When It Hurts to Breathe

The stress got bad, friends. Really, really bad.

My chest was so tight. It hurt to breathe. I would wake up panicking.

I went back to my therapist. I made another appointment with my psychiatrist. But when I felt like an elephant was standing on my chest, I went into the doctor.

They don’t play around with this stuff, especially when one’s father has had triple bypass surgery. I had an immediate chest x-ray and an EKG. I just tried not to cry.

But things are fine. I mean, mostly. My x-ray was fine; my EKG was … fine-ish. My doctor felt satisfied with it, but she still wants to run it by a cardiologist.

It’s just stress. Damn. Isn’t it wild what stress can do to our bodies??

She and my therapist both said: focus on breathing.

My doctor also said: laughIt will open up your chest.

Breathe and laugh. I can do that. Right?

Even my editor told me to rest a little.

That part seems easy enough. All I want to do is sleep. I think I might have some depression issues going on or else maybe this how I get every winter. -40 degrees does little to contribute to breathing or laughing or being joyful.

anatomyBut– a bright spot– I am reading this tremendous book, The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. I’m only two chapters in and it’s sort of changing my life. It’s such a beautiful, deep, thorough way to look at writing a story. It helps that I’ve been thinking of my story and these characters for about a year and a half. It would maybe be overwhelming to use this book to drum something up from scratch, but this way, it feels really productive and thoughtful. I’m loving it and highly recommend it so far.

I really wish that I could just take a month off of work to take care of myself. But that’s not an option, so I have to work self-care into the nooks and crannies of life. I need to breath, laugh, and rest. Love that prescription!


5 thoughts on “When It Hurts to Breathe

  1. Talking about deep, I highly recommend Story by Robert McKee and any book by Brian McDonald. Both focus on the power of story and what makes lasting stories. McDonald is the story consultant for Pixar, and his books are about theme.
    So if you’re on a roll and want more, check those out. Otherwise save those for your next manuscript 🙂

    I’ve never heard of Anatomy of Story, but then I tend to swim more in the screenwriting pool of writing these days. I’ll have to check it out!

  2. BTW, I didn’t see this when I went to the bookstore (since I saw it on your IG), but I did finally find a Marchetta book, so I have Jellicoe Road now! 🙂

  3. Yes, Jackie.
    I’m saying YES to the laughter.
    Stress SUCKS, and it really sucks when you need to take a day and you can’t. I totally get that.
    I’ve been really unapologetic about taking what time I do need though, saying no to friends and other commitments so I can most of the time just stay home and read quietly.

    Or create inspirational words of cheer, since that picks me up.

    P.S. Totally bought this book! If it’s rocking your world, it will rock mine too!

  4. You’re right — taking care of yourself is incredibly important. I previously had a job that caused me to have anxiety – related health issues, and making time for myself was key in getting over it. Sounds like you’re already on the right track by identifying that you need to make time!

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