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What a Bad Asthma Day Feels Like

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My bad days are quite a struggle physically and emotionally. Fortunately, I have been fairly well for the last couple of weeks. These interludes are the time to recharge and I to manage to get some exercise into my life. Exercise is an important part of maintaining my wellness. My lungs don’t work too well due to asthma. My medications for breathing have caused type 2 diabetes and obesity. If I can exercise, I improve my lungs and can at the same time reduce my blood glucose levels – and maybe even reduce the weight gain. But, on bad days, I just cannot exercise.

I have a bright yellow bike that I like to ride. On good days, I can go for about 40 minutes, though I can’t manage even the smallest hills. On a bad day my bike has to stay garaged. On bad days exercise is just out of the question.

Bad days affect me quite profoundly. I cough and struggle to breathe. My chest is tight like a ton of bricks is sitting on it. Anything will leave me gasping and short of breath. It can be extremely scary. There is a fine line between “I can manage this,” and, “I need an ambulance.” Anyone who has ever had an asthma attack knows what this is like.

I want to just curl up in bed, but I can’t because my breathing is even worse when I lie down. I have so much Ventolin on those days that I am super duper hyped up. I shake, my heart races and I am wide awake for more than 24 hours. My thinking is all over the place too! Then, add in the prednisone, and I can become a real grump. I hate how I feel, but there is strong motivation to do something and tolerate side effects when you can’t get enough air.

To survive these bad days, I turn to online games, reading and hand sewing. Previously, none of these pursuits were very significant in my life, except for reading. My reading has become rather fussy since becoming ill. I always tried to finish whatever book I started. It’s an attitude akin to having to eat all the vegetables on my plate before getting dessert. I used to think that I had to finish any book that I started before beginning a new one. Now, I have such a lot of inactive days that I want to enjoy any books I read. I happily, and without guilt, discard any book that hasn’t grabbed me within the first 100 pages.

On the really, really bad days I don’t even get that far. I don’t do anything except maybe watch some TV or listen to music, but sometimes even that is takes too much effort. I sit in my recliner chair and doze on and off. These days seem to last an eternity. I tell myself that, “This too shall pass.” Being able to breathe is so fundamental. There really is nothing much I can do except take medication and wait for it to work.

Each flare-up or really bad time seems to take longer to get over. It takes fortitude to pick myself up and get going again. I think it is determination to find the joy and determination to live as fully as possible.

I often wonder how others with chronic illness pick up the pieces and keep going. I know I can’t change the physical aspects on bad days, but I can adjust my attitude.

It’s hard not to feel anxious and depressed on bad days. One strategy that really helps me when depression takes over is to reflect on gratitude. I go through the alphabet and try to come up with something positive for each letter. Some letters are easy. Sometimes I am back at basics such is, “H is for home.” I then think and expand on this thought. I have a safe place to live, lots of people struggle to have this; I really have all that I need. Where I live is beautiful, sunny, warm and close to the beach – a place I love. It’s really like paradise.

I am never 100 percent well. I do have to make considered choices about what I can and cannot do. Fortunately, bad days come and I really am lucky as for me bad days go. Most of the time my peak flow is down in the “caution zone.” These are manageable days.

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Thinkstock Image By: Maria Kuznetsova

Originally published: May 22, 2017
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