Feeling entitled to breathe

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bluepalm

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Feeling entitled to breathe
« on: September 11, 2019, 12:32:17 PM »
In the past few weeks, as I've recovered my equilibrium after a rough patch, I have realised something strange and I wonder if others have experienced this too.

As part of slowing down and being kinder to myself, I've found myself at times just stopping moving and sitting down to quietly breathe. Nothing else. Just breathing. And it has felt strangely new to me to do this - despite the fact that for some years now, from therapy and reading, I've understood the power of breathing and meditation to calm and centre myself. The strange part is that I now feel 'entitled to breathe' in a way I've not felt before. I feel it's my breath I'm breathing, it feels warm and calm and it fills me up and it's mine.

This is a new thought and a new feeling and it's made me realise that for most of my life I've not felt fully entitled to breathe. At some fundamental level, I have felt  estranged from the right to breathe.

As a very young child, I knew from the way my parents treated me that I had no right to be alive. I knew that, as a girl, it was a mistake that I was alive. I felt guilty for being alive, for taking up space on this earth. The way I thought about it then was that 'I am breathing air that a boy should be breathing'.

In addition to this early sense of guilt about breathing, in my childhood home I was constantly on 'high alert', basically holding my breath waiting for anger or punishment to fall on me. I repeated that pattern with the man who became my husband - silent, observant, barely daring to breathe, apologising for my existence, which seemed to cause him so much anger.

It amazes me to look back and realise that, at a fundamental level in my being, and for over 70 years of my life. I've not really felt entitled to breathe.

I feel tonight grateful that my involvement with this OOTS community has helped me understand that I was injured by those closest to me; that my sense that I had no right to be alive, no right to be breathing air, that I was stealing air that a boy should be breathing, was the result of an injury done to me, not something inherent in me.

It feels a relief to have had this realisation. I wonder if others have also experienced this fundamental sense of guilt about being alive and breathing air.
bluepalm


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Anjulie

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Re: Feeling entitled to breathe
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2019, 01:37:56 PM »
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I feel it's my breath I'm breathing, it feels warm and calm and it fills me up and it's mine.
dear bluepalm, this really moves me, thank you for sharing!

I am learning to sit and just be, too. I am making progress there but still have problems with my breath, but I hope someday I can feel what you feel now.

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Kizzie

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Re: Feeling entitled to breathe
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2019, 03:38:13 PM »
Beautifully expressed Blue Palm albeit sad that this is true for so many of us.  :grouphug:

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SharpAndBlunt

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Re: Feeling entitled to breathe
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2019, 07:08:09 PM »
Dear bluepalm I wanted to say that I also identify with your words and I agree with Kizzie, they're beautifully put.

For me one of the hardest things to explain to people about cptsd and the feelings I have in general is this conviction about not being deserving of my space on this planet, somehow. It's something that people do (and probably in all fairness should) take for granted, with the result that it is quite an alien concept to take on board.

I recognise what you're saying though. I have always breathed shallow and I have a lot of muscle tension from 'holding it in', even when I don't know what 'it' is.

Thank you for posting.

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woodsgnome

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Re: Feeling entitled to breathe
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2019, 11:53:28 PM »
Any mention of breathing, and especially associating its interactions with the entire cptsd spectrum, hits close to home.

Asthma was the supposed reason for my breathing difficulties. And as such most of the medical diagnoses concentrated on lung issues et al as the sole contributor. Somehow I knew that wasn't the whole picture, at all. But I was a kid, they were 'experts'.

Although I recognize this now more than then, almost all my recall of asthmatic incidents (and breathing in general) involved FOO issues; but rarely if ever did it arise elsewhere. I literally could hike miles and miles in the city in which I was born without breath issues; then around FOO, it kicked in. The hyper-vigilance alluded to by bluepalm was another routine happening wherein my breathing became shallow and feeble.

The worst part of it all involved night-time incidents when I was rudely sat in a chair, given meds (the least they could do for my being a 'nuisance', then left me totally and vividly alone to sit in the dark. The m never even showed at these times, and it's only the f who gave me the meds, but also skedaddled away as soon as the breathing seemed somewhat fixed again. Other signs that I was unwanted were plentiful, but these breathing probs made it even more clear that I was indeed a nuisance -- the only reason I wasn't just left to die seemed to be their only worry: what would other people think.

I realize this isn't an asthma-oriented post, but whenever the topic of breathing shows up, so do my recollections of those dark nights alone after fighting for every breath. Nowadays, removed somewhat from those times, any asthma flare-ups are very rare (and at times can come about solely in memory--just reading and now writing this response brings a tinge of panic to the lungs.

All the elements bluepalm mentioned -- especially the sense of rejection and flat-out abandonment -- paired with other forms of abuse by both FOO and school (parohial) people made for some dire times.

Coming into clear breathing has also been one of the more significant turns for me in trying to build a new life.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2019, 11:57:22 PM by woodsgnome »

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Kizzie

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Re: Feeling entitled to breathe
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2019, 06:24:46 PM »
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I literally could hike miles and miles in the city in which I was born without breath issues; then around FOO, it kicked in. The hyper-vigilance alluded to by bluepalm was another routine happening wherein my breathing became shallow and feeble.

So telling ...  It's just sad how much fear/pain we had as children, and how small and contained we had to become to survive.  :grouphug: for you WG.

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bluepalm

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Re: Feeling entitled to breathe
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2019, 09:49:17 PM »
Thank you to all who have responded so kindly with validation of what I expressed in the original post. It's wonderful to me how, having taken the plunge of writing down these thoughts and sending them out into the world, I manage to clarify things for myself, feel less alone as others validate my experiences, gain some distance from the issue and somehow settle more calmly into my being as I receive acknowledgement from other members of this community. How valuable is this!

Also, Kizzie and other moderators, the work you do to keep this space safe is invaluable. Contrast this community with the wider internet community and the difference is stark. Thank you so much for making it safe for us to speak up.

Woodsgnome, reading of your dreadful suffering in the dark, I remembered something I had pushed away. I developed asthma so badly as a very small child that I was hospitalised and I remember the isolation, loneliness and endlessness of being in hospital. Strangely, I don't remember difficulty in breathing although that was what had sent me to hospital. Sent home finally, I was given a device hung around my neck on elastic, with a big pink rubber bulb and a glass container full of fluid, and I had to squirt the fluid into my nose when I couldn't breathe. Because of this device, and worst of all, I was kept home from school for an entire year and so lived alone all the time, in frightening isolation with my angry and terrifying mother, receiving education by correspondence school and listening to the radio. 

And yes Kizzie, I certainly needed to be small and contained to survive in that environment. And silent. And watchful. Something I'm maybe just now learning to shed somewhat as I relax into being alive and feeling entitled to breathe.

One important good thing came from all this. At the end of the year my mother received the report from the correspondence school on my progress and I remember her amazement as she told me they said I'd done really well and that she had expected me to do poorly. This was the first time I had ever received any acknowledgement from the world outside my family and I have never forgotten this small triumph over my mother's miserable expectations for her daughter.