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What Does Your "Normal" Look Like?

What Does Your “Normal” Look Like?

During Asthma Awareness Month, I often try to capture pictures of what the beginning of my day looks like—what my normal is. It’s now several weeks since May ended, and with it, the official Asthma Awareness Month and World Asthma Day sparks that go with it. But, I live with asthma 365 days a year—and in that time, I take a minimum of 4,250 puffs of medication, a minimum of two times a day.

My friend Allie shared this on Instagram on June 25

A post shared by Allie Bahn (@miss_allergic_reactor) on Jun 25, 2018 at 6:22am PDT

Click through to read Allie’s stellar description of “her normal” when growing up as a kid with food allergies.

And I got to thinking—what does my “normal” look like?

Defining normalcy—because I’m generally not normal!

Fellow Health Union blogger on their Multiple Sclerosis site, Nicole, writes a blog called My New Normals. Any chronic diagnosis brings with it adapting to a new set of normals: medications, routines, lifestyle and routine changes and adaptations.

I don’t do “normal” well, and that was long before I was diagnosed with asthma! Part of it is likely an ADHD thing, but I find calm in chaos: I enjoy the non-routine of travel, I love freelancing because it’s rare I have two days that follow a pattern, and to an extent, I do best under short bursts of stress. So, routine wise, my normal is definitely not normal.
However, living with asthma, my normal looks a bit different than those without.

What does my normal look like?

I wake up in the morning and usually spend some time listening to podcasts. When I get up, I’ll take three inhalers. Sometimes four if it’s a rough morning and I need Ventolin. Sometimes I take them roughly at the same time, splicing other “getting ready’ tasks in the middle, but most often I get up, take one inhaler, go do something, take the next inhaler, and repeat—sometimes it takes me hours to get all my meds done!

When I get dressed, I put an inhaler floating around somewhere (usually the bathroom counter) in the pocket of my jeans or shorts. I sometimes settle down to work around this point; other times I’ve already been working for hours—hey, if inspiration strikes when I’m still in my PJs, who am I to say no? I also put my Apple Watch on, which has a Road ID attached to it—sometimes, I end up wearing two medical IDs because the bracelet my friend Heather made me is pretty, but it’s too much work to bother taking the Road ID off my watch!
If I’m exercising, I’ll take a couple hits of Ventolin before I start getting ready to go for a walk, or to the living room to dance, or to the basement to ride the stationary bike. By the time I’m finally ready to go 20 distractions and 30 minutes later, my lungs are ready, too. I put the inhaler back in my pocket, or on the living room table by my Bluetooth speaker, or somewhere near the exercise bike.

When I go out, I’m constantly alert for triggers—smokers, perfume, the laundry aisle, construction sites. It’s in the back of my mind, and I navigate these things with a semi-consciousness. I use my inhaler when I need to (but usually put it off till I get somewhere more private, like a deserted bus stop, the car, or a bathroom!). Some days are better than others—some I will not use my rescue inhaler at all. Some I will need it multiple times. Some days I’ll need a nebulizer treatment or two depending how I’m feeling, but that’s not often. Depending on how I’m feeling, if I’m on the edge somewhere between iffy and not great, I’ll take a dose or two of Atrovent partway through the day if I need it.

My normal is expecting the unexpected. It’s having an acute sense of what’s going on in my lungs at the back of my mind all the time—even if I’m not having symptoms, there is a piece of my mind surveying my body.

The end of the day will be like the beginning, partly in reverse: I’ll take my inhalers, brush my teeth, and get ready for bed. I’ll take the inhaler out of my pocket and put it either on the bathroom counter or tucked beside/under my pillow—that mostly depends on my breathing, or simply if I forgot to take it out of my pocket before going to my room! I’ll often put a podcast or audiobook on until shortly before I fall asleep. Fortunately, it’s rare I have nocturnal asthma symptoms, and usually sleep soundly.

My normal involves more doctors than it should for various reasons, more medicine than I’d like, more attention paid to my health—for both the good and bad. Regardless, it’s my normal now—I’ve adjusted to it over the last decade.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • ElizabethAnnie8444
    11 months ago

    For me I don’t really know what I would call “normal” cos a lot of my life I have had asthma but if i had to put something then it would probably be that a “normal” asthmatic is someone who could try get out and about and do things including exercising and stuff like that.

    I don’t know if this is what I would call normal or not but that is what I am going to put.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi ElizabethAnnie8444 and thanks for trying to answer this in a way that you feel is practical. We appreciate your input. Leon (site moderator)

  • pch5010
    11 months ago

    I too am still adjusting to my new normal. I do the medicine routine, check the weather conditions, then assess my breathing and then decide how much time I can spend outdoors, how many tasks I can accomplish..etc and then I will plot my day totally based on asthma. I just recently realized how much of an impact asthma has had on my life. I tend to be the kind of person that, in a difficult situation, just does what has to be done without dwelling on the negatives. So it wasn’t until I was asked to describe my day with asthma that I realized the significance of the impact. I realized I don’t even grocery shop like a “normal” person any more. Living on the second floor of a condo w/o an elevator is a challenge, add grocery bags and I’ve learned it can be a recipe for disaster…so I adjust. It is definitely a new normal but I’m learning to adjust and continue to live my “new normal” life.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Thanks for sharing your story. That is pretty much how it is for so many of us asthmatics. Rather than developing a “whoa is me” approach we learn to cope and live “normal despite asthma. Good luck with your “new normal.” John. Site Moderator.

  • Shellzoo
    11 months ago

    Still adjusting to my new asthma normal. 6 allergy shots, Advair, rescue inhalers, avoiding strong scents, campfires (sigh), cigarette smoke fumes, pollen, animals. As a healthcare worker, I had no idea how much asthma affects your health and lifestyle. That said, it has made me better at my job.

  • Kerri MacKay moderator author
    11 months ago

    While I wouldn’t wish this (or any) disease on anyone, I also find that HCPs who live with chronic disease to be better caregivers–I’m glad you realize this too!

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    12 months ago

    Excellent article, Kerri. We often write things like, “Do this or do that and you can live a normal life with asthma.” But, as you described so well, life with asthma is a different kind of normal. This gives us a neat article to link to that describes what “asthma normal” is. Thanks. John. Site Moderator.

  • Kerri MacKay moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thanks, John!!

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