It’s a cold evening, but I was shaking all over before I even got onto the elevator. “Shitty timing for this kind of bullshit”, I point out to myself not quite silently. The almost inaudible snarl of frustration, anxiety, and impotent rage seemed to set off the shaking, although it is more likely they have a shared cause; degraded emotional resilience, too much work, too little time, too much emotional investment, too little boundary-setting, and (I’m know I’m not alone in this) eventually it’s “all too much”. Hell, even the good stuff. This is the middle of that Venn diagram of crazy that a great many of us with anxiety issues, head trauma, PTSD, and a host of other physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges definitely do deal with on a regular basis (with or without support).

I arrive home still shaking all over. I managed the commute without losing my shit – or losing my nerve – although I quickly exited the worst of the stop & go nastiness and shitty human behavior by taking a longish (and apparently unpopular) detour through rural roads a bit out of my way. I can’t properly tell whether – or if – I am “tired”. I feel disconnected and surreal, and on top of the shaking, I feel very much on the edge of tears. This has to be addressed – and living alone, generally, means I can tackle this challenge without allowing myself to be distracted or derailed by instigating drama, or over-reacting to some unrelated small thing that can conveniently be blamed for what may (or may not) be pure chemistry.

…I’ll take a moment to point out that I don’t harp on good self-care because I stroll around modeling the very best self-care, smug in my cared-for-ness of self. I spend a lot of time talking about it because I spend a lot of time considering (and practicing) it – because I need the practice badly, because I am fairly bad at good self-care. So. Moving on.

I feel emotionally safer once I get home. I know the shaking won’t stop until the needs are met. So… what needs? Does this have to degrade into a full-blown meltdown with a screaming tantrum…? Because… I hate those. Uncomfortable. Harder to bounce back from. I nearly always come down with some terrible ailment a day or two later. Fuck that shit. I can do better… can’t I? I like to think I can. I yearn for the truth of it to feel more obvious in some visceral way right now. Like anyone else, my anxiety whispers terrible things to me in the background, and it is hard to hold onto all of the things I have learned about self-care, and growth, and perspective, and balance, and…

…And I’m so human. Fucking hell.

In the meantime, I do things. Self-care can be broken down into a series of small tasks, and observations which lead to other small tasks, until the moment has passed and I am once again “okay right now” – because, for real, I am actually okay right now. I’m not injured. I’m not suffering any externally inflicted physical or emotional wound in this moment. I’m… just here. Shaking. Feeling emotionally overwhelmed and on the edge of a tantrum. I feel… over extended. I feel… un-cared for… by me. Well that sucks. I move around the house completing small tasks… First things first, I hang up my keys and my work badge, and differentiate the moment from the work day. I adjust the thermostat and lighting. I take off my boots. I medicate. I tidy up what little disorder there is, in the kitchen, and assemble a meal that I can just stuff into the oven and forget until it is ready, then make a small snack, aware that I missed lunch and have been surviving on my morning coffee all day.

…”surviving on my morning coffee all day”… Well, shit. Okay, that’s probably part of it, for sure. I pause for a quick moment to appreciate that I started dinner, and had that needed handful of calories, before I was fully aware that I’d missed a meal, and that my blood sugar could be very low. That’s progress, and worth celebrating. I let myself smile about that; it’s a choice, and it feels a little forced. “Thanks for trying”, I silent congratulate myself on the effort.

I know that through writing I often gain some perspective, and I know meditation helps. I allow myself to recognize some poor self-care decision-making of recent days… weeks? Months. Shit. Okay, so… I’ve hit a wall. I get it. I sigh and sit down at my desk to write a bit. Meditation is very difficult when I’m shaking like this, and because meditation can sometimes also be very emotional or cathartic, I put that aside for now (with a lot of uncomfortable awareness that I’ve been less dedicated that I know I need to for my best emotional wellness), promising I’ll do that after dinner. I open my email, and notice a shipped item for my Traveling Partner and forward it with a message. His appreciative reply is welcome right now. His reminder about other things I have promised to get done is less welcome, but possibly necessary. I try to balance the shaking with my gratitude, and hope to find myself more able than not, shortly.

