I struggled with a bad bit yesterday. It was the first significant experience with loss of balance, volatility, and my chaos and damage since I moved. The lovely morning began to slide sideways fairly early in the day, as I reacted to fairly commonplace work stress while also struggling with my hormones. I made choices that caused both to be more serious challenges than they might otherwise have been.

I realized where my state of being was taking me around mid-day, and made the choice to start the holiday weekend early. A hot day, no clear agenda, enough background stress to repeatedly find myself clenching my jaw…I followed up my early departure from work with the choice to head to the nearby mall…an odd choice for me these days, but I found myself wanting to window shop and consider my quality of life ‘to do list’ for home and hearth, and enjoy the colder a/c for a time.

Choices matter. This choice was not ideal for me, fortunately I still have free will.

Choices matter. This choice was not ideal for me, fortunately I still have free will.

Clenched jaw. Headache. Irritability. Backache. A persistent feeling of frustrated anger simmering in the background. Feeling disconnected – and unable to connect. I felt very aware that the issue was my own, and not something anyone else was causing. As I wandered the aisles of ‘retail paradise’ I repeatedly pulled my focus back to ‘now’, working to maintain awareness, and presence in the moment. I was not expecting to find myself unable to find joy in the varied colorful displays of merchandise offered for my consideration; “retail therapy” used to be something I could easily rely on for a diversion, if nothing else. It was not working yesterday; I am not the person I once was.

I got an icy cold creamy chocolate-y coffee beverage ‘for medicinal purposes’ (yes, in my experience the combination of chocolate and coffee does help with hormone challenges). I sampled some fruit teas, and bought a nice one for iced tea for the weekend. The mall had nothing else to offer [for me], unless perhaps I had a much bigger kitchen, and an unlimited budget for high-end kitchen gear – neither of which are the state of things. I felt irritated with the noise – I went to the mall while I was struggling with noise sensitivity, too? What was I thinking? I headed for home feeling pretty low, and rather dismally disconnected from self.  The heat of the day contributed to being so cross by the time I got home that I was near tears. I sent my traveling partner a heads up that I was dropping offline for a while to take care of me, and that I was not at risk of self-harm; worrying loved ones doesn’t help with longer term stress management.

As soon as I got home I reached for the checklist. Mine is personalized with some additions that are specific to my own needs. First things first – I went down the list and checked off what I knew I had already managed and discovered something I wasn’t fully aware of; there were some significant misses. I set the check list aside, and in a ‘first things first’ sort of way, had a leisurely shower to rinse off the stickiness of sweat and the heat of the day, and changed into ‘comfy clothes’ [for me that’s yoga pants and a loose tank top]. At that point I put down everything else – including my concerns, doubts, stress, and emotional weirdness – and took time to meditate, no timer. It was a struggle. My mind wandered, again and again, fussy over nothing, irritated with minutiae, distracted and out of focus, and feeling vaguely sad. Each time I came back to my breath it got a little easier, and I felt a little more calm. My headache began to ease. My clenched jaw finally relaxed.

Another look at the checklist, and I began working my way down the list item by item…a healthy meal…some exercise…music, dance, yoga…I picked up and completed a couple small projects, and planned the weekend around taking care of me, and enjoying some leisure time. I stayed away from social media, and video brain candy. I looked into the face of my anxiety fearlessly, and allowed myself to consider that I might go completely to pieces that evening and find myself in crisis management mode, and affectionately accepted that I have challenges to deal with, even now, and that life isn’t about ‘perfect’ or ‘happily ever after’ and that the variability and intensity of my emotional life is also part of how I feel the intensity of the love, passion, and delight that I do in other moments. I reminded myself this would all pass, as things typically do; the intensity is not really sustainable.

The hormone piece is a real bad-ass as challenges go; I’ve passed menopause, and the tendency is to think this means I am done with complicated mood swings and whatnot resulting from the reproductive hormone cycle, but that’s a gross oversimplification, and this week I had screwed up the timing on my HRT – which means hormones became a factor that needed acknowledgement, attention, and self-compassion. The disinhibiting qualities of my TBI contribute to my volatility; I have trouble managing intense emotions, however fleeting, and the stress caused by my fears that I may ‘lose my shit’ unexpectedly and lash out in a socially inappropriate way doesn’t make it any easier.

Over the next few hours of taking care of me with my whole attention, and nothing else on my mind, I managed to find my way to a more comfortable place. I didn’t stop when I got there, and enjoyed several more opportunities to meditate, to treat myself with compassion and tenderness, and to restore order to my thinking through the living metaphor of restoring order to my experience, and my environment.

This morning I woke at the usual time, without the alarm, and got up long enough to take my medication on time, and return to sleep for a delicious additional 2 and half hours. I woke easily, feeling content and comfortable in my skin, and in my head. I overslept my original plans, but didn’t feel disappointed; I have a plan B. I enjoyed a few minutes of conversation with my traveling partner, in the digital world, and made coffee. I took time to enjoy my coffee without distraction, feet up, listening to music. Meditation, yoga, and dancing got my on my feet and enjoying the pleasure of movement. I took on a couple small household projects, like reorganizing the pantry for the shelves that will arrive next week, and making a home for the bin in which my journals remain packed (I once needed to see them displayed all around me to feel secure). The additional living space and order feel very good, and I recognize that the lack of order was causing me stress; these were details that felt very much that I wasn’t finished moving in.

Blooming in my own time, when conditions are right; I am learning to tend the garden of my heart more skillfully.

Blooming in my own time, when conditions are right; I am learning to tend the garden of my heart more skillfully.

It is one truth that I will face my demons until they are vanquished. It is another truth that although I have taken many steps, there are many more ahead of me. It is yet another truth that I am okay right now, and right now that’s enough.