Take my breath away

By the time yesterday rolled around, it had been several days since I’d been able to breathe normally.  So I finally decided maybe it was time to make an appointment with a doctor to see what’s going on.  Even though I’ve been feeling alright while running and haven’t had any real problems (like wheezing, complete in ability to catch my breath, or disrupting of my sleep), it’s not such a comfortable feeling when you have the sensation that you’re not breathing in as much oxygen as you need.  It’s sort of hard to describe.  It’s sort of like every breath is too short a breath, but only just too short.  I’m yawning a lot, too, because that seems to be one of the only ways I can take the deep breaths I need.

So yeah, doctor’s visit.  My lungs sound normal, my heart sounds good.  But my resting heart rate is sort of high (it was around 90 when my vitals were taken), and my blood pressure (though still in the normal range) was high for me.  It normally hovers right around “just barely alive”.  I had a finger prick and blood work done, and have to go in for an EKG during my follow-up appointment in two weeks because the EKG wouldn’t work today.  On one hand, there’s not much to worry about because things are sort of normal: as I said, my heart and lungs are both fine.  On the other hand, there’s clearly a problem because I can’t breathe properly anymore.  My guess going into the appointment was that this is some sort of physical manifestation of stress and anxiety, and the doctor said that was pretty much the most likely culprit, unless the tests show anything else going on.  I’m leaning toward anxiety/stress because I’ve experienced this before, but it usually comes on sort of acutely, immediately preceding an event that I perceive as stressful, and doesn’t last long.  The fact that both my heart rate and blood pressure are slightly elevated also seem to indicate that my body may be in some sort of weird, extended fight-or-flight response, which kind of confirms something my friend Mike (not a doctor although I certainly treat him like one) suggested a while ago as an explanation for a variety of things (chronic stomach pain, weight retention).  So there you go, Mike.  You were (probably) right.  Go ahead and bask in that admission.

Here’s the tricky part, though.  My goal, unless I find out that this is probably not stress-related because the tests show something else, is to try and get out of the stress cycle so that my body can go back to acting normally and I can actually breathe normally.  So I’m trying to remain consistent with working out (although I could probably stand to get some more yoga in) and make a little bit more time to relax.  At the same time, that’s kind of hard to do when I keep thinking, “Shit, I can’t breathe!”  It’s hard to relax with deep breaths when you can’t take them.

So that’s me.  Basket case, apparently!  Check it out, though: today is day five of the 30-day Shred Challenge and I’ve managed to do it four times.  In five more days, I get to advance to level 2, which means we’ll be 1/3 of the way done!  This is thrilling stuff…maybe that’s why my RHR is so high?



  1. EKG to confirm that I’m a stressed basket case – been there! I totally get weird physical symptoms from stress too.

    I hope you get to feeling better soon!

  2. this is remote, I know, but any chance you have asthma? The difficulty getting deep breaths just sort of rings the asthma bell in my mind.

    1. I don’t really think it’s asthma, and for a few reasons. The doctor said my lungs and breathing sound fine, and I think with asthma something would sound wrong. Plus, the more attention I pay to it, the more I realize the problem gets worse when something stressful happens. When I wake up in the morning, I can breathe just fine, and overnight I don’t have any problems. But the moment I start thinking about what I have to deal with in the hours, days, and weeks ahead, my breathing gets difficult. Plus, like I’ve said, exercise is doable and doesn’t seem to make it any worse or create any more strain.

  3. I went through all the tests a few years back ago because I kept fainting. They told me that it was related to stress as well. Such a bugger that stress is!! Hope you find some time to relax this week!

  4. Let me tell ya, stress can really screw a girl up. It is very possible that it is the cause of your breathing problems. A couple years ago, I went through a ridiculously stressful period of time at work–I had very similar breathing issues to what you described, heart palpitations, lost my appetite–the works. I think this calls for a week off at a nice spa resort or perhaps a yoga retreat of some kind! 😉

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