Decision Making and Asthma: I Am My Primary Care
I don’t have a medical degree—I am not a doctor. I do not have any formal health training—I am not a nurse or a respiratory therapist or a pharmacist. Yet every time I think about—and especially—every time I make a decision about my asthma, I am my primary care. Most of the time, I am the difference between taking my medication correctly or incorrectly, assessing my symptoms accurately, planning the things that I do to ensure my asthma is not impacted, or knowing how to prevent my asthma from being affected, or respond promptly if it is.
It’s impossible to measure how much time in our days we spend thinking about asthma, or our asthma care. Most of the time, though, I do not only think about my asthma when I am taking my medications in the morning and at night. I am, in the back of my mind, assessing my breathing each time something “pings" my brain as feeling a bit off in my lungs, or scanning my environment for triggers. I do not even really do this consciously anymore, it is just part of my life—like my brain reminding me of the need to eat, I’m similarly “pinged” with regard to my breathing. Even if I’m feeling fine, that little environmental scan part of my brain is there like “You’re cool now, but FYI some smoke is happening over there.” Sometimes, it is nothing I need to respond to, other times it is a more complicated decision making process.
I am my primary care. Each time I take my medication, or adjust my meds as my doctors and I have agreed on, or note a trigger in my environment and decide whether or not to try to avoid it, I am making a medical decision that makes me my primary care. Every time I decide whether to speak up to someone who is impacting my breathing with something they are wearing—like cologne or perfume—or have a worsening in my asthma symptoms I must navigate, or ask a question to anybody about my asthma—whether a physician, a professional, or a friend—I am trying to navigate a path that has no clear map. Yes, that’s right: being a patient with a chronic condition, like asthma, means that not only am I my own primary care for my day-to-day reality, it also means that I have some vague guidelines like when and how to take my medications, but also that I am navigating dozens and dozens of micro-decisions on a daily basis with very little semblance of a map.
I rely on previous experience, on instinct. I rely on what I have been taught, but also what I have learned independently. I rely on myself to make the decisions that need to be made about my asthma on a daily basis: I even decide whether or not I am going to go to the doctor to receive their input on those decisions. Because that is all it is: input. I am 100% in charge of what I actually do to care for my asthma.
I am my primary care, and as much as I don’t want to be sometimes, I have to give it the best I’ve got.
Do you get muscle cramps caused by your asthma medicine?