Breathing is so important, but we so rarely think about it. We do it all day long, and never think about when to do it, or how to do it… unless something goes wrong.
Something has gone wrong for me. I’ve forgotten how to breathe. And I can’t breathe deeply enough when I try. I find myself gasping sometimes, or doubled over, with my arms tight around my ribs, trying to figure out how to get enough air. Most times I can catch a breath, and I end up sighing and yawning over and over again, trying to pull air in deeply enough to feel satisfied. Sometimes I can’t … I don’t know. I just can’t breathe right. Those times, I end up shaking and sweating, eyes filling with tears, panic rising in my throat, gasping over and over, trying to convince myself that I’m okay.
Of course I’m okay, though. I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been, I’ve just forgotten how to breathe.
This is the form my anxiety attacks take. I haven’t had one in quite a while. Probably not since just before graduation. Or maybe since studying for the bar exam. I don’t know why I’m consumed with anxiety lately. It’s so uncomfortable, even right now when I’m feeling relatively stable. Just thinking about it… writing about it… I find myself gasping and sighing and yawning, trying to get enough air. It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced something like this before. Have you ever been very, very thirsty in a dream? You’re just parched, and you find water in your dream and try to drink it, but even though you can see and taste the water, there is no feeling of relief. There is no quenching. That’s kind of what it’s like. I can feel the coolness of the air, I feel my lungs expanding, I know I’m breathing, but there is no relief. I’m still suffocating, panicking.
The only time lately that I can breathe is at the gym. I’ve become addicted to it, because the other 23 hours of the day, I’m gasping and flailing, trying to get enough air.
Oddly enough, I probably think about my breathing even more at the gym than I do any other time, but the thinking I do there is the opposite of panic. It’s controlled. Purposeful. And very satisfying.
Today we did heavy front squats. We were supposed to do five sets of three at 90% of our max. I was shooting for 120lbs (which is almost exactly 90% for me) but wasn’t terribly optimistic. I’ve just been having lots of bad days lately, what with the constant suffocating. But I surprised myself by doing all five sets at 120, and pretty handily, too. My coach showed me a new way to (irony coming) breathe. I tend to hold my breath through a movement, to get that internal pressure which helps during heavy lifts. But I found myself getting very dizzy and lightheaded after one or two reps, so we talked about controlled release of that air. This is a good video I found that explains what we talked about:
I think I’m too shy to make much noise, but when I hold my breath, I usually let it out at the top and end up making accidental sex noises anyway. Hissing can’t be worse than that, right? So I tried it today, and wonder of all wonders, I managed to breathe. Deep, satisfying breaths that I released with a (somewhat reserved) hiss on the way up, and I didn’t get dizzy at all.
Next week we go for a new max, and I’m hoping to kill my old one.
Our metcon today was short and sweet. A sprint. We did a 250m row, 30 handstand push ups (I did mine with knees on a 24inch box) and 15 kettlebell swings (26lbs). Finished in 4:16. Not great, but not bad either. When we do our metcons, all I can think about is breathing, but there is rarely panic involved and when there is, it’s coming from my body and I can talk myself down far easier than when the panic is coming from my head. I end almost every metcon gasping, sometimes shaking (rarely crying, but it’s happened before), but still feeling satisfied. Every breath fills me up.
It’s just the other 23 hours of the day that I can’t seem to catch my breath.