There are many points during a given day that I feel I’m going to tear down the walls of my house with my bare hands and once I see daylight, I’m going to scream at the top of my lungs in a hysterical, cat-being-stepped-on tone until I’m delivered from the monotony of daily life during a pandemic. I feel like this time in history is a special test for those of us who have anxiety. I am often more restless than I ever thought possible. Some days I go on more walks than I can remember just trying to escape my churning brain that runs quicker the more boredom and sameness I experience. Some days I can’t sit still. My legs bounce up and down, I alternate between standing and sitting and then decide to stand because at least then I can sway back and forth because my body likes to try to keep pace with my churning mind. These days remind me of how I experienced anxiety at its height before my breakdown. I feel irrational and irritated and often look outside myself for something to deliver me from this state.
I’ve had to scale back my intake of news to the extent that I barely know what’s happening in the world anymore. Any thoughts of the election send me into a panic, fearful of an outcome that could make our lives worse. When I hear that it could be a year or more until life will have some semblance of normalcy, a slow, coldness shudders within me at the thought of another year of this state of being. Often my brain is working so hard and fast to drum up more anxiety ridden thoughts for me to ponder, that it takes me awhile to remember that I hold the key to settling my brain and returning to the present. Life is asking me to use my self care and spiritual practices in new ways. I’m meditating longer and more often, trying to center myself and calm my churning brain. Whenever I want to go on my third walk of the day before noon just to escape myself, I pull out my yoga mat instead and try to reconnect with my body. Usually after 30 minutes or so I can come back to myself and feel I am no longer controlled by incessant thoughts. With the peace that yoga and meditation offer comes presence and with the presence comes moments of gratitude and joy. Joy for the opportunity to experience life, for the beauty that exists and gratitude for the people in my life and for the progress I’ve made. It's sometimes hard for me to comprehend that the same brain that can churn with rapid thoughts can also shut off and yield to presence.
It’s difficult to rebuild a life after a breakdown, to discard what wasn't working and find the strength to make healthy choices. There's often much that's lost in the rebuilding: relationships, ways of being, thinking and acting. It’s even more difficult to try and rebuild your life after a breakdown followed by a pandemic. Sometimes I forget what the breakdown taught me, that I am strong, capable and resilient. When I become untethered from myself, I forget these lessons and it can take me awhile to recollect them. I’ve come a long way over the past four years and I’m proud of all that I’ve accomplished. Rebuilding my life rarely takes place in the manner or under the timeframe that I would like, but life rarely works according to our plans.
This pandemic is testing many of the intentional plans I made as I’ve been rebuilding my life. I arranged my life in a certain way so that I could live my values. It was intentional that I chose to live in a small house so that I could save money to travel more. Now I’m stuck in this small house that feels as though its growing smaller by the day. I feel trapped eating, sleeping, and working in the same space day after day. I intentionally chose a house without a yard that would require me to maintain it so that I could have more time to spend doing the things I love with the people I love. Now I crave having a yard to putter around in and enough space to lay on the grass or hang a hammock. I’m trying to reframe these feelings as tests of my resilience rather than suggestions from the Universe that I’ve made the wrong choices. In my former way of thinking, I would take the limitations on my life that the pandemic imposes as signs that my intentions were misguided. I don’t think they were, they just got tangled up in a pandemic and as a result they can look askew to me. I’ve decided this isn’t a time to make life decisions because for me they will likely be made according to the rush of fear, dread and restlessness that I’m often experiencing. This is a time for being, being still, being present. I have to repeat this mantra to myself often.
I can’t escape myself. I know this from years of trying. I’ve sat still for over an hour writing this post and resisted dozens of urges to check my phone, look up words, check email, go for a walk, stop writing, eat something, sit somewhere else, tap my feet on the ground, start writing something else, and erase this entire post. In resisting these urges and letting them pass, I gain some awareness of how I’m trying to pull myself away from the present moment. I check in with my breath and know that it is my guide to a calm existence in a turbulent time. If I can do this multiple times a day, I will one day find myself on the other side of this pandemic and the anxiety that’s accompanied it and know that I was able to persevere.