Have you ever had racing thoughts? Rumination? A million emotions all at once?
Unfortunately, this is all happening to me as I type this post. This is going to be raw and unedited and I am going to post it once I have finished getting my thoughts out.
I just caught myself engrossed in my Sudoku game on my phone looking for any type of distraction from the news articles I just read about the state of healthcare right now. Why am I reading those articles? I have no idea. I told my therapist I wouldn't read them anymore, but yet I can't turn away tonight. I guess I'm hoping to read something uplifting, but that just doesn't exist right now. Or maybe I'm wanting to make sure I'm not the only one feeling overwhelmed when I go to work at the hospital. Either way, I shouldn't have read them. I also looked at our hospital employee app to find that I will have to take ANOTHER new and unfamiliar detour to get to my office tomorrow morning due to extensive construction going on to build more beds when we can't even staff the ones we have now. I know that because of my anxiety, I crave routine, and I like to know what to expect each day. But with the current state of the world, no such thing exists at my job.
I decided that I had two options. I could either continue to ruminate and send myself into a spiral like I used to, or I could get off of my phone and actually deal with whatever was going on with me in that moment. My husband is playing League of Legends right now, and when I noticed myself falling into my old tendencies that led to me having multiple panic attacks each week, I decided to go see what he was up to and distract myself a little bit. Distraction is one of those techniques I use when I am getting up to a 7-10 out of 10 on a scale of distress. Luckily I caught him between games and I was thankful to have 60 seconds just to hold his hand and take some deep breaths. Next, I went to the laundry room to switch over a load from the washer to the dryer. I felt my rate of breathing increase like I might be getting ready to have a panic attack. I decided that I would do the "square breathing" technique to slow down my respiratory rate. Once I completed that and successfully deterred a panic attack, I decided to start naming the emotions I was feeling so that I could more directly deal with them.
"I am feeling:
- Like it's March 2020 all over again
- Afraid to go to work tomorrow
- Responsible for the state of healthcare right now (I recognize that this one is not warranted or rational. I am just one person and all I can do is the job of one person each day I go to work. I am not responsible in any way for the lack of staffing or increase in COVID-19 positive cases among patients and employees.)
- Burned out
Once I named these feelings, I could tell that some of those racing thoughts slowed down. I didn't feel great, but I at least felt a little better. Then I decided to grab my computer and get my experience written out so I could move on with my evening and get everything ready to swim at 6am and then go to work. Unfortunately, I haven't been to the pool for close to a month. I had a million excuses, some of which were valid (like my car being broken down, and the pool being closed for maintenance), and others that were just me wanting to sleep in a little longer with my husband and my dog.
One of the emotions I'm realizing that I didn't write down was hopelessness. I felt that one pretty often leading up to my panic attacks last year. I am proud of myself for continuing to have hope among all those negative emotions I listed above. I am hopeful that I can go to the pool tomorrow and expend some energy in a healthy way before work. I am hopeful that I will be able to talk with my coworkers tomorrow about how I'm feeling and know that I am not alone. I am hopeful that I can overcome this night I'm having to prepare for a good day tomorrow. I am hopeful that things will get better and that my newly learned coping skills can continue to get me through the inevitable hard days. I am hopeful.
My closing thoughts on this one aren't quite as organized as they normally are. I didn't plan this post ahead of time. I guess that I'd appreciate some encouragement from anyone who reads this - feel free to reach out to me personally if you know me, or through the comments or messages on this website. I am strong enough to recognize that sometimes I need help from my support system and tonight is one of those nights for me. Thank you for bearing with me through the negative emotions, and for taking the time to read to the end.