a sun, dog, pollen, detergent soap, and perfume

My Subjective Asthma

Sometimes it feels like my asthma is completely subjective. While I have an objective diagnosis of asthma since infancy, it has become so inconsistent over my life and, as a result, made my life inconsistent as well. In college, I once had a great lecture about objectivity and subjectivity. This is an analysis of my own personal experience with asthma through this critical lens.

What is objectivity and subjectivity?

There are two ways that we can view the context of a subject. Something can be objectively true, while other things are subjective to other factors. The most convenient example of objectively true statements would be: "1+1=2." It is fairly easy to both observe this statement and it remains true across most languages and perspectives. An example of an objectively false statement would be, "We live on saturn," because we clearly do not live there.

Subjectivity can be a little more complicated. A subjective statement can change depending on various factors, including perspective, circumstance, and understanding. A good example of subjectivity would be music. Every culture in the world demonstrates music, it is different across cultures because of instruments used and ideas conveyed that are relative to different environments.

When analyzing objective and subjective statements, one can quickly begin to see that it is difficult for anything to be truly objective. This is where my philosophical rant connects to my asthma.

My "objective" diagnosis

At an early age, I experienced a near-fatal asthma attack. Afterwards, I would continue to experience severe asthma symptoms and other atopic march conditions. My doctor gave me a diagnosis of asthma. An objective statement about the physical health of my lungs. For most of my life, I treated my asthma as an objective part of who I was. That was until I realized that my asthma is anything but objective.

My subjective reality

Like many others who have asthma, my asthma is not always flared. At times I may even feel like I don’t have asthma, but those times don’t last. My asthma is subject to triggers that I am exposed to; smoke, allergens, fragrances, and many other things are what bring my asthma out of hiding. To add, my environment will contribute to this subjectivity. If it is hot and humid, that will exacerbate any trigger that comes my way. So when people question my asthma while I am having a great day, breathing clear and deep, my response is simple: my asthma is highly subjective.

The two-way street of subjectivity

My asthma being subjective to my life and environment is one direction in a bi-directional relationship. My life choices are often subject to my asthma as well. If a friend invites me for dinner, my response is subjective to if they have pets. When considering a vacation, my destination is subjective to the climate. As I shop for cleaners, the brands I buy are subjective to what is triggering for my asthma. As I learn more about my asthma, I learn that more and more facets of my life are influenced by how my asthma will react.

This isn’t necessarily a negative, though. I am happy to accommodate my health; breathing clear is always a priority for me. However, realizing this connection has been enlightening to just how much of my life has been affected by my asthma. At times, this frustrates me, but I also realize that I live a healthier life because of my care for my asthma and for that I am grateful.

Take away

For a lot of my life, my perception of my asthma was falsely objective. When I would say, "I have asthma," that was the over-simplified message of what's really going on. My asthma is subjective to the things happening around me and often the things I can control are subjective to my asthma. By acknowledging this as a dynamic relationship, I feel empowered and less limited by my asthma. I now see my asthma as less of a chronic condition and more of a conditional ailment. While I do still experience asthma symptoms and adapt my life to accommodate my asthma, I feel in control knowing that my asthma experience is subjective to my decisions.

How do you feel about your asthma after learning my perspective? Our perspectives are subjective to new information, after all.

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