This past December 2013 I experienced a profound healing. For almost all of 2013 I had been struggling to breathe. My inability to breathe well was impacting every part of my life. I’d been diagnosed with asthma many years earlier. The diagnosis didn’t concern me at all at the time I received it, I was certain I would find a way to deal with it and heal it. Asthma was something that irritated me but it didn’t stop me from living my life.
With each passing month during 2013 my breathing became worse. Nothing I did during that year truly worked. I tried all my usual go to’s including homeopathy, herbs, steam rooms, massage, more meditation and escalated to all things allopathic such as steroids, inhalers and pretty much any remedy anyone suggested. In the course of 12 months my life had been reduced to the bare minimum to get by. My ability to function and take care of my ranch was becoming less and less possible and having any energy left over for fun stuff, like riding my horse, was simply gone. In the last few months of 2013 I was becoming a little despondent about my situation.
In December of that year my sister Kristen had invited me to her graduation from a program that meant allot to her. On the day of the graduation I felt awful, my breathing was at an all time low and my energy level matched that low but I was determined to go. I arrived at the site of Kristen’s graduation and saw that the building was on a hill. There were lots of stairs to go up to get into the building. I was paralyzed with fear at first and thought there’s no way I can get to the top of those stairs with out passing out. But I knew how important this graduation was for her and intuitively I knew it was as important for me, although at the time I didn’t fully understand why it was so important for me.
I made my way up the stairs outside the building. I reached the landing, at the top of the stairs and I stood there struggling to breathe. I thought to myself, I did it, now I will just rest a while and then go in. Sounded easy enough but when I entered the building and saw several more flights of stairs, I had to hold back the tears. I wanted to turn around and leave but knew I could not do that. I would be betraying my sister, my word and most importantly I would betray myself as I knew intuitively that I had do this. I headed up the stairs, slowly. Not that slow made any difference, I simply could not get enough air into my lungs. When I reached the top of the staircase, I entered a narrow hallway with only two choices of direction. One direction would take me toward a group of people waiting for the graduation to begin and the other direction would take me toward the restrooms. There was a part of me that wanted to go toward that restroom and hide until I could breathe again, but to go the direction to get to the restrooms I would need to go up one more flight of stairs.
Honestly if the direction of the restrooms did not have the hurdle of another flight of stairs I might have chosen to go hide until I could breathe again. I intuitively knew that the correct choice for me was to go toward the people and own the space and condition I was currently in. I knew how I looked and I knew how I sounded and understood that the people would see me in a very vulnerable state and they did. One woman immediately approached me and asked me if I was ok? I told her yes and no. She asked me specifically what was wrong with me. I told her, in between involuntary muscle induced gasps for air, that I had asthma and it was worse on this day than it had ever been in my life. She was calm, not to alarmed and said her sister grew up with asthma and she knew how scary and miserable it could be. She stood with me as I sucked on my inhaler and prayed for my lungs to open, for my muscles to relax and for me not to panic.
When my breathing finally slowed to a dull roar I knew I would be ok. It was in that moment that I became highly aware of the people waiting in the hallway for the graduation to begin. I noticed that some of the people couldn’t stop looking at me and some of the people went to great lengths to not look at me. It was such an interesting experience, in so many ways and despite the severity of it I knew it was an important experience that I was destined to have. Although it would be a few more days until I fully understand why that experience was so important.
At the beginning of the week following my sister’s graduation my breathing was still way out of control. None of my inhalers made any difference and I thought if this continues to escalate I am going to end up in the hospital. During that week several of my ranch workers were unable to work so I filled in as I normally do. But this time it was almost impossible to do the job. Feeding the horses normally takes me an hour but with my breathing as it was it took me almost 3 hours. And the aftermath of exhaustion was debilitating. I also had to cancel my mediation appointments that week as I couldn’t breathe and talk at the same time. I was unable to do my work. Work I had done and loved for a huge part of my life. I felt like my life as I knew it was coming to an end. It scared me.
By the middle of that week I was beside myself with fear, with pain and with the uncertainty of what my future held. I was at a loss as to what to do next.
So I contacted my western med. doctor – again. I told her that my breathing was still awful and definitely not improving. She prescribed yet another type of inhaler and suggested another visit to the pulmonologist. I felt so defeated at that moment not by her answers but by my own body’s refusal to shift. The following day I headed out to pick up the new inhaler and stop by the grocery store. When I finished those errands and returned home, I got out of my car and stood next to the door for a minute to catch my breath. As I was standing there my friend came walking by. She stopped and said hello to me. I don’t remember exactly what I was trying to say to her but I do remember that I started crying the minute I opened my mouth to speak. I told her of my weekend and my week and how I was feeling and that I was scared. She listened with love and relayed her own feelings of frustration and pain over her life’s struggles.
After our conversation I felt a little better, a little less alone. I headed toward the feed barn. I didn’t have any more tears left by the time I arrived at the barn. I saw my other friend, who also works at the ranch during the week; she was preparing the evening feeding for the horses. We chatted for a few minutes and I told her about my sister’s graduation and my experience there. Again the words that were said were a blur but the gist of our conversation was exposure of the state I was in, the limitations I was now facing and the acceptance of my new reality. The reality of where my life going forward would be different now. Not being able to breathe would change my future in a way I had not anticipated.
