Friday, November 15, 2013

learning to breathe

Last year, when I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and went through surgery, I was fine.
I mean, the surgery was brutal and recovery was excruciating but emotionally, I was mostly OK.

A year later, except for the back of my head (which is a little bit sensitive), I'm fine physically but the emotional part has become more of a challenge. In the last few months, it's become clear to me that I'm only going to work through it all with a little outside help.

So, I'm seeing a therapist. I know it's the right thing to do and I like and instinctively trust the woman I'm working with but it's not easy at all. 

We've talked about how all my life, I've been pretty good at getting along by stuffing a lot of my fear and anger into an emotional closet. This has, for the most part, been a remarkable coping mechanism. However, no door is completely effective at shutting out the bad stuff and, when it leaks out through the cracks, it manifests itself in ways that can take a very large toll on the body and spirit. At this point in my life, my emotional closet is so full of anger and fear that the door is in danger of bursting wide open. 

I'm afraid of losing control.

I'm embarrassed and ashamed that some of it is so ugly.

I'm scared of taking my darkest thoughts and holding them up to the light.

But I think it needs to happen.

I've also been thinking a lot about how I live most of my life in my head, to the point that I'm really quite disconnected from my own body. At my very first session with my new therapist, she pointed out that when I talk about my fear of another tumour or about certain things from my past, I hyperventilate. And I don't even notice.

She spent most of the second session interrupting me and telling me to take deep breaths, hold them and then exhale slowly. She asked me how I was feeling and I said "Impatient."

What I thought was "I'm paying all this money per hour, so I can sit here and breathe? I can do that at home."

Except that I don't. So she's given me homework. I have to spend two minutes a day, twice a day concentrating on my breathing (we started with four minutes but it felt like an eternity).

In.

Out.

Just taking in oxygen. It's so basic. Yet here I am, 46 years old and learning to breathe.

22 comments:

Average Jane said...

I'm glad you're getting the help you need with this.

laurie said...

Thanks. It feels like the right thing to be doing. It's not easy but writing this felt right - and I bet I'm not alone.

Joanna said...

Have you ever done Pilates or yoga? Deep, rhythmic breathing is an essential component of both activities. Pilates is really helping me and the breathing part of it helps me relax. Taking big lung filling breaths has a tranquilizing effect.

laurie said...

I've done yoga and when it's good, I have a strong sense of well-being afterwards. Yoga got hard for a while and then I got lazy. I should go back.

Lene Andersen said...

this is one of the reasons we're friends. I thought you were talking about me. Well, OK. The brain tumour thing was a dead giveaway, but the rest? Yup. Resonated deeply.

So glad you've found someone good. Hope it'll help you shed some of those feelings.

laurie said...

Lene. We were separated at birth. Didn't you know?

Renn said...

It takes guts to get outside help. I applaud you for doing it! I have had therapy in the past, but not since my BC diagnosis. Fortunately I discovered blogging and that has literally saved my mental health. But I would still like to do some talk therapy to continue to process some of this BC junk. Thanks for the reminder.

Teresa said...

Hi laurie - I've just spent an age reading your posts, I love the way you write. A friend of mine has just been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer so I've been trawling sites to see how to best help/support her. I'm in Australia- did you ever visit? Let me tell you it's a funny place, either on fire, under water, in a heatwave or experiencing a cyclone. Everything is poisonous or at least sometimes it seems that way...Only joking its a great country and I really hope one day you can visit. Back to yr post, I can't comment on therapy except to say that it makes sense to talk to someone objective from time to time. For all the best intentions we all mould ourselves a bit with family/friends, so sometimes can't say everything we want to say. All the best.

laurie said...

Thanks Renn and Teresa! Renn, I'm adding your blog to my 'to read' list! And Teresa, please tell your friend that I'm here, should she ever want to connect. I have never been to Australia but (as you can see from my Blogger bio), it has been a life-long dream to go. I hope it happens!

ebg said...

Thank you for sharing. I think it would astonishing if you didn't have some seriously pent-up stuff. How else would you have gotten through all you've been dealing with, while also raising a family and maintaining a relationship? I think bundling up and packing away tough emotions is a major coping skill, especially for women. (It's certainly that for me, and also a reason why I'm looking into meditation...)

Breathing sounds so basic because it is. Really it is such a fundamental skill that is so overlooked. I hope it starts to unlock things for you, and gives you a way to feel a bit of stillness in the chaos of daily life.

Thanks for your candor.

laurie said...

That's exactly it! It has been an excellent coping mechanism but it's starting to fail. I need help as to how to do things differently.

JoT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JoT said...

Try again since there's no way to edit a post...

There's always singing. Great way to get your breathing apparatus working.

laurie said...

I have a block about singing, having been told that I have a terrible voice (in far more colourful language) since I was a child. Perhaps I will get there, one day. I have so many friends in Shout Sister and they make it sound like fun.

deb said...

Whenever I go for a massage they tell me I don't breathe. Same goes in therapy, too. I have simple breathing exercises that are incredibly helpful when I do them. Not sure what is preventing us from taking that moment?!

deb said...

Whenever I go for a massage they tell me I don't breathe. Same goes in therapy, too. I have simple breathing exercises that are incredibly helpful when I do them. Not sure what is preventing us from taking that moment?!

elesha said...

Been reading your blog for a long time and I literally just went back to see if in fact it was a year ago you found the brewing tumour and indeed it was. I can not believe that was a year ago. Where has this year gone.
I know you dislike this time of year but 8 years after your initial diagnosis and your still here living life is inspiring.
Elesha

laurie said...

Elesha, that is absolutely the perfect thing to say to me right now. You are totally right. I am here. And that's pretty wonderful.

Nancy's Point said...

Hi Laurie,
Just wanted to stop by and say hello and commend you for seeking someone out to talk with. I'm proud of you for taking that step. I sort of live in my head too, so I understand about that...

And that homework assignment is a pretty important one isn't it? Thanks so much for sharing about this. You are helping many others.

laurie said...

Thanks Nancy. That means a lot coming from you, who spends so much helping others with your writing.

EAK13 said...

The saying, it's as easy as breathing is at times the hardest thing we have to do...our bodies take a beating going through cancer and treatment.... our Spiritual self gets lost in the confusion..
Been there myself a time or two during this bus ride making far too many pit stops.
I have started meditation and released some of the negative energy that was suffocating me. Good Luck my fellow Cannuck... there is a light at the end :) XX Alli.....

laurie said...

Yes, that's true. Our spiritual self does get lost in the midst of chaos.