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Conscious Breathing Helps a Suicidal Eating Disorder Survivor

01 Jul

Here is a note from a recovering eating disorder and depression survivor, who needed a hospitalization to get her through some very bad times.  Here she writes about the healing power of conscious breathing, something she learned from her therapist at the Menninger Clinic and from listening to recordings.  As you’ll see, she writes very lyrically:  

I sing guided imagery's praises at nearly every opportunity that presents itself.  To say that guided imagery has helped lead the way out of a dusty barren landscape would not be hyperbole.  Your audios were first introduced to me by Dr. Meredith Titus during a stay at Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas.  I was there because I needed help finding my way out of the grasp of an eating disorder and severe depression.  I truly did not care if I lived or died. 

Thank you.  The easiest way for me to share how valuable guided imagery has been, and is, to me is to share some of my writing that comes out of my imagery experiences.  This is from my Menninger hospitalization:

The words settle over me like a cold chill. “Suicide is the natural progression of the disease.”  So there it is, voiced aloud the privately held conviction that my life will end with a self-inflicted killing.  Possessed of a soul no longer able to keep pace with the demands of the physical world I will choose to end it all.  The conversation continues on around me, a roaring cacophony of opinions about creativity and depression.  A faint voice in my own head mumbles for recognition of the multitudes of excellent artists and writers who are mentally healthy.  The voice doesn’t leave the confines of my body.

The words tighten their clammy grip upon my skin and paralyze any movement.  My brain is screaming for me to run.  To shake free of this horrible truth.  Never before have I heard the certainty of my own inner voices stated out loud.  Panic and desperation infuse my body but still I sit as if paralyzed.  Buffeted by the words being flung so casually about the room.  It is my inner struggle I see being prodded, poked, and pushed about before me.

The paralysis begins to spread to my lungs and taking in air becomes increasingly difficult.  The panic also increases and inwardly I scream for Dr. Kashtan and Dr. Titus.  Do they realize the certainty of my prognosis?   They have asked me to trust them, to take their hope as my own and believe their visions of a life that I am not yet able to form as my own.   Am I wrong to make that blind leap of faith that enables me to continue going forth each day?

Finally the only way to take in air, to continue functioning is to blow out the words, “No one can write from the valleys of depression.  No one can write from the peaks of mania.  It just can’t be done.”  Silently in my mind I continue the conversation.  I know.  I know this with a greater clarity and depth of knowledge than I’ve would have ever cared to know.  Having attempted suicide no fewer that five times, the last attempt no fewer than five months past, I am on a first name basis with depression.  My creativity does not flow from my mood disorder but rather is suffocated by it.
 
With this sudden exhale of words I am once again able to do that which Dr. Titus is always reminding me to do, breathe.  Breathing is good she says and she is right.  With each deeply drawn inhale and ensuing slowly blown out exhale I feel the warm glow of peace beginning to melt off the clutching, cold, clammy fingers that descended upon me with the innocently uttered prognosis.  Breathing is good.  Dr. Titus’s words float over me with a reassuring familiarity and truth.  Breathing calms the powerful seas of depression reducing them to the ever-present waves lapping upon my soul.  Breathing allows me to acknowledge the lapping waves rather than having to fight the crushing waves of a storm surge.  Breathing is good.  

Betsy
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award