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.