I’m trying to write this month about what works for me as a survivor while I am working on healing. One thing that was essential for me to figure out has been to breathe.

To breathe is one of the most essential parts of continuing life. When you are a survivor who has been harmed as a child, when it comes to breathing and eating, it is a very hard issue to overcome. My mother, a mother-daughter sexual abuser, used to often smother me and also often put me under water when I was in the bathtub. Consequently I and my inner system have a lot of fear and anxiety around breathing. I know I have written on the blog about how hard focusing on breathing is and how non-healing it is, and how it can often bring on a panic attack. This is why.

This is how I approach breath now:

Holding in your breath can fixate you into perpetuating whatever you are feeling. Letting out a long even breath can help you to move onto a more calm state of mind. While breathing out it is good to focus on breathing out the upsetting emotions to help you return to a more calm and assertive mind-set. I do a big inhalation and then blow out the air through an open mouth in a long breath. Sometimes I do more than one breath, as necessary, but not a series of breaths. I got this idea from an episode of The Dog Whisperer where Cesare Millan would do this before he went into a home with a very challenging dog or before starting some exercise with a dog, to be calm and assertive, to bring clarity and cleanness to the work.

I do the breathing like this when I notice that I am feeling anxious or fear, which I can usually feel it in my lower abdomen area. I can feel it in my body, it tenses up, this usually happens a lot when I am around a lot of people or when I am in a tense situation. It helps me to return to a more balanced way of feeling and interacting with myself and the world. I didn’t think that I would find something that worked for me. I didn’t think that I would ever be able to focus on breath ever in a way that was helping me in healing and not being damaging or detrimental. It has been wonderful to find a way to work with breath that is healing, calming, relaxing, and helps me attain a healthy balance.

For me the most important part of this work has happened since I was able to assert to myself that some things do not work, even things that therapists or others believe in and that work for someone else, they don’t work for me, they might not work for others, therapists have shamed and blamed me when things that they think should work don’t and that is wrong to treat me like that.

I have been able to asset for myself that I have every right to find what works for me as a survivor, as I work on healing. As Stella says in the movie Silverado, if the world doesn’t fit you, modify it, make alterations. That is what I am determined to do for myself and to help others by offering what I am learning and saying hey if this doesn’t fit you, if other things don’t fit you, there is nothing to be ashamed of in that, you are a survivor and something that doesn’t work is not your fault, it happens, and perhaps all this stuff I am working on will give you another idea that might be better for  you, that might give you a better fit, a more healing bit of something into your life.

5 Healing Breaths

I have trouble breathing. I know I’ve posted about that in the past. I have trouble breathing. I don’t breathe out all the way and I have trouble breathing deeply. I attribute that to the abuses on me by my biological mother.

I often refer to her as my biological mother. Even though I didn’t have a surrogate type mother or an adoptive mother, I often refer to her as my biological mother, because she was never a mother to me. The truth, no matter how painful, when faced, helps me to heal.

So my biological mother made it hard for me to breathe. When I was little she frequently interfered with my ability to breathe, usually in a rage, usually when I was not compliant to her sexual abuses. For years I didn’t know why I had so many issues. Just focusing on breathing exercises or meditation could bring on a panic attack. I didn’t know why, but I learned soon in the beginning of my healing that I couldn’t do anything breathing without being triggered badly.

When I am upset it is hard to calm myself down, because I can’t use deep breathing. I was told to do that the first time I tried DBT. The only good I got out of that first time was the therapist screamed at me over the phone that I should hold a rock, three weeks after I told her I couldn’t do the deep breathing. I had lots of issues with that therapist, and tried to tolerate her, because I was in the DBT program, but she screamed at me and that is something I will not tolerate from a therapist. I should hold a rock, I find them very comforting, but I usually don’t.

One of the only good things I got out of my second time with DBT (see comments) was that I should practice the skills when I am not upset. I was told that was the way I should have been doing it the first time I took DBT.  

Still, even when not upset, focusing on breathing; making deep breaths and holding my breath in,  can still bring on a panic attack. I discovered recently that when I have a bottle of essential oils open I can breathe deep and hold the breath several times. I tried that a for a few days.

Now I’ve decided to add it as a healing daily skill, something I do when I want to remind myself about doing some healing self-care. Breathing in the smell of the essential oils seems to help me focus on something other than the breathing and holding my breath a few counts feels different than just breathing. This is one method of using essential oils, breathing it in, and I think it is a good beginner skill for me to work on in breathing and thankful that I have found something that doesn’t trigger or panic me.