Unplug and reset.
Today is the first of these posts after 82 days that did not get fully written and posted before I went to bed. I am finishing this up in the morning of day 83, not because I forgot or was lazy, but because I simply did not know how to finish up last night. I needed to just step away, unplug, sleep, and reset.
The metaphor of a computer to represent my brain has been a fairly consistent image woven throughout these nearly 12 weeks of quarantine. No matter how experienced someone is an an IT technician, there comes a time when the only relevant advice to give someone when their systems are not working is to power it all down and restart.
Nine times out of ten, that solves the problem.
Yesterday, I had what I now see as a system crash. Although I tried many things, it finally came down to that simple IT solution of just closing it all down and then rebooting this morning.
Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling a vague sense of dread. It was that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that you feel before stepping into a stressful confrontation, or that moment waiting to hear some bad news and dreading what it might be. The feeling was light, but definitely there.
Oddly, I awoke with these feelings. Nothing “happened” to catalyze them in a conscious sense. All I can think is that my dreams were somehow disturbing and filled me with anxiety – because that’s what I eventually realized it was. Anxiety.
I went about my normal morning rituals, hoping that familiarity would help ease my feelings. It seemed to work for a bit. After all, it was a lovely day and I had no commitments except to enjoy the day as best I could. I was preparing lunch when the energy came back again, much stronger than before. By the time I sat down at the table to eat, I could feel that gnawing fear in the pit of my stomach. I noticed that my breathing was shallower than usual, and as I raised my fork up for a bite I realized that my hands were trembling.
I rushed through the meal and then went to my favorite comfortable armchair to relax and do some deep breathing. I hoped that would help. It didn’t. I suddenly felt exhausted, so I decided to nap. Over two hours later – not a normal nap time for me – I woke up from a deep, deep sleep. The dreams had not been gentle or relaxing, but even so I felt a tiny bit better. Honestly, those two hours were like the sleep fo the dead. I rarely nap for more than thirty minutes or so but clearly my body and spirit were ready to shut down.
I woke up feeling calmer, but not great. I had nearly forgotten that I had a date to FaceTime with a friend, so I managed to pull myself together and had a really nice half hour with a good friend. That helped – the sense of human contact and being able to share my experience with someone who understood.
It’s been years since I had a classic anxiety attack. I can’t recall the specifics of the last one, but I do know that it was the direct result of something obvious. It didn’t just appear for “no reason.” Of course, I know that there are plenty of reasons right now – but my brain craves “knowing.” I have always been obsessed with tracing cause and effect. To have something nearly debilitating like yesterday’s panic attack without any clear cause – well that just makes my logical brain very, very unhappy.
So last night, I began to type this up and just hit a wall. I felt the edges of the anxiety whispering to the back of my mind, so I turned off the computer and went to bed. This morning, I am finishing this up not in my “normal” space that has been my go-to spot for relaxation and communication for the past 82 days – but in my bright, sunny kitchen. The walls are painted bright yellow and the large windows face directly east so the morning sunlight is nearly blinding (in a good way).
This morning, I actually began the day with my morning journaling routine, sitting in that same regular spot with my same list of morning questions. In the middle of the third question, I coughed and spewed coffee all over myself and my new journal (I finished one up yesterday and opened a new one today).
After cleaning up, changing my clothes, and tearing out the coffee-drenched pages I decided that it was a sign. I had felt a bit of resistance in the morning to starting that new journal, but I ignored that intuitive push. I believe the oddly-placed cough and subsequent spewing of coffee was a sign that I should indeed start new habits, new patterns, and new rituals today.
As small as it may seem, I am going to move my home office (at least temporarily) into the kitchen and I am going to find new morning rituals beginning tomorrow. I believe my anxiety attack of yesterday was partly because of this stasis, this feeling of going nowhere, the idea that nothing changes from day to day and only gets worse and worse.
Today, I start after a “power down and reboot” moment. I hope it works.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.