What does it “feel” like to have asthma?
I was recently asked this question and I was really caught off guard by it. I realize that I seldom think about what it feels like anymore. Living with asthma has just become woven into the fabric of my everyday. I mostly think of how to treat symptoms or how my life may be affected by those symptoms.
The perspective of an asthmatic
When I think back to my initial adult diagnosis and how foreign the experience felt. I think “how does it feel?” was a question that I received from almost every resident, fellow or medical student that examined me. There are two ways to look at this question. One would be a) how does it feel to be an asthmatic? 2) how does it feel to live with asthma? I have admit, that I was thrown for a bit of a loop when I was asked this question. I had to deconstruct it. If I look at it from the first part of the question and I have to take a few minutes to gather my thoughts on the topic. How does it feel to be asthmatic? I would say that it does not feel much different, other than dealing with normal every day things. I do say this with a bit of a reservation, there are times when I have increased symptoms that I feel that asthma can be all consuming, where I may feel under siege by symptoms. These times are generally temporary and then I resume going about my everyday.
Impact of asthma on one’s life
The second point of view on this question really looks at how does it “feel”. Of course, being my science minded self, I answered with a very scientific responses about what symptoms I had and how they impacted my life. I felt it was an odd question but it made me think about my advocacy work and trying to explain what it is like to be an asthmatic and (a severe asthmatic and how that is different). In my opinion, this is the number one question asthmatics get, when trying to explain asthma, to non asthmatics. If I had to go back and answer the question. I would look at, not only a descriptions of the physical symptoms but how I feel when I have those symptoms. For example, feelings of breathlessness, can feel like you are are fighting to get a breath in or out. This is my experience you may feel like your chest gets tight or that it feels like there is a elephant sitting on it. Not to be confused with the feeling, in response to cardiac issues. I think there are “feelings” on how it can impact your life, you might feel too unwell to do your usual activities, you may be impacted by the medications you are taking to treat those “feelings”. I think there are number of impacts. If we look at the questions from the what would you want to tell people about being an asthmatic, perspective.
What messaging would you like to see about asthma? How do you think “how you feel” will advance new developments, treatments, or management of asthma? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.