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Just Breathe

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

When someone is drowning, you don’t wait for them to ask for help. You throw them a life preserver or reach out a hand. If all else fails you might even jump in with them and carry them to safety. This is usually the least preferred method of saving a drowning victim because sometimes in their panic they will actually harm or even drown their saver.

Why is it so difficult to be rescued from drowning? Why do we seem to push away help? Maybe, it’s because when you can’t breathe you can’t think. You can’t take actions to ask for help or save yourself.

Yesterday, I was drowning. Not in water, but in life. On a walk with my dog, the world suddenly became too much. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t walk. I was in a full-on panic. I’ve never experienced such an overwhelming sense of anxiety and dread. Luckily, I had my phone and I forced myself to call a friend. It was not an easy call to make. I didn’t want to admit I had lost control or that I had jumped into too deep of water. The first thing my friend did was ask me to breathe. Slowly the breath came back. Then she helped me focus on walking. Then talking. She threw me a life preserver and pulled me to safety.

I’ve never experienced something like this before and I hesitated to write about. It’s difficult to ask for help. It’s hard to let others know your struggling. But hopefully sharing this will help someone else who is feeling a little overwhelmed reach out or prompt someone to check-in on a friend. I think we need this more than ever right now. School seems to be one of the areas causing waves of crisis and conflict in families. Much of what we are doing is actually rocking the boat. Students and families are being told to ask for help. But those who need it most are probably the most vulnerable and least able to ask for it. I was able to reach out to my friend because she had reached out to me. Earlier that morning she had sent a text saying she wanted to chat. I said I was overwhelmed and couldn’t talk until later and that in my current mood she probably didn’t want to talk to me. “Um yes! Especially now,” followed by an emoji was the response I got back. I knew when I was sinking that she was my lifeline. She had already tossed out the life preserver with her text. She rescued me and took the time to breathe life back into me. She held the space for me that I couldn’t hold for myself. She coached me and made sure I was ok. She checked in several times after that making sure I was ok.

We can’t wait for people to ask for help. We have to do a better job of checking in and checking up on our friends and family. COVID-19 has been difficult and has affected people in different ways and at different times. People who appear strong may simply be putting on a brave face. The small thing we are asking of them, may just be the wave that pushes them over the edge. Today if you are in a good place, check-in on someone. Don’t just ask if they need help, bring over a coffee or a baked good or invite them for a walk. If you are struggling today, reach out to a friend who you know will hold that space for you. They want to help, they just don’t know you need it. And, just breathe.

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