I made a friend through The International Bipolar Foundation’s Facebook page this spring. I had posted a target-market question, wanting to know what people wanted, what they couldn't find and what they hoped for in recovery. Andrea pleaded for a route to an inner place more brightly lit.
Follows is some of our continuing conversation. Reprinted with permission.
May 17, Me: ...The breath helps regulate everything, including mood and blood flow to the brain and to the central nervous system, which is why Yoga is so balancing and why exercise is such an important piece of continued recovery - but breath awareness and techniques can be practiced anywhere, independent of exercise, to ease symptoms.
Where are your breaths now (chest deep, rib deep, belly deep?) and what's your mood like? (Ask yourself often! This is the Yogic practice of self-awareness or swadhyaya , no kidding on the name!!)
About how long has your mood been this way?
Can you deepen to a belly breath for three breaths and enjoy it? It's a stretch! Place your hands on your torso somewhere and check it out.
Relax, especially as you exhale. This relaxation, especially, is huge, whether hypo manic or depressed. Enjoy the spaciness at the end of the out-breath: a mini-Yoga instant Maui!
Let me know how it goes. I hope this serves you to feel well, or better-different, if only for a moment. Moments are all we have in this body. They add up.
May 19, Andrea: ...I'm distracted by my own repetitive thoughts. That creates what feels like insurmountable fear and anxiety, then depression, all day every day. I've practiced breathing techniques a few times in the past..very few times...
The moment I become conscious of my breathing, I notice it's very shallow and restricted feeling. Breathing deeper and more methodically, initially makes me feel that feeling in my chest more acutely (kind of like what it feels like when you'd swing high on a swing as a kid, or like a mini adrenaline rush). It's like breathing in opens you up wider to let that trash in fully, so when you exhale, that garbage goes out with it...that's how it feels. It definitely lessens the feelings of anxiety. I bet with regular practice I'd feel even greater benefits lol!
I have been practicing deep breathing, from my belly, every time I become conscious of it, which has been frequent, since yesterday ...it's the only consistent thing I've done in I don't know how long! And get this...it really worked! I don't know if it's magic, Hoodoo, power of suggestion or what, but I experienced immediate relief, not total relief, at first, but as I continued to do it throughout the day, it seemed to have a cumulative and residual effect. I grocery shopped without anxiety yesterday, I felt a lightness by afternoon, but early evening, I felt, could it be? Happiness? I can only attribute it to the breathing technique you taught me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, what a gift you shared.
I also forgot to mention, and this is huge for me..but I actually slept through the night without waking up until morning, AND I felt rested. I can tell you it has been years since I've slept through the night. Sleeping pills couldn't even keep me asleep. My body didn't hurt this morning. This is crazy...
May 20, Me: Keep up the mindful breathing, if that's all you do...