Over the past week or so, I’ve been floating. This happens sometimes; when overwhelm hits peak, after a storm of factors, once my mind has reached max, I shut off. It works in a way where, what feels like all of a sudden, I’m not so much in myself anymore. Picture Peter Pan’s shadow: somewhat attached, but slightly behind; I sew myself on by a thread.
In therapy I complained, “I feel like I’m somewhat experiencing myself, rather than living from within. I’m watching myself go through life.” It was loose chaos with no grounds or links. Though I’ve tried to identify what “it” even is, testing out further explanations that might put words to the instability that seems without base, I’ve fallen flat. It’s the awareness of uncertainty in between the highs and lows, the point when I notice myself begin to quickly bounce back and forth: the less significant, but more frequent, shorter lines on a heart monitor. I try to slow them, I try to make sense of how in a moment my world seems to flip, mood-wise, motivation-wise…my entire outlook, and then I can’t. So I float.
Though, with all my expertise, the floating seems to want to work as a protective mechanism, like most of my ways, it doesn’t quite seem to trick me. I become alarmed, scared, and, to a certain extent, it’s as though I’m losing my mind. Over this past time, it brought back hopeless feelings and a bit of a lethargic panic on where I really was: in life, in recovery, in general. At first, I talked a lot. Then, I tried reaching out. I whipped out my DBT, CBT, ACT (pretty much any T) skills. Nothing would work. I couldn’t get out the words to write what was occurring. I couldn’t focus long enough to read or draw. I waited. Then, I tried something different.
The goal was to reconnect. At first, I’d wanted to understand what was going on in my brain, but then I realized, it didn’t quite matter. What I wanted was to change what was going on up there. I wanted to re-enter and slow down. I came across mindfulness.
Though, I’d tried to spend a few moments here and there using Marsha Linehan’s observer meditation. It just wasn’t cutting it. I wasn’t connected enough to myself to notice my emotions like a leaf floating on a river, and, to be honest, I didn’t really care to. However, a few months ago, I was living with a genius who happened to meditate out loud with people. With curiosity, I’d joined in the social meditation. Essentially, whomever was participating would get comfortable in a room, close their eyes, and speak out loud any observations they had, whether it be body sensations, noise, thoughts, smell. I’d found it extremely centering, if even for a short while, and it left me often being more aware of who and how I am in relationship with my world.
This time, I was alone. I won’t lie, I had some judgement about talking to myself, but I figured it was worth a try. For several days now, I have been setting apart time to lie outside in the sun and take time to take note of myself on such a basic level. To notice the breeze on my back, has simplified the pandemonium of my head, and saying it out loud leaves less space for other thoughts. Life began to slow and I stepped back in to see it, through my eyes.
In the calling back to my body and my standard perception, I’ve become aware of my desire to do so more frequently. Since entering recovery, I’ve found a peace in my surroundings and have sought out those which feel congruent with my image of serenity. With that, I’ve become devoted to hiking. Living in California, there are so many scenic hikes, and there’s a quiet that makes the noise of my inner self collide and simmer. The beat of my steps and the image at each lookout gives space for whispers instead of screams. I hear my thoughts, they don’t need to shout, and I can have others.
Since, I’ve been heightening my sensitivity to my essential observations, I went on a hike yesterday and was floored by the intensity of just, well, “being here”. The sounds alone, the array of insects to birds to the wind against the brush, were as soothing as any noise machine. The concentration on as simple of a thing as walking and searching for a lookout, the engagement in those I was with, without filling the void with words, brought me one step closer to being within.
Although this journey is not always easy, and the fixes I try don’t always work, and those which do take time, I felt a calm in knowing I didn’t know much, not what had happened or what was going to, but I did know where I was. I was floating less.
Here are some pictures from other hikes: