Feeling Entitled to Breathe

By Blue Palm, OOTS Member

In the past few weeks, as I've recovered my equilibrium after a rough patch, I have realised something strange. As part of slowing down and being kinder to myself, I've found myself at times just stopping moving and sitting down to quietly breathe. Nothing else. Just breathing. And it has felt strangely new to me to do this - despite the fact that for some years now, from therapy and reading, I've understood the power of breathing and meditation to calm and centre myself. The strange part is that I now feel 'entitled to breathe' in a way I've not felt before. I feel it's my breath I'm breathing, it feels warm and calm and it fills me up and it's mine.

This is a new thought and a new feeling and it's made me realise that for most of my life I've not felt fully entitled to breathe. At some fundamental level, I have felt estranged from the right to breathe.

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….for over 70 years of my life. I've not really felt entitled to breathe

As a very young child, I knew from the way my parents treated me that I had no right to be alive. I knew that, as a girl, it was a mistake that I was alive. I felt guilty for being alive, for taking up space on this earth. The way I thought about it then was that 'I am breathing air that a boy should be breathing'.

In addition to this early sense of guilt about breathing, in my childhood home I was constantly on 'high alert', basically holding my breath waiting for anger or punishment to fall on me. I repeated that pattern with the man who became my husband - silent, observant, barely daring to breathe, apologising for my existence, which seemed to cause him so much anger.

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I now feel 'entitled to breathe' in a way I've not felt before. I feel it's my breath I'm breathing, it feels warm and calm and it fills me up and it's mine.

I feel tonight grateful that my involvement with this OOTS community has helped me understand that I was injured by those closest to me; that my sense that I had no right to be alive, no right to be breathing air, that I was stealing air that a boy should be breathing, was the result of an injury done to me, not something inherent in me.

It feels a relief to have had this realisation. I wonder if others have also experienced this fundamental sense of guilt about being alive and breathing air.