Milton: “The mind is its own place…”

Today, as has been the case for over a week now, I was having trouble breathing. Something about late August, maybe. For a year, I had been good – no sudden difficulties or that incredibly tired feeling – just the effort to breath taking everything I had. The act of eating seeming to be more effort than I had in me. One of the blessings of being unemployed right now is during this episode, I was able to just lay down, sometimes sleeping for three hours at a time. The body repairing itself.

I have this breath test “machine” I can use to monitor how I’m doing. On a scale from zero to 800 – 800 being a really healthy person – on a good day, I come in at 180-220. The pulmonary specialist set the gage on the right to indicate green, yellow and red for danger zones. Green is anything upwards from 150, yellow is 100-150, and red… well, red is 100 and downward. At red, you call 911. At yellow, you monitor and start doing more medications – I am already on Advair and Spiriva – you know, those commercials for COPD and breathing that show the elephant sitting on the woman’s chest or following her through the room. I have a rescue inhaler and a nebulizer with the medicine to go with it. I also have prescriptions on hand so I don’t have to delay if I get a cold or pneumonia, as I did one day in the middle of a fierce snow storm that shut the power off throughout the city and sent all the doctors and pharmacies home.

My brother, who is six years older than I am, and suffers from sciatica and loss of the spongy stuff cushioning the vertebra swears he would not trade places with me despite the truly bad pain he has. I wouldn’t trade places with him – the idea of that pain – no thank you. I’ve done my share of root canals and I don’t like pain. The first time I lost my breath, I was out walking the dog – or maybe, it was simply walking from one room to the other. We take those actions for granted. We take breathing for granted until suddenly, your breath is short, shallow, and your shoulders move in an effort to get more air in. You find yourself bent over with your hands on your knees, just focused on moving that air in and out and you find the nearest place to sit down, thankful for it.

Today, the reading was at 120. Scary that. That was four hours after the usual medication. I used the rescue inhaler and tested about an hour later. 160. Thank you, God and thank you, Body. And, thank you to the pharmaceutical companies that make it possible for me to breathe. I will say it puts the problems in perspective – I don’t worry so much about more money coming in or how I’m going to handle a job when I do get a job. Breathe in. Breathe out. Again. Again. And, again.

It worries my family and friends, and while I appreciate their concern, it can feel like that elephant sitting on your chest. Just. Breathe. In. Out. Again. Again. And, again.

Milton said, ” ‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” This is true. It is within my power with my next thought to change how I’m feeling. I have proved this to myself over and over again.

I’ve said before I am a political junkie and politics can make you crazy with frustration. When I got up from that nap, having listened to the situation in Syria and the possibilities we might intervene or do SOMETHING all morning, as well as celebrations of Martin Luther King’s “I had a Dream” speech from 50 years ago, and all the hoopla over Obamacare and the deficit and and and…, I drank a bunch of water and a cup of coffee to clear my head. Took the test and read 120. And thought to myself, “Self, here’s the thing. I know you want to be of service. I know you ran up $40,000 in debt to get your Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees so that you would be ready when called upon. Right now, though, Self, you have to let that go and focus here. You have to just shift from frustration to some form of joy – it will immediately make you feel better.” Strangely enough, I heeded my own counsel.

I remembered I had checked out two books on cd. One was “Killer Angels” about WWII and the other, Proof of Heaven, A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.” Killer Angels was in the car, but Proof of Heaven was sitting on the shelf right by the computer. I put the first cd in and sat down. Breathe. In. Out. Again. The doctor reads the book himself and he has wonderful delivery. Eben Alexander, M.D. He writes as a scientist, but also as a man who was in a coma for seven days and what he experienced. I took my breath test again after the first couple of chapters. 160. Better. Much better. It’s a good story.

16 thoughts on “Milton: “The mind is its own place…”

  1. Dearest HuntMode,
    I guess you can throw me in with the lot of your worried family and friends. I hate to think of you struggling with something as basic as breathing. Yet I rejoice to hear there are things that help. I’ve heard that story before about the doctor who believes in heaven – what a fabulous thought in a time of struggle. Take care, dear friend.
    -Wyles

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    • Hello Wyles, so glad to hear from you. I think a big part comes in focusing on something else instead of yourself. Yesterday, I transferred from one internet service to another and had to switch out modems. Naturally, this meant cleaning years of dust from the old modem and the area – quite a stupid thing to do when having problems breathing. And yet…at the successful end of the task, with a new modem and a clean area (something I’ve put off for years!), my breathing was easier. Go figure, eh? Thanks for the concern, Wyles!

