Holding Your Breath

The average person in good health can hold their breath for about two minutes. Without oxygen we suffer brain and tissue damage that can mean even once revived irreparable damage is done. But free divers, the guys and gals that go diving without any gear, can hold their breath for much longer. In fact the Guinness World Record for the longest time breath was held underwater was set buy a German free diver called Tom Sietas. He held his breath for 22 minutes and 22 seconds. I don’t know if he intended to have such a memorable number for the time, but either way he set the record and didn’t just drown himself.

He set the record whilst remaining pretty still, so you probably wont get a diver holding their breath for quite so long while they swim about. You need muscles to move and muscles need oxygen to do their thing. Although we have to consider that not every free diver cares enough to get in touch with the people that record these things, indigenous people in parts of Indonesia for example.

So with a lot of practice and training humans can increase the capacity of their lungs, to hold more oxygen and learn to get the most out of our muscles with the smallest input. You can see a similar kind of acclimation in the human body when looking at people who live at high altitudes. There’s less oxygen the higher up you go, so the body learns to work with less need for oxygen. In fact athletes will often spend large amounts of time training at higher altitudes to benefit from this.

The human body becomes accustomed to their situation if given a long enough amount of time. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. My mental health has been smashed to pieces for so long long that I am accustomed to having no motivation for anything, to putting minimal effort into whatever I do, and generally feeling pretty ambivalent about everything.

If happiness is oxygen, my body has become accustomed to living life with very little oxygen. I can hold my breath for a very long time because I’m just not sure when I’m going to be resurfacing. But now I haven’t just resurfaced, I’ve washed up on a sandy beach. There’s a salty after taste and sand everywhere I didn’t want it, but I’m ashore.

Which leaves me with two problems. The first is the fear that any day now I could wake up and it’ll all come crashing back down, I could be back to holding my breath as long as I can. The second is that I’m not really sure what to do with myself, I’m accustomed to living with depression and social anxiety. I don’t really know how to be a normally functioning person, that doesn’t hide in their home or make no plans.

I’ll keep working on a solution to latter of the two, as I’m not sure there is a solution to the former. And I’ll let you know what I come up with.

S. Hansen

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