Step number one: realise that this how to guide is next to impossible to write.
Step number two: talk about different coping mechanisms that have been used.
If you are reading this thinking that I have a magical solution to deal with the impact of having a chronic condition then this is not the post for you. What I do have, are examples of some of things that I have done to make it slightly easier. Being honest, I still don’t think that I deal with it well but I do deal with it a lot better and in a much more productive way compared to a few years ago. Everyone deals with things differently and what may work for you, may not work for me and vice versa. I also believe that it is done to many different factors. How I deal with the condition now compared to when I was at university are worlds apart – I was younger and in a completely different situation. This may help one person, it may help none, but this is my trial and error process, coming to terms with sucking at breathing.
The first part of coping with a chronic illness is pushing and testing the limits within reason. I know and see so many people do this to extremes. They either push it so hard that they seriously hurt themselves or become very unwell. Yes, before you ask, I did try this for a while. I was a teenager at university and I was determined to continue with life despite being quite poorly. Lectures after spending the night in A&E, going to the gym even though you feel like your lungs are so constricted, you can barely walk upstairs and, of course, drinking to excess over a calm night in. It often just made things worse and even though I had fun doing it, I do wonder whether I had a part to play in where I am now (I did check and thankfully/unfortunately, I probably had no part to play). You have this attitude where you almost refuse to believe that a medical condition like asthma, could have such a massive impact on your life. I have never been a person to just accept limits – if you want something, you should work hard to get it. You can have this attitude with Severe Asthma but it has to be a realistic approach – am I ready to run a marathon? No, but walking 7000 steps a day without needing an inhaler is a more achievable goal. Unfortunately but understandably, many do the opposite of what I chose to do and lock themselves in a bubble and fear doing almost anything.
In order to process something, you need to accept it. Once you accept it, you need to understand it. The biggest coping strategy I have, is understanding and learning about the condition. What is Severe Asthma and why is it such a pain? What is happening to my body when something is going wrong? It takes some of the mystery away and by doing that, eases the fear. Knowledge is power and for so many reasons. When I have an attack, I know the mechanics of what is going on and yes, it is still scary – you try nor being able to breathe but I know what is physically happening. I know why I am on the medication I am on and I know that they have side effects. I understand why I feel the way I feel. Some would read the information or hear the answers to questions asked and become paranoid or frightened but I would prefer to know what I am faced with.
The last in the three steps is to pick your battles. I don’t know when or why I decided that I wouldn’t constantly try to win against the asthma. I wish I could go out and rally against asthma, fight for better treatment for Severe Asthmatics by non-specialists or just go and meet the fantastic others who beat the down days every single day. I can’t right now but I can write. This blog has given me hope, a creative outlet for the anger and inspiration to keep going. It sounds cheesy but by writing down bits and pieces of my life helps me process all of the madness. When I don’t write, I get down. I honestly do not mind if one or a thousand people see these posts because it is swiftly becoming my lifeline into dealing with the rubbish. I always get called strong – this is a platform where I do not have to be strong. It is a place where I can share my fears, my anger and, I hope, my happiness. Its less about coping with the physical implications sometimes and more about coping with the impact on your emotional health.
I told you that this post had no magical answers. There aren’t any. I have looked. When the world looks dark and without hope, its hard to believe that you can succeed. You just have to find another way of channeling that anger, fear and frustration. It is half the battle and its the part of the condition that the medics really struggle with. No magic pill to take to make prospects brighter. I have rubbish lungs but I have one hell of a brain. It is not easy by any means but it is one sure way of making the dark days that little bit brighter. Who knows – one day we may get a cure, a magical solution. Until then, I’m going to continue writing.