When I was little, I watched TV quite a bit. TV was a relatively new technology and my parents enjoyed it very much. Watching different shows with my parents was a way of spending time with them; it didn’t matter whether or not I understood the program. Saturday nights and many weeknights, I lay on the rug, sometimes on my belly, sometimes on my back, gazing at the tube; inevitably, I’d play the razor slide game.
Apparently, without realizing it, I held my breath off and on throughout these evenings. I also breathed quite shallowly when I wasn’t holding my breath, my diaphragm frozen. (I spoke about this phenomenon in my last post.) These behaviors were compulsive and unconscious and date back to my early surgery. At certain times, the tension from holding my breath built up with great intensity, so I created a fantasy in my head to help release it.
I am sitting at the top of a slide like the ones in the playground. This imaginary slide though is not fun. Before me is a razor blade, one long inclining sharp edge, and its end is a tub of acid. The only way that I can keep myself from sliding down on my back and being cut by the razor is by both holding my breath and keeping my head off the floor. My arms are not allowed to aid me. As long as I hold my breath and keep my head from touching the floor, I will not lose control, slice my back open, and scream in agony when my open wound comes into contact with the acid. Fun, huh?
I would hold my head off the rug until I trembled, until my skull felt as though it would burst open. Pain shot into my jaw and my stomach muscles ached with the effort of holding me up. Inevitably, I would fail the test. My body deflated, my upper torso and head lowering to the floor. What ecstasy! I was completely relaxed and breathed deeply from exhaustion.
I never really understood this compulsive behavior until now. It was a way of forcing myself to take deep breaths and move beyond my pattern of breath holding and shallow breathing. The game pushed me to allow breath into my whole body. For a few moments, I could oxygenate many more cells than usual. Shortly after though I was back to my PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) self, breathing shallowly and intermittently, holding my breath. Life o’ Riley!