It seems odd writing about stress, mainly because I have had a good month or so of peace, calm and happiness. However the world doesn’t stand still and there’s always something that gets under one's skin.
Stress certainly makes the parkies symptoms much worse.
I recently found this short story I wrote at a particularly stressful time in my career. The I is not me (I was never in the office that early) and the him - anyone you want it to be. What is true is that I was involved in making hundreds of ads over 25 years, often it was endlessly soul destroying and very stressful. Deadlines, budgets, creative discussions etc were always (it seemed) last minute and never ending.
Looking back in more peaceful mode chunks of my career were great fun, working with some wonderful people. This piece is written from an amalgam of moments when it got to me the most.
Stress was never far away.
Now I understand the negative impact of stress and learning more and more how to deal with it.
Then I just wanted it to stop.
At the time I loved the idea of having worked so hard producing so much stuff that there was nothing left to do - for everyone. I imagine two conclusions - a Garden of Eden or Armageddon, I suspect a bit of both jumbled up - just like now.
NB excuse the expletives.
And suddenly it stopped…
I sat at my desk, my left eye twitched involuntarily. A dull ache in my lower back. Signs of immense fatigue.
My computer screen blurred in front of my weary eyes. Two unopened emails fuelled my rising sense of depression - it was only 7.30am.
Staff cuts, dwindling client budgets, ever more demanding schedules had reduced me to a diet of booze and fast food, I was spiralling into the depths of emotional darkness.
Despite that I churned out ad after ad, all chasing the dream of instant sales and success. On and on and on. Banal, tedious work that grinds you down.
I was sick of it all.
The six figure salary meaningless.
The professional life had become a desk bound drudge.
The ringing landline brought me sharply back into the present. I looked at the screen, ‘Oh God, not them’ , they only rang when the shit had hit the fan.
‘Hi mate, the voice on the other end of the phone was annoyingly chirpy given the time of day.
‘Hi’ I replied tersely (thinking - you’re not my mate).
‘Hey look, just wanted to be the first to let you know how pleased we are with the contribution you guys have made to building our brand. Great stuff. We know it’s been tough, but you really nailed it.’
What on earth is he on about, he is usually so rude demanding more for less all the time and is endlessly disappointed.
‘Yeah, look’, he continued, ‘just those impossible deadlines and small budgets, well it’s all over. All the work is done, finished, complete - you can all go home’.
‘Wh…., what do you mean?’
‘You’re done, the company is off the hook, our shareholders are millionaires, nothing more to do, we’re done, simple as that - go home, go to the pub, take a holiday’
‘I don’t understand?’ I am always wary of his practical jokes
‘It is not just us, talk to your work mates, look out of your office window - it is all done, over. Everybody has been working so hard and fast we’ve made enough stuff to last for decades, so it is down tools for everyone’
‘Don’t be such a twat, that’s never going to happen’
‘Thanks, but I think you’re the twat for not believing me’
I put the landline down on my desk, got up and walked to the window, outside the world was silent, the lights were out, no cars or buses, but plenty of people wandering around looking vaguely dazed.
His mobile buzzed, it was his boss ‘Have you heard the news? We’re done, go home and stay off the booze. Catch up soon yeah? Bye'
Stunned I sat back down at my desk my mind racing to try and understand what was going on. I picked up the phone with the client still wittering away at the other end.
‘Mate’, I said sarcastically, ‘f*** off’.
I hung up.