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      • Ugh. Technology can be challenging…this much I know. It’s tough enough for my people to figure out the computer sometimes, but I wonder how they’d fair with paws?! I’m glad to hear your new modem led to easier breathing. 🙂
        Lots of love,
        Wyles

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  2. It is not easy to maintain perspective in the midst of such a struggle. The body is wonderfully designed to heal and that is a good thought to keep in the forefront. I wish you well.

    I read the Proof of Heaven book….most interesting.

    I think I should memorize the Milton quote. It is so true….in the midst of anxiety, I need to be reminded of how much of my own suffering is due to accepting thoughts as truth when they are really just thoughts, and often not remotely realistic or helpful. Your strength in dealing with your struggle to simply breathe provides a good example-thank you.

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    • Robin, I am humbled by your comment that I provide a good example. The shifting of thoughts, attention, focus really does make a difference and it is our choice. Have you ever heard a song that gets you dancing around the living room and you just feel good after? A phrase I’ve been hearing recently is something to the effect of not letting someone or some thing live rent free in your head. I love that – squeeze ’em out by changing focus. Thanks again for commenting.

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  3. Take care of yourself P!! You’re the only one that can my friend!
    As you said, what goes on in our heads has a huge effect on our bodies – exactly why I stay away from news and especially politics – not good for my health.
    Hope you find a job soon!

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  4. Reblogged this on Dealing with COPD and commented:
    Hunt wrote this months before we became acquainted. She wrote this post before she was diagnosed with COPD. But these words sum up the efforts, the emotions, the anguish, the fears folks with COPD go thru on a daily basis. Hunt realizes the battle she is in, and she seems prepared to fight the damn disease to the very end. We now share war stories, medical tips and any other information we have at our fingertips. I can’t be more proud of her or her efforts, and she’s a good one to have on your side as you wage your own war again COPD. Take care, Bill

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    • Bill, thank you for reblogging this – and your compliments above and below in your next comment. I do want to be clear that I was diagnosed with COPD in about 2011 and that this is what we go through – or, to be exact, what I go through when my breath goes short. Thanks for the shout out, Bill. 🙂

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  5. Hunt, As I sit and read this again and again, my heart breaks for you, the tears swell up in my eyes, and I wish that you didn’t have to suffer this dreadful disease. The world and civilization need people like you, and I can’t imagine not having you around. I remember years ago, when I would become short of breath I blamed in on allergies to this that or the other. I remember sitting at my desk and becoming overwhelmed with tiredness, and thinking to myself no more late nights on AOL. Then I would get up from my desk and go have another cigarette. My doctor (bless his heart) is one of the rare doctors that refuses to blame COPD, 100 percent on smoking. I don’t know if he is right or not, my research would suggest he is correct, but damn I wish I never smoked.

    But I see you in my mind laying down trying to catch your breath, or sitting bolt upright making your breathing passageway as straight as possible, any trick you can imagine in an effort to catch that little extra air. Taking every medicine that has been made available to you in a hope that you will find that blessed relief. I know exactly what you are going thru, but your description of it is better than anything I have ever written on the internal feeling and mental anguish of having COPD.

    This was written months before we became acquainted, and we have since shared a lot of war stories, and are jointly trying our best to help others. Thank you for expressing this so so very well. Take care, Bill

    PS — Hunt, this now completes August. I am catching up.

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    • Dear Bill, you are the second person today to write me a note of thanks and praise re sharing on this blog. Thank you. There are days when that is needed more than others. Best ~ HuntMode

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  6. I’m going to have some more time reading past posts about your journey with COPD. This one spoke to me – it spoke to me about the fear & the glimmer of hope we feel each time we make it through a “bad patch.” Keep up the good work Huntie!

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    • Thanks, Benze and a big thank you to Bill for reblogging this. Most of the time, I write something and move on, not remembering it. Bill’s thoughtful peruse of every post I’ve done here reminds me of where I’ve been. 🙂

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  7. Dearest Huntmode, I sure wish I could get that elephant off your chest. I was talking with Bill the other day about my somewhat chronic bronchitis which thankfully hasn’t progressed into COPD but who knows if… Just wanted you to know, you’re such a great cyber friend and I’m in your circle of holding you in my heart and wishing you well. Sending cyber hugs to ever space in your lungs that they open and give you comfort. Lots of love to you, Paulette

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