I awake in the pitch dark and it’s there to greet me. I get a tight coolness in my chest and throat that radiates down to warmth into my chest. A heavy rock in my gut. Warmth spreads outwards across my chest and up to my throat and to my tongue. I feel like it takes effort to get oxygen to my brain, but it’s more effort to try and breathe deep. The feeling comes before any thoughts. And I instinctively search desperately for a reason. Ah, there it is. This morning the anxiety is a reminder of my insolence. I have not been as productive as I wanted this week. Mostly due to the tired haze, this feeling has put me in. It becomes heavier. I push away the self-depreciating thought and I continue my mental search for physical reasons to why this happens to me every October.
The beginning of the month is hot. The leaves are changing and we are dancing around happily in tank tops, scarves, and boots. Every year we are amazed at how mild it is and wonder if this Halloween will be warmer than the last. Then quickly, within a few days, the weather changes. It begins to rain and with the sun behind the clouds, it gets cold and then the darkness comes. I’ve caught onto this in the last few years and no longer wonder in awe at the beautiful warmth of the early fall season.
“Enjoy it! It’s going to get dark and start raining and it won’t stop till February.” I prepare others for it. Consciously, making myself aware as well.
I learn from my mistakes and won’t be tricked by October’s luring acrobats of deception. October has notoriously been a shitty month for me. In the past, it was money that caused me the most grief. October was when my insurance ran out on my beat up old car. (Which always had problems passing Air Care.) It was the beginning of my 3 month gift giving season, beginning with my son’s birthday, a week later, Halloween, a week after that my birthday, then my daughters, then my dad’s, then Christmas. Fortunately, as chaotic as the next three months are about to be, the stress of money is not really all that prevalent. So, is the emotional upheaval I experience every year just the anxiety of the past Octobers haunting me now? I do not believe so.
I know I’m not alone in experiencing the physical repercussions of the month. I know there are others like me who are feeling “off” and “edgy”. What is it about this month that wreaks havoc on us? Is it just us on the west coast? Is it the sudden change in weather? The insistent darkness that Daylight Savings Times is supposed to save us from? Maybe some of us just aren’t meant to live in constant darkness. Our animal instincts are not so suppressed. Maybe October is our signal that we are meant to be elsewhere. The same as it is for the geese that scream above my head every morning. Reminding me “Hey! It’s time! We’re going south! Let’s go!” Or maybe I’m meant to just fatten up and sleep throughout the winter. Both options I’m okay with.
Whatever the case may be, trying to figure it all out just makes my October anxiety worse. So, this month I’m just trying to ride it out.
“It’s just a feeling.” I remind myself to get my mind to stop going through my file cabinet of screw ups.
I crave comfort. A soft stroke on the face, an arm around me, an understanding smile. I should just quit beating myself up over eating hot dogs and chocolate milk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I just got to get through this. Whatever brings me peace I should allow. I feel the sensation of the anxiety and where it is in my body. I analyze it like a specimen, making notes of what I do that makes it go away for even seconds. The present moment seems to be the infinite answer for all things and in this case, it brings me relief. But being present constantly is near impossible for me. And it turns into a “Now now now now now” mantra and I have to do something else.
Positive emotions and feelings arise and I’m surprised by them. I don’t know where they are coming from. Images that create them are fleeting and the feelings are faint. They feel ancient and pure. Like a childhood memory unscathed by realistic views. They are fragile and I cradle them gently afraid that even my breath will scare them off. Everything seems like an effort. Even holding onto ancient positive emotions.
I don’t want to do anything, but I want to do something. As frustration arises, I recognize it and leave the task at hand and find something else for the moment. I’m agonizingly aware of every feeling in my body. Minor irritations are like pin pricks and create a ball of rage in me that is unusually annoying. “OH just stop it, Jessica! ” I attempt to rise above them, to put it all in perspective and to just allow the feelings to wash over me leaving potential victims unscathed.
“What is this monster I’m becoming?”
I have begun to find humor in the dramatics of my inner dialogue. My goodness, the foulness I could spew if I were that person. I applaud myself for my creative use of the English language and curse words. I am now embracing the drama. Allowing it to move my body in a pouting, overtired toddler manner. “Meh!” I whine. And drink my wine. Cross legged on the floor out of a mug.
I gasped in horror at my reflection the other day. Standing there with unwashed hair, hot dog in hand, ketchup dripped on my faded “Buff Yourself” t-shirt. “Dear God, woman! Get yourself together!” I said to myself in disgust and I apply mascara. “There ya go!” And I sit back to down amongst the old tissues and dishes and immerse myself in the self-made drama of The Sims.
Distraction has become my weapon against this foul beast of a month. Distraction and life’s simple pleasures. There is no fighting what is inevitable. The days are going to be dark, the rain is going to fall and my birthday will happen. Until I can fly away every October with the geese to get away from it all, I am going to spend my early October days wearing my boots and scarf, basking in the sun happily and fully aware that come Halloween I’ll be lying on the floor in front of the fireplace wearing an old t-shirt and sweats, eating hot dogs, drinking chocolate milk and chanting, “November is coming.” Hoping that the placebo will take effect.