“This is the Breath I’m Working On”

This isn’t a break/fix post…it’s more a rambling story.  Hang in there.


A couple of months ago, during a very, incredibly busy time of my life (school, kid stuff, work stuff), I was hit in the head by a flying cat.  Ok, stop laughing…yes this is a true story.  I have a kitchen island, and across from it, a countertop along the wall.  The cats jump back and forth (angrily, I might add), when they are about to be fed.  One of my cats, Pixel, is a very large older gentleman, who weighs about 14 pounds.  One morning at around 7am, I bent down to get the cat food cans out of the cabinet below the counter.  As I was coming up, I felt this WHAM! On the left side of my head, just above the ear.  Pixel had attempted to jump the gap between island and counter at the exact moment my head was coming up to counter height.  All his momentum, plus the thickest, hardest, part of his skull collided with the thinnest, most vulnerable part of my skull.  I staggered around for a minute, cursed a lot, and begrudgingly finished feeding my would-be assassin.  Stupid, but minor, I thought…so I went on to work.  


Around 2pm, I started to develop a wicked headache.  I attributed it to pollen (it was March, after all), and kept pushing forward.  After work, I was unloading groceries from the trunk of my car, when I pushed the hatchback downwards to close it.  The downward force was way too much momentum for me to counterbalance, and I nearly fell over.  “Whoa!  Am I drunk?” I thought.  How weird!  But…I kept going about my day. I had college papers to write.


As I took the dogs out potty, I tried to step sideways and again lost my balance completely.  Ok, yes, this is weird. Something is wrong.  As I did my school work, I couldn’t remember words.  I had trouble forming sentences.  I discussed this with my sister-in-law, who said Get thee to the ER!  So of course I…mulled it over longer and decided to schedule a Teledoc visit.  Well…here’s where things got bad.  I scheduled the visit…for the next day. By accident.  Then, after I realized my mistake, I couldn’t figure out how to change it. I struggled for an hour with their (super easy) website.  I was having trouble reading, and worse, comprehending anything.  I ended up having to call Teledoc’s customer service (who straightened out my scheduling issue).  The irony is…I work in technology. I’m extremely adept at tech stuff, and literally worked in tech support for 10 years.  I was dumbfounded by a website.  This was bad.


Teledoc was great and told me Do Not Pass Go; Do Not Collect $200. Go Straight to the ER.  So I went.

The ER people were great, though, I felt humiliated asking for a CT scan for a Cat Injury.  I’m pretty sure they were convinced I was beaten by someone, but they were nice enough to only ask once if I’m “safe at home.”  My answer “Other than the murderous cats,” was not as funny to them as it was to me.


So…anyway…long story a bit longer…I was concussed. And in a full blown migraine as a result.  Apparently that’s pretty common.  I was put on “brain rest,” and ordered into a dark room for 3-4 days.  I was to follow up with the primary care doc by then.


I had a migration the coming weekend at work; I had several college papers due; I had laundry, dishes, vacuuming…I didn’t have time for a cat-cussion.  I was told to stay off screens (no phone, no tablet, no computers).  I was told I should be back to normal in a week.


Uh…ok, that ended up being very un-true…but the important part of this story (and why I’m sharing this with you) is the ensuing meltdown, and the place I got to after.  I was/am a massive overachiever.  Before I got my adhd under control, I was a wanna-be overachiever…but now I actually am.  I was in my last semester of college, worked full time, mom full time, plus I was learning Spanish, and reading and writing daily for growth.  I was really into my routines and checklists, which were on the computer, and I couldn’t access.  My head was a mess, but I was so afraid of drifting out of my structure (which was my lifeline) that panic quickly took over.


As I sprawled on the futon in our loft, in the dark and still wearing a sleep mask, I ruminated over all the things I’m supposed to be doing. Then I’d remember I’m on brain-rest and supposed to not think.  Well, fo r all you adhd peeps who have tried meditation, and ‘clearing your mind,’ you get how hard this is, right???  


After a couple of days…I got to a point where I would start to ruminate and panic, and I’d think, “You know what? Let me just get through THIS BREATH. This one RIGHT HERE.  THIS. IS. THE. BREATH. I’M. WORKING. ON.”  and then I’d say that for the next breath. And the next.


Panic would rise up when my thoughts would drift to overdue papers, or how my boss was surely going to fire me…and I’d just come back to “Let me just get through THIS breath. THIS is the breath I’m working on.” Over and over and over. For DAYS.  


Do you know what happened?

I got through it.  It took weeks.  It was a slow, painful recovery. I had linger effects for months.  But it took almost 2 full weeks of brain rest (and near-total darkness) before I got through the migraines.  I had to go to a neurologist (which ended up being a blessing…), and what’s more, I learned the power of “this is the breath I’m working on.”


When I start to panic, fret, or ruminate, I can instantly bring myself back into calm now.  After nearly two weeks of saying that mantra all day, it is one of the most centering tools I have in my tool box.  I can’t adequately explain the power of it to you, but feel free to try it yourself and report back.


I think for me, it’s similar to another mantra I heard about (“Right now, this is how it is.”)  I think both really “give it up” to the fact that we are where we are…and acceptance just might be our only option.  I think mine also gives me focus, and internal focus of something I can do at that moment.  So it’s helpful for me in that way.


Anyway, long story, short: breathe.