themighty logo

Why I'm Relearning to Breathe Because of My Anxiety Disorder


Breathe.

In. Fill up my belly like a balloon — two, three, four.

Hold

Out. Pull my belly button to my spine — two, three, four, five.

Hold.

Repeat.

Breathing. We are born with the ability to do it. In fact, it is one of those automatic functions of the body. It is one of the most basic and simple things we can do and it comes easily to everyone, right?

Wrong.

Breathing is one of the things those of us with anxiety disorders often get “wrong.”

I’ve forgotten how to breathe, again. I’ve spent the past 15 months training myself to breathe normally using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Patiently learning to slow my breath to a calm and rhythmic pace, not hyperventilating, unconsciously holding my breathe, then gulping in deep gasps of air when the inherent need to survive overcomes my anxious brain and fights for oxygen.

I’d gotten pretty good at breathing, or so I thought. But recently, I’ve started to find the same anxious and maladaptive breath holding and hyperventilation creeping back in. Why exactly, I am not 100 percent sure, but the effects are making themselves apparent with daily panic attacks and dizzy spells. I am stressed out, my anxiety disorder is taking back control.

Maybe it’s the pressure I’m placing on myself to achieve wellness. I’ve been receiving treatment for mental health issues for more than a year and sometimes I think I should be “cured” by now and I question why I’m still struggling more often than I’d like. Possibly it is that I’m attempting to socialize more instead of isolating myself like I have for the past year — ater all, being able to integrate into society again is an integral part of health.

Mostly I think it’s the cracks showing from having my mother back in my life for the past couple of months. Her manipulative and baiting ways are terribly draining on me and I continually worry about when the next confrontation or smear campaign will happen. If you’ve had a manipulative person in your life, you will understand only too well the damage even moderate contact does to you.

I’m finding my nightmares are bad again. They have been now for several weeks and I feel haunted by them during the day. I’m not depressed by them, but I am frightened and left with a sense of impending doom. I feel overwhelmed and out of control. I need to stop watching and reading the news — the horrific headlines and threats of an all out war only feed my fears.

No matter what the reason or reasons though, the fact remains I’m falling down the rabbit hole and it scares me a lot. I am terrified of my anxiety attacks. I’m living in fear of them again and the way they can totally obliterate my sense of peace. The frantic speed of my heart, the spinning of my racing thoughts, the cloying nausea and sense of claustrophobia as I feel the walls are pressing in on me, is all too much to handle at times.

I remind myself recovery is not linear and there will be ups and downs. I’m reinforcing the knowledge I learned before on how to breathe and remind myself I can do it again now. I must refocus on the basics for now. I can gain control over my anxiety, but I have to work hard to do so. Letting go of the things that are making me anxious and taunting me is going to be difficult, but there is no other option.

I repeat to myself again and again, “recovery is not linear, recovery is not linear, you are not a failure!”

Follow this journey on The Art of Broken.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via ParfonovaIuliia.