Don

Don’t be a “hider”

I have a confession to make. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a “hider” when it comes to my asthma. I take my inhalers & medications away from people. I tend to become withdrawn when I’m having a bad asthma day. I don’t like drawing attention to myself. I would feel ashamed and didn’t want people to perceive me as being “the sickly one.”
When my asthma became more bothersome in my teens I especially didn’t want any of my classmates to know. Kids can be mean and I definitely didn’t want anyone to know I had asthma.
I should know better being a Respiratory Therapist. But old habits die hard. I remember one day in college (14 years ago) during a respiratory lab class I had a pretty bad asthma attack. I left the classroom & hid in the stairwell as to not draw any attention to myself. Big mistake. When one of my classmates noticed I had been missing for awhile she came to look for me & found me in pretty rough shape. 911 was called & off to the hospital I went in the back of an ambulance with full lights & sirens blaring. Looking back that could have potentially been avoided if my classmates knew I had asthma or if I would have asked for help before my breathing really got out of hand.
Every summer I serve on the medical staff up at a week long summer camp up in the mountains for kids with asthma (the same camp I attended as a child). The other medical staff are aware of my severe asthma (including my own asthma doctor who was also on the medical staff). I also have a cardiac arrhythmia which was set off pretty severely up at camp a few years ago following an epic ultimate frisbee game. I don’t remember a lot of what happened that day but I do remember trying to not draw attention to myself when I could barely breathe and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest which severely kicked up my asthma as well. I remember telling the doctors and medical staff that were surrounding me that I was “fine” and just needed some time for everything to calm down. I was pretty adamant about it. The doctors strongly disagreed and made the call to 911 despite my protest and off I went in the back of an ambulance again.
I learned a pretty hard lesson after that attack. I had to come clean with myself and be completely honest about the severity of my disease. Being a severe asthmatic makes it very hard to be a hider. The truth is, there is NOTHING to be embarrassed about. It’s a part of me. It makes up part of my identity but it does not define me.  It took me many years to come to this realization and to accept this fact.
I am not ashamed of having asthma. I am honest with my husband and family and friends when I’m having a bad asthma day. The truth is that I need support. We all need a support system. They love and care for me and my own stubbornness shouldn’t stand in the way of that. I’ve come to realize that it’s no big deal using my inhaler in public or in front of others. If they ask questions I use it as a teaching moment to educate about my disease.

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

Comments

View Comments (4)
  • krishwaecosse
    2 weeks ago

    I feel that it is only natural to feel that need to hide when taking your inhaler, as it can be so hard to take people asking if you’re ok when all you want to do is try go breathe again.
    You’re right though, we all do need support for when we are having a bad day, and sometimes others can spot it for us when we are all too willing to push our boundaries x

  • Shellzoo
    2 weeks ago

    I hide too. The other day all the bathrooms at work were occupied and I was feeling pretty raspy and short of breath and needed my inhaler. I let go of my pride and just used my inhaler regardless of the co-workers who were watching. I knew I needed it immediately and was not going to wait for a bathroom to become available.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Great article.I find that no matter what level of medical experience you have, it all goes out the door when you can’t breathe. I once had an RT coworker of mine tell I had to get to the emergency room. And, as an RT myself, have done the same more than once for my asthmatic coworkers. So, as you say, it’s always good to have a support system.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    I agree with you 100% John. Over the many years spent in this profession, I have found that many (but certainly not all) of the professionals I know who are asthmatics take wonderful, compassionate care of their patients. When it come to themselves however, they sure need some assistance…

  • Poll