Finding words is sometimes like taking a deep breath.
I keep breathing, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I know that my lungs are working, but I am less sure if my body is using the oxygen the way it’s supposed to. I visualize the air coming in, filling me up, but it feels stuck. I try to take in more air while simultaneously feeling the deprivation in my head, bringing darkness to the edges of my vision and increasing my heartrate in anticipation of having to rescue myself. The apparent inadequate workings of my respiratory system surprises me.
I don’t remember the first time I couldn’t breathe. I do remember the first time that it brought me to my knees, sobbing and gasping for air on the sidewalk, wondering if I was going to be able to rise again before anyone noticed. I did rise, breathe, and continue… and no one noticed. The moment passed, but it left a crack behind, a glimpse into a darkness that I always knew but never named.
Now, when I feel the constriction begin, I trust in my breath. Years of yoga has trained me to see the air come in, fill my lungs, disperse throughout my body and exit once again. Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on the breathing. I no longer collapse and only sometimes do I wonder, briefly, if I will survive. It comes without warning, without an obvious villain to my simple story, and is almost always gone before anyone can notice.
I am terrified of not breathing. I have woken up from deep sleeps gasping for air. As a kid, I was diagnosed with asthma and I have never been far from an inhaler. But the not breathing from an asthmatic trigger is different from this not breathing. Asthma constricts the airways and doesn’t allow the air in. This allows the air in but there is never enough.
Finding the right words is like finding enough air…