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It hit me like a ton of bricks, or some other cliche. Right in the middle of the morning, as it often does – suddenly, my bloodstream was full of hormones, levels spiking, and my body was having its usual full-system freakout response. My eyes started filling with unprompted tears. Everything has gone so smoothly for the last few months that it had been easy to forget how hard this can be.

The shape behind the silhouette you see isn't always what it seems.

The silhouetted reality we see isn’t always what it seems.

I desperately want to write, to work on my paper, and my brain is in even the game. But emotionally, I’m crumbling by the moment, and my ability to control, focus, and keep my mind working and functional is slipping fast. I can all but see my self-confidence fly away on gossamer wings; motivation left the building a couple of days ago and panic oozed in, filling the cracks between my thoughts with fear and foreboding. My head’s spinning, throat’s closing up, and nose has started dripping. Guess it’s a good thing I’m seeing the allergist today, I tell myself wryly.

I feel the stockpile of tears straining the floodgates and I am immediately grateful to be home alone. A melon-sized knot in my chest throbs intensely as the salty trickle finally escapes; a shuddering breath and more tears, one after another, until they drip off my chin. I sit with the intensity of the emotion, just letting it wash over me like a wave, bringing crests of tears every few minutes, interspersed with troughs of calm aching. I acknowledge and accept the emotion, and wait for it to play itself out.

Since I can’t help suffocating in the feeling, I focus on being mindful of how I’m experiencing it physically and mentally. I practice self-compassion by comforting myself instead of just pitying myself. “This is hard right now,” I tell myself. “It’s scary to feel so emotional for no apparent reason, but you’ll be OK.” As the next wave of tears breaks, I worry about being able to get back to work, noticing that the ferocity of the emotion is subsiding. Only now do I realize I should have taken an Ativan when the maelstrom hit. As I debate whether to take it or not, I think, “I can’t make these situations stop happening,” and tears well up fresh. “But I am responding to it better than I used to,” I remind myself, and I take the Ativan.

Looking at the clock, I’ve lost an hour to this mini-hurricane of undoubtedly hormonal origins. By the time I finish up the blog post, the Ativan will have kicked in, and I can smoothly shift tasks without anxiety dragging me down. This is OK, I reassure myself—taking Ativan isn’t a failure to handle things “on your own,” but is a wise-mind choice to help you working today. As my nose drips freely and the tears continue to fall, I remind myself again: “hey, you’re OK. You’ll be fine. Just breathe.