Mental and Emotional Aspects of Asthma - Interview with Lyn Harper

Focusing on Mental Health and asthma may not be at the forefront of your day to day, but we want to bring an awareness about the mental and emotional aspects asthma may bring into one's life.

We have an amazing team of advocates who talk about mental health and asthma, so we wanted to bring the expertise of Lyn Harper, MPA, BSRT, RRT as we set up an interview to see what she had to say about this topic.

lyn harper

Do you think asthma has an impact on emotional and mental aspects of one's life?

Absolutely! Anything that affects us physically can impact us emotionally. This is particularly true of a condition that literally can stop you in your tracks. I had to learn that it was normal to feel frustrated and even discouraged when I couldn't do something my peers were doing.

However, that same frustration and aggravation led me to proactively address my asthma - and I came to the realization that with good control and some lifestyle modifications I could lead a life just like my peers.

How did you feel when you were first diagnosed?

Frightened! I was only a teenager and my knowledge of asthma was limited to my experience living with my mother and grandmother - both of whom had severely uncontrolled asthma. However, as I educated myself I came to realize that this was not how it had to be and I was determined to live a "normal" life.

But, having experienced those feelings myself, it has helped me to empathize with others when they're diagnosed. It's perfectly natural to be anxious, depressed, nervous, and angry. But, knowledge is the first step in conquering those feelings - the more we know, the better we can deal with what comes along.

Have you noticed any mood changes since being diagnosed?

Depression and anger were the emotions that really caught me by surprise (and still do). That sense of helplessness when you're in the middle of a flare and nothing you do seems to work. It so easily can lead to feelings of gloominess and melancholy. Add to that the plethora of medications we take, many of which are known to trigger mood swings and sleep disruptions.

I discovered that learning about the side effects of every medication I took helped me be better prepared if it happened to me. It also helped me advocate better for myself with my doctor if I couldn't deal with a particular medication and how it made me feel. Simply accepting there are times when I may have limitations due to weather, pollen, or a virus has helped me control my moods.

Has your asthma diagnosis changed your outlook on life? If so, how?

Yes, it did. Especially in the early days of my diagnosis when it wasn't well controlled, I came to sincerely appreciate days I felt relatively good and could do most of the things I did before asthma. I tried to spend more time enjoying the good days than worrying and complaining about the bad days. Living in the moment became a real motto of mine.

I believe I've been forced to make some healthier decisions that I may not have if it weren't for asthma. For instance, smoking was out of the question and I'm certainly better off for that. I'm also "forced" to keep a very clean home - dust, dust mites, allergens, mold, and pollen have always been triggers for me.

I do my best to avoid getting the flu or a cold by being very mindful to eat healthy, get sufficient rest, and drink plenty of water. I may not have been as conscientious about making wise decisions such as these if I'd not been diagnosed with asthma. I consider that the little silver lining in having asthma.

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