Today, I breathed. For the first time in months. A little explanation:
Back in my I-gotta-try-every–possible–solution-before-surgery phase, I was desperate for options. And answers. I was willing to try just about anything. It was in the midst of this search that I began to notice the Facebook posts of a former classmate of mine. They were filled with untethered joy. Seemingly every day, right there in my “news feed”. She was talking about something called “Breathwork”, and she seemed so happy. So content. Intrigued, I began Facebook-stalking her, digging through her older posts. There were plenty more joyous posts, and lots of talk of “Breathwork”. But there were also less joyous, but remarkably honest, posts describing her bad days. I dug deeper through her Facebook history and discovered that she too suffered from a chronic health condition. And this “Breathwork” had somehow helped her. I still had no real idea what “Breathwork” was and was pretty sure it wouldn’t do anything for my ulcerative colitis, but if it could give me what she seemed to have—balance, self-awareness, and peace—I knew I had to give it a try. I debated about it for a week or two and then finally sent her a message.
It was a little awkward (at least on my end). Although we’d gone to school together from elementary school through high school, we weren’t really friends. We ran in completely different circles. I probably could’ve (should’ve) been nicer to her (and her friends) growing up. I hadn’t seen her for more than 15 years. Probably hadn’t talked to her in 20. But, not surprisingly given the positive tenor of her Facebook posts, she responded right away as if none of this mattered and high school graduation was yesterday. After a little back-and-forth, I made an appointment for an hour-long “Breathwork” session at her studio. This was a pretty big deal for me, as “open-minded” is definitely not the most likely adjective one would use to describe me. I’d never been into “new-agey” nonsense. I’d never tried yoga. I am no hippy. But I made the appointment. I could always cancel when I came to my rational senses. Except I knew I wouldn’t. I didn’t want surgery. I wanted what she had. Whatever it was.
I showed up for the appointment. It was awkward (at least on my end), and I remained intensely skeptical. We sat in her studio; she asked me questions (What worries you? What scares you? What are your resentments?); and—to my surprise—I answered. I was all-in. I didn’t want surgery. I wanted this to work. I needed this to work. I was willing to try anything. So I spilled my guts to a former classmate who I hadn’t seen in more than a decade. And that was just the beginning.
After laying out my fears, I laid flat on my back on a massage table. Corrie turned on some music (Mat Kearney and the Crazy Heart soundtrack are all I remember). She placed a small pillow over my eyes. She started talking about chakras. The smell of essential oils filled the room. It was the craziest thing I’d ever done. And then she taught me how to breathe.
It was a two-step rhythmic breathing process, and it took me a little while to find the rhythm. But after 5-10 minutes, I was in the groove. And then it really got crazy. My body began vibrating, from the inside out, beginning with my stomach and spreading to my fingertips and toes. The vibrating became increasingly intense. My mind went completely blank. I vibrated more. And suddenly it hit me—a feeling/thought: “This is going to work.” The vibrations intensified further. I began to cry. She asked me to make guttural throat noises. Not thinking twice about it (guttural throat noises!), I just followed instructions. The vibrations intensified. I cried some more. It was absolutely insane.
In the months following our first session, I breathed regularly at home and had one more session with Corrie, ever hopeful that it would save me from surgery. Unfortunately, my breathwork did not ultimately cure my ulcerative colitis, but I’m 100% convinced it made me better. I’m convinced I never would have had the peace of mind necessary to go through surgery without it.
However, over the last six months or so, I haven’t breathed. No real reason, but lots of excuses: Too busy. Too much pain. Too tired. Given all of the changes I’ve experienced over the last few months, all of my new (or renewed) fears, all of my surgery complications and pain, why hadn’t I returned to the one new-agey-crazy-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this-hippy thing that so profoundly (and positively) affected me those many months ago? I have no answer, but it’s going to change. I am going to make an appointment to see my friend. My friend who welcomed me into her world and changed my life. And I’m going to work on myself at home.
So today, for the first time in months, I breathed. And I vibrated. And I cried. And it was exactly what I needed.