susan — spotting the signals earlier than later is best. I am glad that you took action when you did and avoided more complicated problems. (Thanks, also, for leaving a comment! I have seen you “around” the internet, and I am pleased you stopped by my blog!!!)

    • says

      I think you’re right, Susan. We have to come close to the edge to know how far we can go. Lupus can leave you with secondary conditions, so I hope that you are free of anything like that. Sometimes boundaries are good, because they push you in another direction. Thank you for your comment.

      • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

        I don’t know if Susan will be back, but I am hoping she will! At any rate, it is good to see that you have such a great attitude. I know from personal experience how tough life can be, and how we have to push our own boundaries sometimes in order to enjoy life. It seems like there is always a cost and sometimes the payoff is not worth it. However, we are soldiers who march onward.

  4. says

    Thank you! There were times in my life that I wondered what I was supposed to be doing and felt that others had advantages I didn’t have. It took me time, but I was the winner in the end, because I truly learned to live to the fullest and try so many things I never thought was possible.

  5. Kristine says

    Jo Anne. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    It’s amazing what happens when you are forced to step back from your life. You start to see the reality of what you do in an objective sense and are given an opportunity to learn about who you are.

    What you have been through has set you on a better and more fulfilling path – and that makes the story inspiring. Hopefully, your new path has much less stress! It’s a little reminder to all of us to stop and smell the flowers and to always remember to ask ourselves what we want from life and why we want it.

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      Hi Kristine! Thanks for contributing to the comments here. It’s good to see you again!

      Jo Ann’s story is inspiring, and has helped me focus on what’s important to me. I have stopped spending endless amounts of time on my computer and have started to figure out what’s important to me, too, and to do what I can do rather than focus on what I cannot do. Thanks, Jo Ann, and thanks, everyone!

    • says

      Your comment is right on the mark. I was so busy running around and hurrying to do things that I never enjoyed anything. Now I take the time to notice things and realize there is a lot of beauty in the world, whether I’m in the city or the country. Beauty is there, but you have to take the time to notice it and appreciate it. I just had an electrical fire in my home and lost all of my electronics and 2 rooms have to be remodeled, but the bright side is, no one was hurt and I was able to stay calm and get through it without a flare-up. It’s a constant challenge, but one that I keep winning, so I must be handling things the right way.

      • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

        Boy oh boy, Jo Ann, you have been through a lot!!! I admire your attitude! Good for you for facing your challenges head-on. I wish you the best!

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      I think I will let Jo Ann handle this one… especially since I agree with Darlene (and everyone else who has praised Jo Ann for her courage)!

    • says

      I never thought I could bounce back. It took time and a willingness to get back to “normal”, but I went beyond “normal” and did so many things I never thought I could do. Moderation is the key, because otherwise you get stressed and it starts all over again. Thanks for your comment.

  6. What a wonderful story of courage! You faced your challenges head on, learned to appreciate the small things, and overcome obstacles. Good for you! I like what your Dr. told you, ‘do the things you can and don’t worry about the things you cannot do’. That’s good advice for everybody. 🙂

  7. rlloydmyers says

    Stress left me with half a stomach and I have since learned to not let things bother me, at least not to the point of harm. I guess the upside is that I can eat as much and often as I want and never gain weight. Stress can kill you and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Deal with it before you have to; it’s much easier and safer. The perforated ulcer I incurred nearly killed me, the irony being that I had no clue that I even had an ulcer, much less one at end-stage. Thanks for posting this great article. I hope people will read it and take heed. As an aside, I work at the same place my surgeon does and it’s always nice to see him in the corridors of the hospital. He saved my life, after all…

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      Wow, Richard, thanks for sharing and giving us a warning, too. I think you should listen to some more of that “relaxing” music so you don’t get stressed!!!

      (BTW, nice to see you again.) 🙂

    • says

      Wow! I thought I had it bad. You’re right. Stress can cause a lot of problems and we don’t realize it until it’s almost too late Thanks for commenting on the article and I wish you good health.

  8. deevra says

    Wow Jo Ann. Thanks for sharing your personal journey. I loved reading this post – very inspiring. If you didn’t get lupus you wouldn’t be where you are now. Sometimes life throws us a curveball to slow us down and force us to re-evaluate our life. And out of it, you started a business! Well done. 🙂

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