Yesterday I helped a friend come home from the hospital. There were obvious aches and there were pains, but the overarching theme of the afternoon was: whenever you feel pain, remember to breathe.
Breathing is so important. Be it in yoga, cardio exercise, or during times of high stress, drawing a full breath from your lungs all the way through to your diaphragm is essential for living.
I remember in my martial arts training when we were introduced to the importance of breathing. There is one particular kata where you draw from the deepest parts of your diaphragm and exhale as if you’re slowly using your breath to knock your opponent down. You breathe not only to stay calm and regulate your heartbeat, but also to steel yourself against a possible attack. Similarly, in yoga you breathe in the good, exhale the bad. No matter what pose you attain, the one constant is to breathe.
Breathing also reminds you that you’re alive. Whenever I’m feeling down, I remind myself that I have a roof over my head, air in my lungs, working legs, and a bed to call my own. It’s that air in my lungs that reminds me: you’re not dead yet, so live you silly fool.
My friend who I helped from the hospital is a single woman like me. She’s strong and independent, but she’d had surgery and understandably needed help while she healed. When you’re so used to handling life on your own, surrendering to the need to ask for help feels almost as painful as the problem itself.
I’ve re-introduced a bad habit into my life recently; I’ve retreated into my isolated girl-batcave. I do this when I’m having trouble talking about things going on in my life; or that I fear that if I talk about them, no one will listen….or worse yet, they won’t care.
I’d noticed a while ago that I was ‘off’ and I didn’t feel right. My face always felt inflated like a balloon. My stomach, despite disavowing sodas, dairy, and most carbs, had inflated like a balloon over a series of months. I’d workout 5-6 days a week but nothing worked. Then my hair started to fall out. I could tell something was wrong, but I kept thinking that if I tried one more diet or exercise, my hair would grow back and the weight would fall off. When the depression, the weight gain, the exhaustion, and the hair-loss felt like too much, I finally went to see a doctor.
My bloodwork showed I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis — an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks your thyroid. I’m awaiting results from further testing because my Endocrinologist thinks there’s other things going on in my body right now that are causing a few other issues, but suffice it to say: I wasn’t going crazy. I wasn’t miscounting calories or misjudging workouts; I wasn’t brushing my hair too hard; I wasn’t staying up too late: My body really was dealing with effects of its ‘engine’ being stalled.
I can take medications that will help my thyroid recover. I can take medications that will help whatever else might be wrong with my physical self, but my mental self has taken a beating.
The weight gain and puffy face have been reminders of some of the unsavory people in my life who told me how unattractive, undesirable, and ugly I am with extra weight. I’ve long since removed those people from my life, but these statements, along with a few others, are so engrained in me, that I’ve taken dire steps throughout my life to try to stay fit..or at least moderately attractive so I wouldn’t wind up alone.
Here I sit, though. Alone. And the loneliness is palpable.
Here’s the point where I get super vulnerable and ask for help: I feel sort of lost right now.
I want to heal whatever is stressing my body with rest, nutrients and pharmacology, but I also want to be out and about and living life and pretending that nothing’s wrong.
I want to be broken and whole at the same time. My brokenness makes me feel real, my wholeness makes me feel normal.
I want to be private, but I want people to know I feel like a mess in need of friendship.
I want to have constant and good conversations with people who love me, but my introverted self requires silence and solitude at times.
I tell people I’ve given up dating, but in reality, it’s that the rejection has stung one too many times. Is it too much to beckon a call: My kingdom for the single male version of me — nerdy, funny, active but not gym-addicted — but with a dad bod and maybe tattoos and/or a beard. (If you know a guy, send him my way)
I’ll get back to my normal, social self again eventually. Life just feels like it hurts a little bit right now. Never thee mind. I’ll summon my deep breathes of gratitude, hold my head up high, and remember: Whenever you feel pain, just remember to breathe.