My brain attacks with me an unexpected volley of bullshit; the realization that although I mentioned that I needed to take some time to take care of myself before moving on to other tasks, my partner didn’t ask me how I am, or if I am okay… It slams me (emotionally) in the chest, and I feel breathless, and further overwhelmed. My intellect (and a commitment to non-attachment, and perspective) hits back with a skillful (and timely) reminder that connectivity on his end is generally pretty shitty and he may also be busy, and quite possibly hasn’t even seen that message yet – we don’t make the mistake of treating messaging as “obviously real-time” communication, because it is not. There are far too many things that can interfere with the immediacy of seemingly real-time remote digital communications that assuming digital communication is truly reliably real-time is a great way to face a shitload of unnecessary anxiety and insecurity, most especially in moments of anxiety and insecurity. I breathe through that one, and move on to the next.

I haven’t had it like this in a long while. I know it will pass. I’ve got good steps to manage it with. For now, it is a very physical experience. I start dealing with all that first, because often that’s enough. (Thus changing up the thermostat, lighting, and getting dinner started, first thing.)

My brain flashes forward to a vision of tempting sweet relief in the form of the thought of just… “walking away from all of it”… throwing my gear into the car, taking whatever cash on hand I’ve got, filling the gas tank, and… driving far far away from all the fucking anxiety, and stress, and bullshit, and insecurity, and learned helplessness, and unexpected aggression, and sadness, and disappointment, and financial challenges, and uncertainty about the future in my elder years… Fuck that sounds so… tempting… Like… very tempting…miles of open highway in some remote place putting distance between me and… yeah… me. (note: it doesn’t work like that)


…I’d also be walking away from everything else – all the good stuff, and yeah, even right now, I can allow myself to be aware that there is also a lot of good stuff. (There are verbs involved, and it is a difficult choice.) More good than not, actually. I’d be walking away from a great partnership, a lovely little place I live right now, so many friends who cherish me, a relative lifetime of things and objects that I love, the playful squirrels on my desk, the gas fireplace… yeah. Everything. All of it. Thinking of that, the anxiety surges again, determined to best me on a cold autumn night, as the evening light fades.

Tears come to my eyes. The Evening Light will fade, eventually… we are mortal creatures….

I breathe. Another breath. Another. I feel the temperature of the house warming up. I feel the positive effect of the quick snack of a hard-boiled egg start to kick in. I feel less distracted by hunger, too, after the big glass of water I had. Less agitated because I finally actually noticed that I really had to pee…. like… seriously. I have a nasty headache – had I already noticed that before? I’m pretty sure I did not. I start to feel calmer. The shaking begins to subside.

This is a process. This journey is not over. There are steps (so many) and practices (omg, sooo many) and there are verbs involved (and tasks to complete). My results vary.

I’m not writing this out in real-time to cause you stress, or rouse your empathy, sympathy, or impulse to provide nurturing. It’s more about “being here”, myself, when life isn’t going smoothly – because if I’m only here when all is well, what real opportunity is there to grow – or share that growth? If my perspective comes across as eternally sunny, and you only ever read my words when I am well and whole and merry, what value is there for you if you are mired in struggle, frustrated, alone, and terrified that nothing will ever get better? So. Here I am, down in this shit, doing my best. Practicing practices – many of which were completely new for me such a short time ago – doing my best with the tools at hand. Maybe I succeed, maybe I fail? Maybe I’ll spend the night weeping, or fearful? Hyperventilating in the darkness? Screaming nightmares? I know one thing I can count on doing – I will begin again. 🙂

Round 1 ends. It’s time to practice good self-care. It’s time to begin again.