Breathing Backwards

Catch your breath, and breathe in that headline again.

Yes on this edition of Becoming Today, I’m expanding upon Breathing Backwards. Over the past few weeks, we’ve dealt with some heavy issues as much of this month has been focused on our responsibilities. So today I decided to exhale a bit and only half- heartedly say I’m approaching this discussion from the lighter side.

Recently I realized I am breathing backwards and apparently have been for some time.

You heard me right. I have been breathing backwards, and perhaps have been doing so all of my life. I’ll explain how I earned this in a moment, but first let me get the serious aspect of this out of the way.

Breathing backwards is real. It can for some have extreme health consequences, so as we continue if this sounds like you or you recognize symptoms in someone you know, seek (or urge them to) medical attention. I’ll share some of my research t, so you can have an informed discussion with your primary care provider.

But as I catch my breath I am attempting to reverse my body’s response to inhalation. Seriously, I am actively working on overcoming this.

This past Sunday marked three years since I suffered a life altering accident. Among the injuries were three sequential traumatic brain injuries resulting in the lingering problems of tinnitus and vertigo. Initially I couldn’t stand for more than nine seconds without falling over. I had to learn to walk, balance, restore the focus in my vision and “live with” this horrible screaming siren in my head.

I’ll probably talk more about these things at another time, but for now I share these symptoms because of how they led me on a search for silence.

I have always been blessed to escape into the Silence. To be at rest in that place of peace and protection where we can come to truly know, begin to understand and develop our relationship with God. I was able to enter deep meditative states with ease but through no fault of my own, the injuries sustained took that connection away from me. 

I had always heard tinnitus described as a ringing in the ears. I now know it is not in the ears, rather it’s the brain searching to reconnect to a frequency it can not find. Much like E.T. trying to phone home.

Also when I heard ringing, I assumed it would be like a bicycle bell or maybe an old fashioned intermittent telephone ring. Not in my case. It is a constant, high pitched screeching that at times has torn at every fiber of my being.

The best way I can describe what I hear is that 24 hours a day at varying volumes I hear a commercial fire alarm blaring in my head. At times it has been maddening and definitely was a contributing factor in my reaching the lowest points in my life. 

To try and educate others around me, the following recording is the ebay example I can find of the frequency. I ask those who truly cared to listen to it and then to listen to it in earphones and then try to carry on a conversation while it was playing. No one has ever gone that far, None have even lasted 8 seconds of listening to it on a speaker. If you choose to listen please follow the on screen warnings.

Needless to say I lost all connection to silence. I lost the ability to meditate and as a result was losing my connection to God. No medical professional could offer solutions and during the heights of the pandemic, all of my care and therapies were discontinued. I had to seek alternate therapies.

I was unable to find relief and reestablish a deep meditative connection until the end of this past May. 

After a long search I decided to try a seminar for a course into a particular school of meditation. Doing so on Zoom, the instructor noted I was exhaling at the wrong times. I assured him that I was not, but what was happening was that my body’s responses to inhalation and exhalation were the opposite of everyone else.  

I started to ask myself, am I breathing backwards?

How could that be? Was I truly losing my mind? Then I thought for a moment. When I had been exercising and undertaking my own home therapies for restoring balance and flexibility, when the instructors referenced breathing, my body was doing the opposite of their description. 

Why is she saying that wrong? I would ask and sometimes exclaim at the TV screen. That’s now how breathing works, but now I know she was right. I am breathing wrong.

As the meditation seminar ended we were asked to share any insights we had. I then used a term I had never heard, nor considered before. When I said I believed I was “breathing backwards”, there was laughter, some hysterical and even the comment , “oh that’s crazy”.

But I knew it wasn’t.

So after leaving the meeting, I let out a deep audible exhale and called out to a higher authority:

“Hey GOOGLE! Could I be breathing backwards? 

And instantaneously on multiple devices that I have Google Assistant on, I started to receive a wide range of responses that were all in agreement.

Yes. Breathing backwards is a real medical condition. 

Now what do I do about it?

The medical condition is called Paradoxical Breathing.

The website Medical News Today offers this explanation:

“During expiration — the technical term for exhaling air — the diaphragm moves up, pushing air out of the lungs and causing the chest to contract.

Paradoxical breathing reverses this pattern, which means that during inspiration, the chest contracts, and during expiration, it expands.

Paradoxical breathing is usually accompanied by unusual movements in the abdomen, which may also move in when a person inhales and out when they exhale.”

Laugh at me now, Mr. Instructor? You pointed out what you saw with your own eyes. My body was responding the opposite of how you expected it to. 

It really, really was.

Other symptoms I immediately recognized:

  • dizziness and weakness
  • difficulty catching the breath
  • being unable to take a deep breath

I could check all three of those boxes, plus then there were the possible causes including, “Neurological disorders can also disrupt signals to and from the diaphragm and lungs, causing breathing malfunctions.”. My brain injuries. The inoperable, unable to be treated with medicine conditions that I was repeatedly told to just get used to could possibly be causing me to breathe backwards.

Turns out also I’m not alone. If we believe the corporations and their insurance providers, tens of thousands of truckers could also be struggling with this because “sleep apnea may show signs of paradoxical breathing”. For those who may not know, many over the road trucking companies require their drivers to be prescribed machines that they must use to treat sleep apnea. 

If they fail to connect to the machines,or the devices malfunction, the next time they try to start their trucks they are locked out. 

In some cases paradoxical breathing can be a condition that you are born with. Many so-called “mouth breathers” exhibit some of the same symptoms.

Through a strict meditative practice I am now reversing some of my symptoms. In addition to being able to get more rest and allow myself to properly breathe into physical movements, I have found the Silence again. 

Not completely.

However I am learning to regulate the volume of my tinnitus siren. 

What a relief. 

And even more so healing is the ability to regain the hearing in my heart. 

To be able to redevelop how I can truly be still and hear the power of the voice of God, in it’s gentle whispers.

Whispers of love, compassion, mercy, Grace, forgiveness and how to continue along our shared path of “Becoming Today”. 

“Live, Love, Laugh…and Breathe Forwards”

-Rochelle Jeanette

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