Austin**•.¸♥¸.•**not-Texas, Texas, USA
May 28
♪♫ ♥ Diva ♥ ♪♫♥
Mom, partner, listener, healer of wounds large and small, dog-petter, writer, pie baker, star shooter, wine appreciator, hungry muse, part-time pirate and pole dancer.


AUGUST 1, 2012 5:50PM

Barely Breathing

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    Breathing. It sounds so simple until one breaks it down. A slow intake in of breath, a mindful exhalation: these actions are not so simple when one is accustomed to running on empty.


    I stepped into the yoga studio with trepidation. I had signed up for a beginner’s class, believing that at least there would be one other person who didn’t know anything. The class was deeply, physically satisfying. I felt good and returned without hesitation for a second class. Most of the second class was focused on integrating breath with movement. I felt dizzy, disoriented and confused about why it seemed so difficult for me to follow along.
    Austin’s accident happened the day of my next class. I didn’t go back to yoga for six months. When I did return, I tried another type of yoga. Kundalini yoga brought me back into my body after the trauma. So much that I fought back tears at the end of each class. Kundalini ends with a song that I have now forgotten but at the time I remember holding Austin in my heart as we sang about holding love and coming home.     
    Austin was in the first month of a string of treatment centers at the time. His letters home were threatening, angry, sad and confused. Each time I received one, I would hold it and breathe for a long time. Sometimes an hour would pass as I sat breathing, trying to focus on inhaling and exhaling, hoping to still the emotions pushing at me through the envelope. I knew what would happen if I read his letter without preparation for it had happened many times before. I would open the letter, hope pushing behind my eyes, anxiety running through my brain, and read his words. You are the worst mom ever! I hate you so much I could kill myself!  His anger would tear my skin and sear my brain. I wanted a respirator so I could stop doing the work of breathing. Breathing was painful because it was keeping me alive.

    I loved watching my babies when they were sleeping. Their beautiful translucent skin. Their breath smelling milky as they fell asleep at my breast. Their little bellies rose and fell as they drifted into deeper sleep. Austin was a great sleeper as a baby. Inevitably, the moment he was in the carseat he fell asleep. Sometimes I would encourage China to sing loudly with me as we drove home, wanting his nap to be at home and not in the car. Wanting the reprieve of two children napping. Unlike his sister, when Austin woke up, it was with a snap, as though his central nervous system had jolted from sleeping to high alert.
    Getting one of his letters turns me to high alert. I am like a small town hit by a tsunami. Like a small town, I am prepared for a certain set of crises but there is no preparation for the unthinkable. By the time I start receiving his letters, I am barely recovering from the previous trauma. I am rarely able to sleep, I function on automatic most of the time. I am stumbling through life and I am barely breathing.
    “Put one hand here,” I instruct as I place my left hand on my abdomen. “Then put the other hand here.” My right hand now on my chest, I teach a client who has severe anxiety how to do diaphragmatic breathing. I explain that the lungs and heart work in tandem. That while we cannot slow our heart rate down deliberately, if we slow our breath down, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and the heart rate will slow. I practice this with her and encourage her to practice this at night, in bed as she prepares to fall asleep.
    “I feel calmer,” says my client as she exits the office.
    I lay down then on my own couch, place my left hand on my abdomen, my right hand on my chest. I inhale deeply, pulling the air down deeply into my lungs, my belly rising. Tears begin streaming down the sides of my face. I exhale fully as my body releases both tears and breath. Breathing deeply is difficult because it pulls me into the present, it pulls my mind away from the trauma of the past and the possibility of trauma in the future. It pulls me into a present where I am simply a mother struggling to do her best.
    And, in this present, in this moment, as I breathe, I am forced to accept that I can do nothing. I cannot change what is happening in Austin’s mind; I cannot control how it will heal or how he will deal with life. I am being forced to accept that no matter how much I do not sleep and no matter how much I want to be somewhere else, I can only be here, each moment, where I am. My mind refuses to accept this however, it’s too damned hard to accept. The lesson I have just glimpsed here flees. My sobs subsided, I get up and return to my land-of-not-living. I am no longer aware of breathing.


