Few things in my life have been more of a roller-coaster than this TBI recovery business. I wrote recently about feeling like I was stalled – stymied – unable to move forward . And it felt pretty rotten. I have been feeling really down on myself, lately, and it hasn’t been helping me at all. The worse I feel, the worse I do, generally… and then I feel even worse. It’s a downward spiral that usually has its roots in fatigue and stress and me believing everything that goes through my brain.
You’d think I’d realize by now that my perceptions are not always consistent with the truth of the matter… I know my brain plays tricks on me. I know it blows things out of proportion. I know it loves to get worked up and all stressed out, because it loves the feeling of that rush, and it doesn’t feel awake without it, sometimes. But when the agitation gets going, the first thing I do is start listening to what my brain is telling me — which is the last thing I should do. I should really listen to what my mind has to say. I guess I need to keep learning that lesson.
Heck, maybe I should make myself a sign that says, “Don’t believe everything you feel.”
I think I will. Put it where I’ll be sure to see it on a regular basis. ‘Cause falling for what I feel is one of the biggest sources of pain and complication and suffering for me, that I can think of.
Anyway, it occurred to me not long after I’d written the post about feeling stymied, that I am actually doing really well in some truly substantial ways – the main way being, I’m a LOT less “hot” and reactive than I have been in the past — even in the recent past. I’ve recently started doing my conscious breathing again, and I’ve been incorporating it into my everyday life, taking a break to breathe and relax when I sense things are getting really tense. And I have to say, it feels pretty good. AND it takes the edge off my hot-headedness.
As an example, I was washing up dishes the other day, when my grip slipped on the dish I was washing and it clanked loudly on the bottom of the sink. A number of things happened that in the past were sure to set me off: I lost my grip on a heavy dish, running the risk of breaking it… my grip was slippery, which is a strange little stressor for me — if I don’t have a firm grip on something, it sets me on edge… there was that loud and startling “clunk” that really threw me off and sparked a little “alarm wildfire” in my brain. I’ve been having a lot of vertigo, lately, and it’s stressing me out, making me even more susceptible to flare-ups when simple things like this happen.
In the past, I would have freaked out. Lost it. Started banging things around and cursing and then getting really down on myself for getting so bent over such a simple thing. Few things kill my self-respect like blowing up over little things like losing my grip on a dish I’m washing… or dropping something, or not being able to get a hold on something — and these have all been happening to me a lot lately.
But this time, I handled it. It seems like such a small thing, but it’s huge for me. I just stopped and took a long, slow breath. I relaxed my tense shoulders and cracked my back (all I have to do is lean left or right, and the “popcorn” starts to pop in my spine). I just took a little break to gather myself, and when I went back to washing, not only did I feel calm and together, but I felt more calm and together than I had all day.
Magic. At least, that’s how it felt. But it’s actually more science than anything else — and it’s repeatable. I’ve been doing it, on and off, for the past several weeks, and while I’m not 100% successful at never ever blowing up over stupid sh*t, the fact of the matter is, I’m 5000% better than I was, several years ago. Just taking a breath and stopping and relaxing — stopping that chain reaction of WTF?! before it had a chance to get started — got me back to where I wanted to be.
And even though the vertigo is still a problem with me, I have far less anxiety and anger and frustration than I had in the past. I’m breathing consciously more often, in the course of everyday stresses, and I’m taking breaks to compose myself in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. I’m giving myself a chance to feel something other than the perseverating junk that gets lodged in my system, and I’m consciously smiling or laughing at situations that are usually great reasons for me to get worked up and bent out of shape — often over nothing. Just getting out from under the little black clouds that seem to follow me everywhere, even for a few short moments, has been helping a lot. And a simple smile — even if no one is around — has the surprising ability to change my perspective just enough to find something else to focus on — besides the WTF?!
Not freaking out over losing my grip on a dish… not blowing up over every little thing… actually feeling relaxed in the face of stress and drama… what a concept.
I could get used to this. It feels pretty awesome.