Breathing Through the Panic

I managed to stop an attack in it's tracks last weekend and not have it wreck an outing! I was pretty proud of myself!

Da boy and I have started hiking on weekends because of my recently diagnosed . I generally don't have an issue with flat, but we hike in the foothills which means at least some elevation changes.

On Saturday, we started out on the trail, climbing up into the trees. I was already feeling a bit "off" – stuffy, mucusy, a little tight – and had taken all my allergy meds and pretreated with albuterol. I was starting to get that "knife in chest" feeling, so I slowed my pace to try to work through that. Then I realized was only breathing in the top of my lungs. And that each breath was getting higher and more shallow. I started to panic a little thinking this hike was over before it really started!

I took another puff of albuterol (still under my limit) to see if that would help. I stopped and focused on my breathing – thank you yoga and taiji! I focused on squeezing the air out of the bottom of my lungs. It was a struggle! I started coughing which moved stuff around. I could feel "where" in my lungs I was breathing and I could feel things keep "getting stuck." I've never really paid attention to that before. I managed to move it from the top to the bottom, but I still wasn't using my full lungs. My breathing was still shallow, just in a different part of my lungs! It was a really weird realization.

After another couple of minutes really concentrating on my breathing, I was able to get to a point where I could take a full breath! Started out walking again, slowly. We hiked just over 5 miles with more elevation change than planned (we took a wrong turn and wound up on a trail that went up and over instead of around!)

I feel I have a new tool in my arsenal now. I'm sure it won't always work, but if I can stop and focus and get improvement, maybe I can at least keep a mild attack from escalating.


Comments 5

  • K8sMom2002

    Wow, Kathy P … sounds like you've learned something similar to @GigiGibson's discovery. Glad you were able to continue on with your hike!

  • Kathy P

    It really was a struggle til I figured it out. And hard to stay calm as that panic feeling starts setting in.

  • K8sMom2002

    I know what you mean — it's like this vicious cycle that feeds on itself. I'm glad you were able to figure out a technique that works for you.

    Do you think a speech and language therapist might be able to help you build on that success? I know Gigi has mentioned that on her  thread.

  • Kathy P

    An SLP has never been suggested, but I'll ask the doc next time. 

    Went on a hike yesterday and started feeling that catch in my breathing through one spot. I stopped and "adjusted" my lungs by taking a few deliberate breaths focusing on squeezing the air out through from top to bottom. 

    Now, my cardio endurance is awful, but only gives me trouble when climbing elevation. Da boy picked the route and we had elevation climb for 3/4th of the time! Need to teach that kid how to read a topo map! LOL and dh was with us – he was getting home from his 40 mi ride and asked us to wait for him. So now I have 2 people with 8" height and corresponding stride difference on me. Ugh. But they were reasonably patient when I needed to stop and just breathe and let my HR settle. 

    We'll stick with these 4-5 mi hikes for now. It's the drive time plus about 1.5 hrs. I'd like to build up to linger though. The problem is going to be finding shaded trails. A lot is chaparral, so open grassland with some scrub brush. I'd like to build up to Skyline to the Sea – that's actually more than a day, but there are lower points we could start at to make it a day hike. It's one way, so we'd have to figure out staging vehicles too. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Kathy P, way to go on the hiking! All that walking has got to build up your cardio as well, so hopefully one will help the other?

    And your DS isn't the only one who needs to learn how to read a topo map — I have no clue how to read one. DD would love to hike more (we've taken one or two hikes in the past year), and I think it would be super helpful to know how to read a map like that.