It’s been nine years since my asthma diagnosis, which occurred about a week before World Asthma Day in 2008. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about asthma and taught a lot of people a lot of things about asthma. May is Asthma Awareness Month, and here’s the thing I’ve discovered in the past seven years that I’ve been acknowledging the existence of World Asthma Day (the first Tuesday in May) and Asthma Awareness Month.
People are aware of asthma.
It’s true. Everybody knows somebody with asthma—usually, more than one person. People are aware of what asthma is, even if their perceptions of asthma are a bit skewed. Asthma is not always the dramatic scene it is in movies, nor is it the nerdy kid puffing at his inhaler every time he gets scared or anxious, and nor is it controlled by default or always resolved by a few puffs of the blue inhaler. Asthma is not always accurately portrayed by the media, but that may also be because every person’s asthma is so, so different.
And this is where my frustration with Asthma Awareness Month comes in. Because people are aware of asthma.
So now what?
What can you do to change perceptions of asthma this Asthma Awareness Month?
What can you do as an advocate—or if you don’t feel like you identify with that title, what can you do as a person with asthma—this Asthma Awareness Month? For the last several years, my response has been roughly the same: SHARE YOUR STORY!
“Awareness of issues is not the problem; people are aware of issues. Awareness of people is what will bring change.”
Zero-ing in: Finding your voice within your story
What’s your story? What do you want to see change about living with asthma? What avenues could you pursue to share your thoughts about and experiences with asthma? Your asthma is unique, and so is your perspective. OWN IT for asthma awareness month.
Maybe it’s dropping one picture on Instagram, a post on Facebook, or a tweet. Maybe people don’t know you have asthma, and you do cool stuff despite your asthma—you can show people your asthma and what it means for your life. Maybe there’s a group doing asthma advocacy work in your area that you’ve hesitated getting involved with—maybe they need your story, and now is a good time.
You have a story. Yes, YOU.
If you feel you don’t have enough of a story, you do. I once co-facilitated a workshop on storytelling for asthma advocates, and a participant said since he had not had bad asthma since he was a kid, he felt like he didn’t have a story to share. I disagreed and told him this because, here’s the thing: his story is probably one that the majority of asthmatics—the 70-plus-percent of asthmatics that have mild asthma—can identify best with!
If your doctor has told you that you have asthma, your story is important to the asthma community. Our stories help connect us, bring us together, and help us find others like us. I cannot tell you how many times I have shared something—in person or online—to be greeted with “Me, too”. There is power in finding a connection, and camaraderie, especially with chronic health issues like asthma. Your story is important, and you don’t know how it will impact others—or your own life later on.
Grab coffee with a friend to share your asthma story, queue up some social media posts to go up throughout the month, or simply share some facts about asthma—even if you’re not ready to “go public” with your own asthma, you can still help those around you better understand the realities of asthma by sharing science-based information or stories that resonate with you. There are a lot of ways you can help make those around you a bit more aware of the realities of asthma—be creative, and have fun with it!
Whether inside your own being or on the outside to those around you, there’s no better time to own your asthma than RIGHT NOW. Whether you’re reading this in May 2017, or December 2028 (…unless they’ve cured us by then. That would be cool), own your asthma, own your story, and do something to help change how you or those around you see asthma.
Let us know how you’re choosing to commemorate Asthma Awareness Month—and let us know if you’re choosing not to and why, too.