I had a panic attack last night because the counters were dirty.
There I was shaking, heart trying to climb out of my chest ala Alien, and my brain running away in storyland. Because the counters were dirty.
Initially, because I’m human, I was pissed. Like, “this? This is the hill we’re dying on today? All of the shit in life and dirty counters has done you in? FFS woman up or something” then, I remembered emotions are valid, Anxiety is a sign I need to breathe, etc. so I breathed. I cleaned the counters, I continued breathing.
Liv asked me to color the mandala she drew with her. So I did. As I did, the inevitable hormone driven crash happened and I got weepy as I was coloring. We started coloring mandalas when I was in the mental hospital. I’d color half, write a note on the back, and send them with Evan for the kids to finish and write me back. Panic attacks put me in the hospital at first. Yet here I am, panicking at counters and coloring at home. So I say thank you for how far I’ve come.
But this is my life, as frustrating as it is. I said to Evan, everything feels like dirty counters. Everything I can possibly conceive I need to do feels like dumpster fires and I get paralyzed by my own brain. I begin ruminating on a task or outstanding to do, whatever it is, and I lose it. I feel as though I “should” be able to handle xyz, and I panic. I end up lying in bed under my weighted blanket sobbing at the end of the night because laundry or carpet stains or dirty dishes.
It’s not every day, but it’s a lot of days. I’ve learned so many coping skills but then realized I have to stop coping with my life. Coping is not living. So, how does one live when they have 3 messy kids, OCD, and a host of other crap that makes her brain turn her into a shaking, twitching, mess of humanity?
-I ask myself what is going on. Messy houses is a symptom, what is the root? Often the answer is: what have you done for yourself? Usually the answer is “oops”
-I meditate daily, usually multiple times. Five minutes can do wonders. Meditation teaches you to separate from these very thoughts that are making me physically ill. Meditation does not need to be done sitting in lotus. It can be lying in bed, walking, sitting in a chair, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about cessation of thought, it’s about awareness of thought.
-Re-parenting myself and changing the inner monologue. The reason I can panic about a counter is because I have allowed my thoughts to run me. I’ve made the counter a symbol of my aptitude as a human being and am judging myself as a failure for having a dirty counter. All of this is a twisted inner monologue having a field day with my emotions. Awareness can catch the story before I become the protagonist in a dumb fairy tale. Re-parenting myself is changing the message from “not enough” to “just right”
-Validating myself instead of seeking external validation. I’m a great chick regardless of my counter status. It is so easy to forget that no one needs to do or prove anything to be an amazing human being. By the virtue of existing on this here planet, you, me, and my dirty counters are miracles.
-Breathe, dammit. Your breath is a bridge. Not only is it the first telltale sign you’re alive, but it is a reminder of our unconscious power. Whether I think to breathe or not, I do. Just as my heart beats. Just as my mind runs away with counter tales. The breath anchors you to now. I am breathing. Anxiety is being disconnected from self and the present moment. The breath always brings you to now. The breath happens just as thoughts happen. You can focus on thoughts or you can realize they’re running and needn’t run you.
-Be here now. Anxiety is a future state, depression is a past state. Neither are here, now. It’s easier to fixate on dirty counters than it is to remember that in every moment, life is exactly as it is meant to be. I cannot control how I breathe permanently. I can watch, I can do breathing exercises, but life (uhhh finds a way) happens regardless of the stories in my mind. Most of what I think never actually happens, but I do bring the stress or emotion into reality by allowing thoughts to run me as opposed to me going with life. Thoughts have power, but you have power over your thoughts. They’re not you. You’re here now.
-Acceptance. Coping is the opposite of acceptance. Coping says I reject how I feel and I want to feel better. You’re then affirming the thought of your deficiencies and setting up more situations to validate that belief. accepting what is happening at this moment and allowing, listening, approaching yourself with a loving curiosity (perhaps after you curse yourself for such “dumb shit”) will remove the feedback. That is to say: it sucks enough to have a panic attack. Let’s not make it worse by panicking about the panic attack.
-empowerment. “What can I do now?” Panic attacks and anxiety make you feel weak and powerless. In truth, you’ve turned your power over to anxiety. Take it back. Remember that small steps make big changes. I can clean my
counters. I can take a walk. I can go scream in my backyard and baffle my neighbors. I do not have to sit here and take this panic. It’s not me. It has nothing to do with me. Because I – not my thoughts, not my feelings, the I that I am that’s beyond all of these words: that’s who is in control.
-Laughter. Eventually, this too shall pass and you can let yourself giggle at the fact that you lost your shit over a counter. Suddenly, it’s not so serious. It’s not a harbinger of needing to go to the hospital. It’s not you being sick. It’s just life being life. It’s the fact that God has a terrific sense of humor and sometimes you gotta lose your shit at counters to remember that you’re never in control. You didn’t dirty the counters, you don’t know when you’ll have to clean those counters again, and it doesn’t matter. You have now.
-Gratitude. My kids are messy beings and they are also amazing beings. Me caring about my counters means I care about my house, means I have a house to care about. Means I have food that made the counters messy. Means I am alive to clean it up.
You rinse and repeat every day as needed. You remember you’re growing and learning and what a crazy ride this all is. And you breathe, eat a chocolate chip cookie, color with your kid, cry it out, and get up and write about it the next day. That’s living. That’s keeping your power where it belongs: here and now.