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Remembering to Breathe During the Difficult Moments With Illness


The past month has been a struggle. I am always trying to find comfort. In food. In conversation. In my body. With others. It isn’t easy for me and there are times when I feel like I am in a daily battle looking to locate a place inside where comfort resides.

Having a chronic illness is hard work. Tonight I struggle to sleep. The worst thing I could do was grab my iPhone and get more blue light. But the battle was raging and I want to write about how anxiety is ugly and challenging and scary. To see my words written might help me find some way to cope with it. I’ve been learning to meditate through anxious times on a global and personal scale. For the longest time I have been in a battle. I feel angry, upset, lonely and hurt. I am learning to breathe into it. Facing fear. Facing uncertainty. Looking it squarely in the face. Staring at it. Giving it a name.

 

For 30 plus years I have had a chronic pelvic pain disorder, interstitial cystitis.   have dealt with it, lived a life in spite of it. Complications as I have gotten older have arisen that have made it very difficult to have what I remember as a “normal” life. I developed a very serious paraesophageal hiatal hernia that needed immediate surgery. The surgery no doubt saved my life. But I have developed further complications as a result.

Last week I ended up in the hospital for three long days. I breathed through it. I have been unable to eat solid food for almost a week now. I feel weak, sad and abandoned on many fronts. I have numerous doctor appointments coming up. I have fears that wake me up in the middle of the night. What if I can’t work? What if I lose everything I have worked so hard for? Then, almost immediately, I do what I have learned to do best. I breathe.

colorful drawing of lungs with the word 'breathe'

I start when the lump in my throat gets in my way. I start when on a walk with my dog who can’t remember what he’s supposed to do. I start when I feel alone. I start when I try to figure out what I can do to get nourishment into my weakened body. I start when the fear washes over me. I breathe. Slowly. In. Out. One breath at a time. They say it’s “New Age.” I say it’s a lifesaver.

Breathing keeps me centered. I’m aligned with my posture, which makes my entire body receive the breath work. It’s healing. Giving. Loving. Gone is the fear. The emptiness. It’s life giving. It releases trauma. It fills the lungs with much-needed oxygen that we all need to be our best. It gives me hope. It helps me cope. I get the feeling I am going to be OK. The pain lessens. The heart relaxes into a steady beat. Blood pressure normalizes. Eyes brighten. It’s going to be OK.

So instead of working against my body, I am working with it. In a full partnership. Not half. Not only when I feel the need. Daily. Sometimes hourly. Sometimes by the minute. Days go by. Years go by. I am still here. Breathing. What a gift.

Along with breath work, positive thinking helps. Watching funny videos, movies and shows helps. Laughter brings the breath back. It gives relief and heals the cells. I love to watch old Gallagher videos. He skates across the stage, has the weirdest props and smashes things. Things I wish I could smash! It gives me pause. It makes me feel lighter in my body. It truly helps.

When it’s all too much…breathe. When it hurts too much…breathe. When it feels so wrong…breathe. When it won’t let go…breathe. And let it go. Give it a minute. Or minutes. Learn to lean in. Meditate. Talk to God. Whatever helps, do.

Start today.

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