    Once I feel ready, I open Austin’s letter. ‘Ready’ means I have made room for myself. My focus is not on Austin or what his words will say. My focus is that we have contact, that he continues to choose to be in contact with me despite his fury. The letter today is really no different than his previous ones although today he has given me a date by which I must comply with his demand to come home.
    “Are you okay?” asks my partner.
    “Yeah, I just need to breathe.”

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Oh Drema. It's been a while since I've read something you've written about your son.
"I cannot change what is happening in Austin’s mind; I cannot control how it will heal or how he will deal with life"
This is what I too am trying to learn. Thank you for that perspective,
hm. this is true, thus it conciliates two condradictions.
as all truths do:
"Breathing deeply is difficult
because it pulls me into the present, i
t pulls my mind away from the trauma
of the past
and the possibility of trauma
in the future. "
that is a perfect description of "mother", for me.

mother is not ultimate.
your being a "mother," i mean.
you simply ARE.
then, after fruitless worrying and awful fantasy,
and alot of love,

you are a 'mother'.

you are a human being. a be-ing.
accept everything & nothing and all that lurks in between.
I'm glad your back but sorry life can still be so very hard...I really hope it gets easier to breathe with time.
I hear you and understand some of it. The healer who needs to heal is not an easy path to walk.
I love watching sleeping babies too.
You bring out the best in me with posts like this...
I'm not knowledgeable about the background of the story, but your writing took my breath away for a while andmade me think of a saying which translates roughly:
"There is no wealth in the world as a single breath inhaled in health."

With good wishes,
Trilogy, we're always learning something...not fun but essential.

James, I appreciate your reminder that I, too, am a be-ing.

LL2, you and I both know lots about the need to re-learn how to breathe. ((hugs))

Dr. Spud, yes, the healer who needs healing can be hard. I know you understand that place.
Drema, your writing here is wonderful ... your story gripping. So much so that I found myself barely breathing at times but then as you breathed, I wanted to breathe along with you ... as though I was by your side ... at least wanting to be ... not wanting you to be there alone. But the odd thing was ... as much as I didn't want for you to be alone, it was you who was with me .... showing me how to breathe. It was you who was teaching me ... supporting me.

Thank you for sharing your story.

My love to you, Drema. Best wishes always.
Algis, you said the same thing to the new editor! I don't feel special!

Fusun, I love that quote. It feels so apt to what I have written. Thanks for coming by.
Kate, how touching your words are, thank you.
It is always good to see you. You wrote this one very well. All my best wishes to you. R
I can relate to much of this but couldn't have expressed it as beautifully
That song sung at then end of every K class is an old Irish folk song:

"May the long time sun shine upon you
may all love surround you
and the pure light within you
guide your way on
guide your way on

guide your way on."

Singing this one for you and Austin, Drema.
Perfect in every way, Drema. When I am reading your writing, I think I stop breathing. ~r
Oh I have missed you and loved this piece!
You did a wonderful job describing that feeling and reminding me to just breathe and be present.
Blessings to you.
Be well.
Your journey has been so hard. If it's this hard to read, it must be a million times worse to live through it. You're such a strong person, inspirational.
i am sorry. i am glad you chose to keep breathing
I didn't know about the breathing/ heart connection, but I do know that if I concentrate on my breathing I can feel my heart settle into a slower rhythm. Glad to know how it works.

Wishing you the best with your son.
This was so moving and as always I wish you and your son healing and calm.
Oh Drema. I'm late reading this but so glad I didn't miss it completely. I love, love, love the way you write - you know that. This is classic "Drema-magic." Your writing never ceases to draw me in. Everything around me falls away as I lose myself in your exquisite words.

My heart hurts for you and for Austin. The "fixer" in me wants to make it all better, to wave a magic wand and rewrite time. If only.

I'm here dear friend. Anytime you need me. xoxo