I realized as we spoke how badly my chest and rib cage hurt from the struggle to breathe. During the last few months this had become a norm, feeling so much physical pain from the struggle to breathe. I asked her if she would mind putting some comfrey oil on my back. I could not reach my back and I felt kind of desperate for relief. The minute the words came out of my mouth asking my friend for help, I felt a tiny bit of embarrassment for needing help and feeling so vulnerable about asking for help. I stopped that thought as quickly as I could. I reminded myself that this is where I am at today; I need to ask for help and accept the help. She was happy to do it, I pulled up the back of my shirt while standing outside in the barn and in that moment I simply didn’t care if anyone saw me. I finally felt a sense of total acceptance for me and the state I was now living in. I was grateful for the help my friend was giving to me.
I noticed as she applied the oil to my back that my pain began to subside and my breathing had become slightly better. The easing up of my breathing was so subtle that at first I barely noticed it. I thanked her for the help and headed back toward the house to unpack the groceries. As I walked past the horse paddocks, my mare Lotta whinnied at me. It was the same whinny and same request Lotta had made of me many times in the last few months. She was asking me to take her out of the paddock. I had been so low on energy that she hadn’t been out more than a few times each week in the past months.
I could not ignore her plea. I got her out and we headed to the arena where we stood next to each other for a while. She didn’t walk off or ask to roll she just stood there with me. I felt like it was her way of silently accepting me and reflecting my state of being back at me in that moment. As we stood there together, I thought to myself I can breathe a little better right now so maybe we can try walking. Together, side by side, we walked around the arena twice. I was tired but not breathing super hard. There was definite improvement in my breathing. I was surprised. It was incredible! Improvement after movement – not something I was used to feeling anymore. I was overjoyed and extremely confused as to how I could suddenly breathe so much better. We walked around the arena a bit more and then I decided I could breathe well enough that we left the arena and headed up the road. As we finished our walk and headed back toward the ranch I found myself crying tears of relief and confusion. In that moment my breathing was as close to normal as it had ever been. In just one hour it seemed that everything had changed.
After putting Lotta back in her paddock, I headed toward my house. I understood that something incredible had just happened to me. As I thought about this new ability to breathe, I got a little scared. I thought how interesting, I was scared when I couldn’t breathe and now I am scared because I can breathe. I emptied the grocery bags and saw the new brand of inhaler that the doctor had ordered for me. Despite what had just happened outside with my dramatic increase in ability to breathe, I ripped open the box that held the new inhaler, took it out and took 2 big puffs. In that moment my actions felt desperate fast and with no thought. I used the inhaler everyday for the next few days. During those days my actions were robotic in nature, no thought, just pick up inhaler, put in mouth, and breathe in.
I realized by the end of the week that I was making quite the effort to not think about why I made the choice to grab that inhaler despite my breathing improving with out it. As I looked at my self and my motives honestly it all became clear.
I knew that the inhaler was a test. I also knew that after a big step forward the universe always provides a test. A test to see if you really have faith in yourself and what ever it was that you just learned from your experience. I was afraid to loose what healing I had found earlier in that week and thought if I use the inhaler everyday this will ensure that I don’t go back to being unable to breathe. My test was – Did I believe and have faith in the healing I had experienced or did I not?
It was almost as if the tease of breathing and then possibly loosing it again might send me over the cliff into the abyss. I knew this was a moment of choice. To have faith in what healing had occurred or to hang on to fear, the fear of going back to being unable to breathe. I knew choosing fear was the wrong thing to do and it went against what I believe and what I try to practice on a daily basis. So I took a deep breath and decided to stop using the inhaler. There was no shift in breathing ability the next day or any day during the next week. At the end of that week I moved the inhaler off the counter and put it away inside the cabinet. .
I have thought about those days & events in December for months now, wondering why the healing hadn’t occurred earlier in that year. What was the catalyst that had pushed everything into place on that one day in order for a healing to occur??
The missing piece of the puzzle fell into place for me during a conversation. I was talking with a friend who is struggling with some challenges. When I asked if she could accept herself and her situation so healing change could occur, she was very clear in her answer. Her answer was no, she could not accept herself or her situation.
It all clicked for me when I heard her answer. I realized in that moment of our conversation what had shifted for me in December and allowed my healing to proceed. It was all about my acceptance of myself and my situation.
My acceptance began when I decided to walk toward the people at my to sisters graduation rather than go the other direction and hide. I felt no shame and invited everyone to see me for who I was and what I was struggling with. The next level of my acceptance occurred a few days later as I stood in the barn with my friend. I came to terms with the state of my being. I quit fighting my body, resisting what was and I just accepted that this was my life now. It was a peaceful moment when I accepted myself. That’s when the healing manifested in a dramatically noticeable way. It took about an hour for my breathing to be almost normal. The final step of my healing came the day I put the inhaler away and chose faith over fear.
The combination of whole heartedly accepting where I was at and sharing it openly with those around me created the opening for the healing I had so desperately wanted. Choosing faith over fear seemed to cement the healing into place.
It’s April now and I have been able to breathe for months. I still have the occasional day where my body reacts to the elements and my breathing can be challenged but it’s nothing like I experienced during the year of 2013. The year of not being able to breath is becoming a faint memory.