Unlike yesterday, today is bright, sunny but still a bit cool. No I’m not going to give you a daily weather report, but it is relevant to what I want to share with you today. Aside from having an auto-immune disease for over thirty years, I developed asthma as an adult. It’s one of those things I don’t think about until I begin wheezing and need to grab my inhaler to regain my breath. I have what’s called “exercise induced asthma” which I find amusing since I don’t exercise. The reality is that my breathing troubles are triggered when I begin some type of strenuous activity (yes I understand that strenuous is individually defined).
As I mentioned yesterday it was snowing here in Denver in the morning. I was leaving the house and decided to give the driveway a quick shovel. It only took about ten minutes, but as the time went on my chest got tighter. By the time I finished I was short of breath and I went in the house to get my inhaler. I sat at the top of the stairs, sat down and took a puff. By the time I get my inhaler in these instances my anxiety level is pretty high. I often believe that my anxiety about not breathing is worse than not breathing (I guess that’s up for debate).
Once I regained my composure I had to make a conscious decision about how I would spend my day. I could hang on to the anxiety or I can let it go. As with many who have a chronic illness, anxiety is huge. The idea that in one moment you can be fine and like the weather in twenty minutes things can change keeps you on the edge of your psychic seat. There is an anticipatory angst about how will the symptoms show up to day, if at all, and how will you respond? It’s easy to sit in the anxiety and become paralyzed from participating in your own life. So what’s the plan?
I’ll share with you my thoughts and then I hope you’ll share with me some of yours. I’ve come to understand my body and its triggers. I know the cycle of my anticipatory angst and can talk myself down from the ledge. I obviously need constant reminders that my lungs don’t function like others and I probably need some more work accepting and taking precautions in this arena. It is something I am committed to working on because the moments of gasping for air are far from fun and certainly don’t make for the start of a great day. I have to surrender to the idea that I have certain limitations. Yesterday it was about taking precautions before shoveling the driveway. As I approach the warm weather I need to keep in mind that the same thing happens when I mow the lawn. Being able to generalize my triggers is a big step. I hope you’re looking at not only the specifics of your triggers, but how they generalize to other activities or situations.
This is the time when you have to begin a love affair with your physical body. You have to court your body as if you’re beginning a dating ritual. You need to inquire about likes and dislikes. You may be saying, “Greg, I know my body and I know the triggers”. I would beg to differ because if you did would you really intentionally provoke your body? We do provoke our bodies and I know that to live a higher quality of life I need to befriend my body, not challenge it.
How will you spend your day? Will you stay stuck in the anxiety of the symptoms and limitations? How can you transform the current episode into a fact finding mission so you can make better decisions next time around? What would your day be like if you didn’t feel stuck or trapped?