Learning to Breathe Again - Care for the Caregiver

Learning to Breathe Again

Women are caregivers. We care for our families, our communities, our jobs, and our organizations, but for some reason we have a hard time caring for ourselves. We don't seem to see the connection between the effort we spend on the caregiver and the level of care we are able to offer. I love it when mamas decide that taking care of themselves might be a wise investment of time and energy. Michelle is a perfect example of a committed professional and mom who has decided it is time to care for the caregiver. This is her story.

I still remember when it first hit. Sitting upright in bed gasping for air in the middle of the night.  I couldn’t get to the bathroom fast enough to get a drink of water but water didn’t help.  All I could do was wait for it to pass.  That was about ten years ago.  I have fits like these several times a day now.  Thankfully they don’t happen in the middle of the night anymore.  I start every day with a coughing fit.  The first thing I do when I get out of bed is cough...and cough...and cough.

Many doctors don’t believe me when I tell them I have half a dozen coughing fits in a day and that this has been going on for over 10 years.  Sometimes the fits go away as quickly as they came but other times they last ten to fifteen minutes.  It makes it difficult to read a story with my sons.  Sometimes when I’m tucking them into bed at night and singing them a song I start to cough and they cover their ears.  It breaks my heart!

A therapist I was seeing suggested I just had to choose not to cough and it would go away.  Believe me, I try that every day and I only wish it were that easy.  According to modern medicine’s standards I’m in perfect health.  My definition of perfect health doesn’t involve coughing to the point of vomiting every other week!

Not long after the coughing fits started, I was diagnosed with a goiter, also referred to as an enlarged thyroid.  That was in 2007 and it was small enough at the time that it wasn’t a concern and my doctor didn’t believe it was the cause of my cough.  I had a couple chest x-rays and two different lung function tests.  The results from one of the lung function tests showed I had minor asthma but prescription inhalers made the coughing worse.

I was tired of fighting this cough and being told I was perfectly healthy so I started seeing a naturopath who recommended I cut gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and sugar out of my diet.  It was extremely difficult but I did it and I felt amazing but still no change in the cough.  Next I tried various tinctures and pellets recommended by the naturopath.  All resulted in no change.

After my second son was born in 2012, I noticed some changes in my voice.  Sometimes it just wasn’t there when I went to use it and although I’m not a superstar singer, I couldn’t hit the high notes anymore.  It turned out the goiter had grown.  As odd as it sounds, I was hopeful that the goiter had been the cause of the cough all along.  An ultrasound showed the goiter was multi-nodular and concerning enough for me to have a biopsy which came back normal.

By January 2016, the goiter was still growing and making it more difficult to swallow so I opted to have a partial thyroidectomy in the hopes that this would also finally rid me of the cough.  After the surgery I didn’t take proper care of myself.  I’m a self-employed accountant and being the only person in the office, I felt like I had to work the week after my surgery.  I believe it’s because of this that I ended up with a four month cold which actually made the cough worse.  

This was the final straw.  I realized it was time to take care of myself.  For months I had been trying to sell my accounting practice knowing that it was the source of a lot of stress.  I was also feeling pulled to spend more time with my two young boys.  After seeing numerous medical practitioners that couldn’t tell me what was causing my coughing fits I had a realization that maybe it was stress.  My job as an accountant is very stressful and I had been doing this job all the while the coughing fits had been going on.

I decided that even though my accounting practice wasn’t selling as quickly as I would like, I could still take steps to reduce the stress in my life.  I started studying yoga.  One of the books I was reading confirmed that stress can cause unusual health imbalances.  Part of studying yoga is learning how to breathe properly.  Some days it’s difficult and the deep breathing sends me into a coughing fit but I’m determined to keep practicing.  Until my accounting practice sells, I have cut my hours to part time and I’m telling myself it’s ok not to take on new work.  I’m practicing taking care of myself and my family.

I’m also seeing a functional medicine doctor to help me balance my hormones, keep my gut healthy, and control stress.  I believe that a less stressful, or maybe even stress-free life is the key to this mysterious cough and I owe it to myself to learn about proper breathing and meditation.  Once my mind is at ease, I believe my body will heal itself as well.

Michelle Cornish is a CPA turned Lifestyle Transformation Coach who’s trading in her pant suits for yoga pants and wants to help other working moms do the same.  Life on your terms is possible.
You can find out more about Michelle here.

Women, what do you do to care for yourselves? We would love to hear your story!