person that seems fine, but is struggling to breathe

How I Learned To Deal With Asthma Attacks

When I was a kid, I had severe asthma attacks. Doctors would often note their amazement at how calm I was. Here I’d be all frogged up on the edge of the bed. The bed would be shaking from the way I was breathing. Yet, I’d be the calmest person in the room.

Calmly dealing with asthma attacks

So, I handled asthma attacks calmly. I handle them with a flare of equanimity and aplomb. I could be severely short of breath. Yet, I could walk right through a room full of people and have not one person observe I was having trouble breathing.

I was diagnosed at a young age. I got short of breath quite often. I almost like to think I just grew up with asthma. I got to know it quite well. That’s the only way I can think to explain how I responded so calmly to asthma attacks. Like, it was just part of my life. It was, so to speak, what was normal for me. Feeling asthma symptoms was a normal part of my life.

There may also have been other elements. I learned, by trial and error, that staying calm was the best way. Staying calm prevented the asthma attack from getting worse. Sometimes this leads to daydreaming. I’d let my mind wander to happier places. I’d think of walking on the beach or something like that. I learned to find ways of staying calm.

Sometimes, as I got older, I may have done this for the show, too. I think I did it because I didn’t want people to worry about me. Or, at least I didn’t want them to worry about me more than they already did. So, staying calm not only benefited me, it benefited those around me. Like, I was a pleaser.

What was wrong with this calm approach?

So, I talked once about my 6-months stay at the asthma hospital. It was on January 8, 1985. That was the day before I was admitted. Mom and I stayed at a hotel across the street from the hospital. After we went to bed nocturnal asthma struck. I was short of breath all night long. Still, I did not wake mom up. She had an epi-pen. She was given it just for this purpose. And I knew it. But, here I was staying calm amid an asthma attack because I didn’t want to bother mom.

The next day, at 9 a.m., a nurse named Kathy was admitting me to the hospital. She looked at me and said, almost immediately, “You are blue.” She called what they referred to as a cold blue. It was not because I stopped breathing. It was because my lips and fingertips were blue.

This activated their emergency system.

“I’m fine,” I insisted. I was short of breath, I admit. But it wasn’t THAT bad!. “I’m fine, really! You don’t need to do this.”

“You are not fine,” said Kathy. Suddenly it wasn’t just Kathy. Two other nurses were now helping her out. One was preparing a breathing treatment. I DID need that. But, what I didn’t need was all this attention. It made me feel very uncomfortable. And that may be another reason I stayed so calm. I didn’t like being the center of attention. And asthma, for crying out loud, ALWAYS made me the center of attention.

But that attitude ended right then and there. These nurses had seen this before. They knew exactly what I was doing. I may have fooled mom, but I wasn’t going to fool them. They knew that I had become so used to asthma that I just blew it off. And that was not good.

I wasn't dealing with asthma attacks the right way

Education happened. These nurses educated the heck out of me. I went to asthma classes. I learned how serious my disease was. I learned what could happen if I didn’t ask for help. I learned about asthma action plans. I learned about asthma controller medicines. I learned the advantages of being compliant with your asthma treatment regimen.

Keep in mind things were different back then for us asthmatics. There was lots of knowledge back then, and some nice medicines. But, it paled in comparison with what we have access to today. I was ultimately able to obtain good asthma control back then. But, my asthma control today is far better. So, that’s pretty neat in and of itself.

So, did I learn my lesson?

Well, kind of. As far as staying calm during asthma attacks, I still do that. I'm a cool guy, after all. I have a phlegmatic personality. It only makes sense that I remain cool during flare-ups. And, I do tend to blow off symptoms. But, to be fair, symptoms today are very mild compared to what that boy in 1985 experienced. So, this is how I deal with asthma flare-ups. How do you deal with them? Please share in the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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