Forgetting How to Breathe

Sometimes I think I am forgetting how to breathe.

I’m still breathing. I haven’t forgotten so much that I’ve actually stopped, but I don’t breathe like I used to. I’m not quite sure what has changed or how to say it. That it has gotten harder to breathe? I suppose so. But not exactly. Every breath doesn’t take a conscious effort or anything like that. I don’t always notice how hard it is.

I think my breathing has gotten smaller. Maybe that is the difference. Every once in a while I suddenly become aware of the way I’m breathing, and realize that it’s only small wisps of air that I am taking in. My lungs don’t expand fully. When I don’t think about my breathing, I hardly breathe at all. No more than I have to. I’m just barely clinging to the air, not letting it fill me up. My lungs are always half empty.

When I do realize how I am breathing, I try to change it. I try to take deep breaths and let my lungs swell with oxygen. These breaths are deeper, but they’re still not normal. Not the way I used to breathe. I try to let each breath fill me up, but they never quite can. I can’t feel relaxed and breathe in as much as I should. Half way through inhaling I stop taking in air and just hold my breath without meaning to. I try to exhale slowly like I’ve been taught, but the moment I start to exhale, I need to breathe again.

Sometimes I think my lungs have shrunk or collapsed in on themselves.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t really breathe. Not enough.

But it always is enough. Maybe just barely, but it’s enough to keep me going. Enough to carry me to my next shallow breath.

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