6.18.2009

breathing.

A plus about breathing is that you do not need to think to do it. It just happens, naturally and because well...we have to breathe or we'll suffocate. Back in March, when I was going through a rough patch with my anxiety, I struggled with breathing. I know that sounds silly, but I was very painfully aware of each breath I took. It felt like I had a lump in my throat all the time and that lump was blocking my air flow. Sometimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night gasping for breath, laying there terrified, anxiety prickling at my skin, sweaty- feeling like I was dying. It isn't an exaggeration. The fear of dying, the feeling that I was not breathing and that something was horribly wrong with my body, was an incredibly awful sensation. I could not even control the rational bits of my brain and talk myself out of it. Eventually, after 5 or 10 minutes (although it seemed like hours), I would start to slow down- meaning, my breathing would slow, my thoughts would slow, my fears would subside. I would slowly take in oxygen through my nose, then out through my mouth- trying to do this as calmly and slowly as possible. After it passed, I would usually just lay there and shake- sometimes cry- feeling ashamed and embarrassed that I almost called 911 or my mother because I was so scared. I could not accept that there was not something wrong with me. I refused to believe that it was just my mind, my anxiety, my panic doing this to me. People, I thought, do not forget how to breath or struggle with breathing unless something is REALLY psychically wrong with them. Your own mind cannot make you feel like you cannot breath. Impossible.

But, I was wrong. It was my mind, anxiety, panic. My physical condition was fine- I wasn't dying, I don't have cancer, I don't have heart problems. My mind, for some reason, just tricked my body into thinking that it couldn't perform the simple task of drawing air into my lungs. Sounds silly, but that really pissed me off. I didn't, and don't, like the idea that my subconscious can control me like that. My CONSCIOUS should control, my body should control- not some silly part of my brain that I don't even realize... When I explained these "breathing episodes" (as I like to call them) to my doctor, back when I was convinced I was dying of some scarily undiagnosable disease, she told me to try something next time I woke up feeling like I couldn't breath. She told me to hold my breath and see what happens. I am fairly certain at that moment I thought my doctor was nuts- why would she tell me to assist my body in its failure to perform reasonably? Why the hell would I want to hold my breath, when all I wanted to do in those moments was suck in air? I left her office even more convinced that I had some horrible ailment and everyone was going to be sorry when I died from huge-lump-in-airway disorder because they did not believe me.

Two days later, I woke up around 3 am feeling paralyzed. I couldn't move my arms or legs. My skin was slick with sweat and my breathing was shallow and fast. Jeff was sound asleep beside me, as usual, and did not wake up. I never woke him up during these breathing things- I didn't want him to think I was crazier than I am! As I just lay there, scared and fighting with my lungs, I remembered what my doctor told me. At first I resisted, and my hand reached for my cell phone to dial my parent's house so I could talk to my mom and tell her I couldn't breath, that I was dying. But....then, I tried it. I sucked in one more measly pathetic breath- and held it. I think if anyone would have been looking at me (or Jeff would have woken up) they would have laughed their ass off. I mean, I was a big sweaty heap of bed hair and t-shirt, with cheeks puffed out like a 5 yr old about to go underwater for the first time. After about 15 seconds, I could not hold my breath anymore- and it whooshed out of me like a balloon being deflated- just as loud, too. After the air came out, my lungs- on their own I might add- breathed in deep and drew in largely satisfying amounts of air. I breathed. Is that even grammatically correct? Whatever, doesn't matter, because that night I figured out that my mind could play tricks on my body, that it could trick me into thinking I was dysfunctional in the breath department- but in the end, reflex, instinct, whatever the hell it is, wins out. My body needs oxygen, and damned if my stupid mind is going to get in the way. Turns out, you do not need to think to breath.

On the other hand, over these past few weeks since graduation- I've learned you certainly need to breath, in order to think.

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