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I Am Not Unreliable, My Asthma Is

Sometimes, I feel very unreliable. I often do not commit to plans because I am afraid I will have to cancel at the last minute due to an asthma attack or fear of having one. Unfortunately, not committing to or canceling plans strains relationships with friends, family, and coworkers.

But I am not unreliable, my asthma is.

Once you decline invitations or cancel at the last minute a few times, you realize you are no longer being invited. I always feel hurt when not invited to an event or gathering. Especially when pictures of happy people having fun are posted on social media.

When I ask why I was not invited, the answer is always, “Well, I didn’t think you would come," or “You’re always too sick to attend.” I get that.

I recognize that others do not understand what living with asthma is like, and in their minds, they are somehow “helping” me by not inviting me to something I probably cannot attend. And, if I cancel at the last minute, that can impact the event – money spent for my attendance is now wasted. For instance, a wedding reception.

Asthma is not an excuse. It is a reason.

I have also been accused of using my asthma and/or other chronic conditions as an excuse. An excuse to call in sick to work. An excuse not to show up because I simply do not feel like it.

I promise you, that’s not the case.

Many people in my life don’t even believe asthma is a real issue for anyone, including me. Why would I use a medical excuse people don’t think is real? I also have no desire to cry wolf – if I use an asthma attack as an excuse when I’m not having one – no one will believe me when I DO have an attack.

Asthma is my reason for not being as social as I want, not my excuse.

I want to commit to events. I want to attend gatherings. I don’t want to cancel at the last minute and be labeled as unreliable. I am not unreliable. My asthma is. I never know when or where an attack will strike or how severe my symptoms may be.

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Tips for supporting your asthma friends

  • Please keep inviting me! I am capable of deciding if I can or cannot attend. Living with asthma can be isolating and lonely. I really want to be with my friends, family, and colleagues.
  • Don’t take it personally if I decline an invitation. It’s not you, it's me.
  • Be flexible. If I don’t commit right away, it’s because I have no idea how my asthma will be in the near future. Maybe I’m not feeling 100 percent now, and I want to see if I feel better or worse before committing.
  • If I leave early, that is not a reflection on the host or attendees. Again, my disease is unpredictable. The environment is unpredictable. If I come in contact with triggers that cause or worsen symptoms, I’ll need to leave to protect my health.
  • I don’t want to make others uncomfortable. Sometimes, I decline an invitation or leave early because I’m afraid if my asthma flares, it will make others uncomfortable. It may ruin the vibe of the event, and I don’t want to be accused of seeking attention or being over-dramatic.
  • Don’t be angry if I cancel at the last minute. It’s exhausting always having to think about how every place I go may be a maze of triggers. I would love to jump in my car and go with no further thought! If that’s your reality, I hope you understand how lucky you are. Unfortunately, I can’t just run and do things without considering how that activity may send me to the emergency room (ER).

It's asthma that is unreliable.

Is it hard for you to remember you’re not unreliable, your asthma is? Have you been left out of events because others didn’t think you would attend? 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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