I hate the feeling of not breathing – of just sitting still and everything around me seeming fine…but I can’t catch a deep breath.
It’s like drowning without water.
A couple of weeks ago, I had to go to the Emergency room because I was having trouble breathing.
I was having chest pain and since I have a history of a Pulmonary Embolism when I was 25 (for no apparent reason), the ER doctors “expedited” me over to having a CT scan. The doctor used the term, “expedite” because the standard course of checking out a PE for most moderately healthy adults is simple blood work and an EKG.
Luckily, after several hours of waiting with (literally) baited breath, they found nothing. My lungs were clear and I was sent home after being handed medication for Anxiety.
My oxygen levels were normal and all was well… except for one thing:
I was still having trouble breathing and no one knew why.
I considered the idea of having Asthma (though I have no prior history of this). And as those of us who deal with Anxiety know all too well, however much of a relief it is not to have a physiological diagnosis (especially one as life-threatening as a PE), it still sucks not to know what’s wrong with you when you feel like you’re gasping for air…
Regardless of the clean bill of health, I went home with the same issue I came to the hospital with, and no answers other than to: ‘see your primary care physician’.
How did I forget ‘tapping’?
Two short days after my 5-hour, no-solution ER visit, I was scheduled to attend a Peer Forum at Advocacy Unlimited .
A “Peer Forum” is a monthly meeting for Recovery Specialists around Connecticut state. It’s for anyone who may want to learn a new skill for credits to their certification, keep in touch with the wider organization or simply to learn a new coping skill or technique.
EFT Tapping was the theme this past month. It would be my fourth “introduction” with tapping.
Emotional Freedom Technique (often called “tapping”) is a way of self-soothing or releasing negative emotions with the use of tapping along the same pressure points in your body (known as meridians in Chinese medicine) that are used for Acupuncture. A great part of its appeal is you could elicit some of the same emotional benefits of Acupuncture by using your own hands, without even making an appointment with a specialist (or having to use needles). Although in order to use this technique most effectively, it’s beneficial to have someone coach you through it the first time or so.
I first heard of this method through Advocacy Unlimited’s Recovery Specialist training course – Recovery University, with Laura Le – one of the coordinators at the organization. I took a few intro sessions on Tapping and being unsure about it, took my time getting acclimated to the technique. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to make of it the first couple of times I learned it. I tapped along with the recommended points, but it didn’t seem to elicit much effect. Regardless, I kept trying.
One of the times I tried it was when Laura was kind enough to come to the clubhouse where I work to teach my clients. Even as I didn’t notice much of difference for me personally, I still decided it would be great for the clients to get a taste for Tapping themselves. Since I’m a huge proponent for holistically-based mental healthcare, I welcome anything that might work outside of the standard Psychiatric biomedical model. Besides, something kept telling me to give this modality a chance especially and most importantly, because it’s evidence-based.
During the Peer Forum, we had lots of opportunities to tap. Laura showed the group of us, a few different instances of how the technique may be applied to different stressors in our lives (including using my own example about my anxiety around posting my writing on this very blog).
I kept an open mind – if it works for other people, why not me? – I thought. And we tapped enough this time around that I began to notice something, like a deep, grounding weight in my solar plexus after each round of tapping.
It’s like a “drop” of something pouring from the top of my head and over the rest of me – a deep calm.
And while short-lived (the calm may only last a few moments), the next few days, I began to notice that my breathing finally started to improve.
Was it Anxiety, after all?
The last week, I sit and tap on my couch, in my office, or car. One of the best things about this technique is how you could use it anywhere and it only takes a couple of minutes (depending on how many cycles you’d like to do).
I shared the technique with my clients again during one of my Wellness groups. One participant even requested it for another related group I’d done and asked for some literature about it.
While I’m not saying this is some miracle cure, I can’t help but notice a strong correlation between using the tapping more often (almost daily the last couple of weeks) and a reduction in my Anxiety – and my ability to breathe.
It doesn’t stop with Tapping
Due to a minor foot surgery I had a couple of months ago, I’d just recently began coming close to where I was before the surgery physically (I still can’t run, at least not according to the physical therapist) and mainly because of this, I haven’t been able to do as much Yoga as I have in the recent past.
Having an at-home Yoga practice has been one of the most consistent skills I’ve leaned on, in the last couple of years. It’s my main Mind/Body practice other than Mindful Breathing and Meditation.
And while I do Chair Yoga (and teach it to my clients where I work), I’ve noticed more resistance around doing it since, honestly – for my own home practice – I prefer to do Yoga on the mat. It just isn’t the same for me otherwise.
Overall, Mind/body practice is my go-to in terms of treating my mental health issues, combined with a wide mix of coping skills (that I will continue to delve into, on this platform).
While it doesn’t have to be EFT or Yoga, considering Trauma has a very physical component during the onset of a mental health condition, I find it indispensable to have some kind of holistic adjunct to any plan centered around Psychological Wellness.
Most mental health conditions involve some degree of being caught up in a Fight-or-Flight response and Tapping may be just another tool for anyone to try, diagnosis or not.