In, fill up my belly like a balloon – two, three, four.
Out, pull my belly button to my spine – two, three, four, five
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 comes easily to everyone! Right? WRONG! Breathing is one of the things that those of us with anxiety disorders often get wrong.
I’ve forgotten how to breathe, again. The past 15 months has been spent training myself to breathe normally using Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, or DBT. Patiently learning to slow my breath to a calm and rhythmic pace, not hyperventilating or worse, 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, I think that should be cured by now and question why I’m still struggling more often than I’d like. Possibly it is that I’m attempting to socialise more instead of isolating myself like I have for the past year, after 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 narcissistic manipulative person in your life, you will understand only too well the damage that even moderate contact does to you.
I’m finding that 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 all out war only feeding my fears.
No matter what the reason or reasons though – the fact remains that 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, and 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 that recovery is not linear and that there will be ups and downs. I’m reinforcing the knowledge that I learned how to breathe before and 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!”.