When you struggle even to breathe

These days it’s rare for me to have tinnitus spikes. Thanks to almost seven years of mindfulness practice, I’m able to spot when stress, anxiety or tiredness is causing my tinnitus to ramp up and quickly bring the sounds back to their usual, manageable level.

But last night was more of a challenge.

Yesterday morning I found out someone had broken into my office. Don’t worry, everything confidential was securely locked away so they didn’t get anything important. But, as anyone who has been through the same thing will tell you, having things stolen is only one aspect of being burgled.

At first, I was very calm. I called the police, managing to speak quite coherently. I messaged my neighborhood WhatsApp group asking them to check their own buildings and any CCTV.

Then I took the dog for a walk while I waited for the police. Not the most essential of activities (well, it was as far as she was concerned!) but my brain was quite insistent I had to follow my normal morning routine, regardless of what had just happened. I’m pretty sure this was denial.

Several hours later the local police and CSI had done their job and I was allowed back into the office. Scrubbing the burglar’s muddy footprints off the floor, I must admit that a few swear words might have escaped my lips. I can confirm that was definitely anger!

Once the frenetic activity stopped the tears came. Tears of shock, anger, and pity. Even though nothing that couldn’t be replaced had been taken it was frightening to know that the burglar had probably been watching my routine for some time.

After an extraordinary day like that, it was not surprising that my tinnitus volume was through the roof. I was extremely grateful that I had created a Tinnitus Flare-up Toolkit ready for exactly these kinds of moments.

A Tinnitus Fare-up Toolkit is the very last thing we create together as part of the Bee Bee Empowered Course It incorporates self-compassion, emergency mindfulness techniques, relaxation exercises, self-soothing activities and even chocolate (well, in my case anyway!) As I lay wide awake with roaring tinnitus at half past midnight, I was very grateful to be able to open my phone to find a ready-made set of tools that I knew worked for me. With their help I managed to sleep.

Experiencing the shock of this break-in reminded me so much of my experience of getting tinnitus. Overnight, it felt like someone had crept in and stolen my silence. And if our tinnitus doesn’t leave and we are told to ‘learn to live with it’ many of us go through the traditional stages of grief identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in much the same way I was doing yesterday.

As I write this, I can confirm I’m definitely not at the acceptance stage yet! In fact, I have to admit that I’ve just eaten the emergency chocolate bar from my Flare-up Toolkit for breakfast!

So, I’m going to be very kind to myself today. I will allow myself to notice and accept the mix of emotions that will rise up. I will observe where my thoughts want to take me and what stories they want to create in my head. And rather than allowing them to dictate what kind of day I have, I will instead focus my attention back on my breath. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.