#iamsubject project – I Am My Own Breath


By Meg Brunson

Climbing a mountain is no easy task; to even think about starting to climb a mountain can be frightening. This is where my change started, putting one foot in front of the other, I started a climb, the climb of life. The climb up has not always been pretty and every obstacle encountered seems like a big deal at the moment, but I know it will be achieved. After battling these obstacles I always have to remember to stop and smell the flowers, the flowers of joy, hope, happiness, forgiveness, and most importantly my breath. The breath of life that I was given back, that grounds me in so many ways. It is the one thing that I can carry with me and no matter where I am: if I feel lost, out of control, or just need a sense of grounding and reconnecting with the earth beneath my feet. I simply place my hands on my chest and stomach, close my eyes and feel the gentle rise of my stomach and chest with the beat of my heart as the warm air passes down my lips from my nose; I remind myself once again, I am okay, I am here, I am alive, I am a survivor, of so many things, I am my own mountain.

I have been given the gift of life so many times, and I have chosen to try to take it away just as many. The past few years have been my biggest struggle, as well as my biggest moments of awakening. In July of 2012 I was diagnosed with a heart condition–my valves are too small for blood to flow and oxygenate properly, as well as every time my heart beats blood back flows into a chamber of my heart. I went into the ER for chest pain and they ran an EKG; several doctors looked at the results of my scan and stated that it looked as if I was a sixty year old woman who was about to have a heart attack. I was twenty-seven. In December of 2012 I had to have a hysterectomy; although I have two beautiful boys, this took a huge toll on me emotionally and mentally, as I am not yet thirty years old. My chances to have any more biological children are now gone, and that is something that is hard to accept. I felt like a piece of me went missing, even died.

In February of 2013 I attempted suicide. The pain of the hysterectomy and my husband cheating on me was all too much to comprehend and to deal with. I was lucky this time around; next time would not be the same. I was able to receive some help and picked up some new coping skills. We thought it was enough. I was still drinking a lot and still cut from time to time. Suicide was still on my mind a lot, and was always an option. I ended up withdrawing from people I loved; I was either sleeping all day and all night or I would not sleep at all. Eating was the least of my concerns. I was very depressed and did not want to exist at all.

October 5th 2013 was a big turning point for me, and this suicide attempt would be my last; it opened my eyes to so much. I drank and overdosed again. I texted my mom and fell asleep on my bed; that is all I remember until four days later. Cops had to break into my house where they found me in bed asleep; they were able to wake me but only for a few seconds at a time. I was brought to the hospital where I was having irregular heart rhythms and my potassium levels were very low. Tests were run and when I received the results, I was shocked to find that the medication I took did not show up in any of the tests; because of this doctors questioned if I really overdosed. My blood work showed how much alcohol was in my system upon arriving to the hospital; I was at a .08. Enough for a DUI in the state of Colorado after hours of being at home asleep. It was enough for them to put a “babysitter” in my room with me for the night, which was very embarrassing; the whole circumstance was embarrassing: cops breaking into my house, and getting transported to the hospital because I tried to kill myself. The truth is, I needed help. I did not get put into a hospital nor did anything bad happen; actually, nothing “bad” happened—much “good” came from this.

Since October a lot has changed, while much remains the same. Even though one thing changes that does not mean everything has to change. I used to feel like I was unwanted, unloved, a waste of space and time; I felt hopeless and worthless. This message played in my head like a broken record that I could not turn off, and there are days where it comes on and it is difficult to silence. The difference now is it is not as loud as it used to be. I am learning that I am the only one who can make me feel happy, loved, wanted, hopeful, and worthwhile. Other people can add on to that, but how I feel about me has to come from my core and my self. I can sit here and call myself the victim, but how would I grow from that? I could sit here and waste away and miss out on life because I am afraid to do anything because of my heart – and no, I do not know what my future holds for me with my heart condition. I could face heart surgery one day or I could be fine and never have to deal with it again; I simply do not know. Why sit around and do nothing to find out though? I was given a second chance at life. I am a survivor! I survive every single day. I work out, I climb mountains, I ski, and in August I am participating in my first triathlon. No, I am not crazy; I believe in myself that I will do this. I do not know what tomorrow holds, and yesterday holds memories for today. Those memories are what you make of them. Today, today is another breath, another chance to live life to the fullest—another moment to survive and a chance to start a new climb.

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Anora McGaha

    Meg, thank you so much for sharing your story with such candor. It is when we tell the real tales of cause and effect that others can learn how life works and make better choices, heck, we can learn better. I always found it strange that when I admitted in public that I was out of control, that became the place from which I could change.

    I used to think that each one of us was personally responsible for how we turned out. Some cope well, others don’t, and it’s my defect if I don’t cope well.

    That could be true, but there’s another angle now.

    I have a baseline. A sense of what ordinary human beings, by virtue to being of flesh and blood – not machines – can bear.

    I now believe that with messages of worthlessness in our beings (mind, heart, cells, where ever they have landed and are circulating) – the pain is excruciating and unbearable. Ordinary human beings have to find a way to cover it up. It’s the physics of being – the laws of being human (of mammalian heritage) that apply to most of us.

    If you add to the pain of being, betrayals of biology (hysterectomy, heart) and by people (husband) it’s simply too much, and can literally overload us. Electrical systems have a maximum load before they short out. Insufficient power and the lights won’t turn on. Cars can only be banged so hard before they’re not repairable. Every container has a limit of how much it can hold. So why are we so unforgiving about what humans cannot bear.

    If we were a machine or car, we would have a dashboard of some kind. As humans we have no dashboard for our spiritual well-being. We don’t have oil and gas levels, rotations per minute and speed.

    There’s no emotional dashboard – except, if we can be really honest with someone safe and knowing, our behavior, our active addictions or compulsions or state of mind will tell the truth – the pain substitution or masking (overeating, alcohol, drugs, cutting, thrill seeking, sex, gambling….) will be a metric of how much pain we’re in and trying to cover up.

    Finding safe people to be honest with is hard, but also, it’s hard to be honest with ourselves. If we’re in denial about our pain, then we won’t seek help, so all bets for recovery are off.

    I find the load lightens tremendously as we realize others are like we are, and likely would have responded similarly.

    Beautiful description of savoring your breath. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. – Anora

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