Asthma and my teenage years
I didn’t have asthma from birth. I was officially diagnosed at age 8 with very mild asthma. When I started my teen years, my asthma started to become more bothersome and I was given my first steroid inhaler. I remember being nervous and feeling full of worry. Not because my asthma now warranted a shiny new twice a day inhaler, but because I was worried what my friends and classmates would think. Having to stop to take my inhaler during physical education class or not being able to run a mile with my classmates and have to sit on the sidelines was not something I wanted to have to do. I felt isolated and alone. I wanted to hide. This was NOT what normal teenager should have to live with. It was hard enough being a teenager to begin with, but being a teenager with asthma seemed like a terrible scenario. This was when I became a “hider.” I became withdrawn when my asthma was acting up and didn’t want anyone to know I was different. I took my medications in private and didn’t let anyone see. Not even my best friend saw me take my inhaler. Ever. It didn’t help any that as a teenager my hormones were raging and I was highly emotional.
Then one day it happened. I was at a birthday party with my friends and after a day of swimming and games I felt my lungs start to tighten up. I took my inhaler but didn’t want anyone to know I was struggling so I put on my happy face and continued with the festivities. Eventually people started to notice and one thing led to another & I was being rushed to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. Not a fun way to end a party with friends.
After that hospital stay and recovery I returned to school a week later. I remember feeling nervous because I still didn’t want my friends to think any less of me. To my surprise my friends were AMAZING!! They were all so concerned and showed me so much support I was blown away. They made me feel comfortable and for the first time in my life I wasn’t ashamed to have asthma. I even found out that a couple of my friends had asthma themselves. Realizing this was a huge step for me. My friends were there for me all along and I didn’t know it. I didn’t need to hide anything and they accepted me no matter what. I felt silly.
I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about asthma and I attended summer camp that was specifically for kids with asthma for several years. It was at that summer camp I decided I wanted to become a respiratory therapist when I grew up and help people just like me. I was empowered to be ready to educate my friends and classmates when they asked questions or looked at me in a funny way when I took my inhaler. I didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable around me.
Being an active teenager is hard enough by itself. Being an active teenager with asthma is even more difficult. Realizing that you are not alone and not being afraid to educate friends and classmates about your disease is what can make the difference in those difficult to manage teenage years.