The Emotional Rollercoaster of Asthma
I’m just going to say it- asthma can be completely and utterly overwhelming at times. Regardless if you are newly diagnosed or an asthma pro. Asthma can have some harsh emotional effects. I know I've been there. Here are some of the stressors I have personally encountered and the strategies I use to help.
The emotional effects of asthma
Keeping track of everything
As asthmatics, we have a lot to keep track of. Our medicines and when to take them, peak flow readings, how we are feeling (which could change at any given moment), our triggers and the list goes on and on. One thing that has really helped me is to keep an asthma journal.
I have a spreadsheet of sorts all printed out that has spaces for me to plot my peak flow numbers on a graph, check off when I take my medication as well as any rescue inhaler use. I write down overall how I'm feeling and any triggers I might encounter that particular day. Sometimes I will start to notice a downward trend in my peak flow numbers before I experience worsening asthma symptoms.
I also have a copy of my asthma action plan in my journal and a photo of it on my phone for quick reference. I bring my asthma journal with me to my doctor appointments to show him how I have been doing, but also I will write down any questions or things I want to talk about at my next appointment.
Starting a new medicine
Starting a new medicine can be such a source of anxiety and fear but also hope. The hope that it will work and make a significant improvement, but also the unknown of if you will have any side effects can make it quite a burden. The best thing to do is to talk with your doctor about any potential side effects and what to expect.
You can do your research online, but be aware that your doctor chose this medicine for you because he or she felt the benefit outweighs the risk. Another thing to keep in mind is that different medicines work for different people. One inhaler might work really well for me but the same might not work for you at all.
Starting with a new doctor
This one is tough. Especially if you have been with the same provider for a really long time. On the flip side, sometimes starting with a new doctor is a good thing if your previous one wasn't a good fit. If you have copies of your medical records take them with you as well as a list of any questions or concerns that you want to address. Try to keep in close contact with your doctor to build that relationship.
Finding amazing asthma friends
Talking about your asthma journey with like-minded people can be a great source of comfort. Nowadays it is easy to find a group of fellow asthmatics online. Support groups are a great way to learn about other peoples asthma and their struggles as well as be a sounding board for your own struggles. Also, inquire as to if your area has any asthma-specific groups where you can meet fellow asthmatics who just get it. Chances are you already know at least one person who also has asthma. A friend or coworker? Reach out and offer to go grab coffee and chat. They might be struggling with the emotional aspects of asthma and need a friend. I have a few very close asthma friends and we are constantly checking in with each other.
How has asthma emotionally effected you?
We aren't superman. We are human and have feelings and emotions and can’t be strong every minute of every day. And you know what? That's okay! Frustrations of not being able to breathe like a person without asthma can consume us if we let it. We cannot change our diagnosis, but we can try to make the best of it. Educating ourselves about our disease and being proactive in our own care is super important and can be empowering. Talking about our emotions is the first step.
Have you experienced a collapsed lung?