Have you ever let someone else’s words dictate how you act, or react? I have. It’s not even a conscious thing, more of a subtle reflex really.
I denied that I have exercise-induced asthma for years. Partly because I try not to own a condition, like “I have asthma” or “I have ‘whatever’ ”. I don’t want it to define me. But another reason I ignored my asthma was because of what other people have said to me.
I’ve heard asthma described as a fake disease, or one that kids who need attention have. And I’ve heard this more than once, from several people. I wonder why that is? Why do some people decide that a condition is fake or nonsense?
I was diagnosed years ago, as I was having a lot of trouble breathing when I was exercising. I thought I was just out of shape and needed to push through. So I did. But I could never get past it.
Then one day I was at a baby shower for my friend’s daughter. It was a beautiful brunch setting and I was seated next to a close friend of hers, who happened to be a pediatric physician.
We got to chatting about her job and she said she specialized in asthma in children, partly because she had asthma as a child. I mentioned that I was diagnosed with ‘exercise-induced asthma’ but that I thought I probably didn’t really have it.
She just looked at me for a moment and said, “Why do you think that? Didn’t your doctor run tests?” I told her yes, but that I didn’t think it was a ‘real thing’. She chucked and asked me a few questions about my exercise experiences.
I told her I was doing fine, but that I had plateaued with what I could do. I couldn’t get past a certain point because I was out of shape. Her next words of advice changed my life.
She asked if I was prescribed an inhaler and when I said yes, told me exactly what to do and when to use it. She had a way about her that made me trust and believe her. Probably why she makes a great pediatric physician.
So I tried it. John and I had been riding our bikes each Sunday morning to Summerland, which is about 10 miles away. We would stop and have breakfast then ride home.
It always took me over an hour to get there because I would have to stop and catch my breath after every hill.
My very first time using my inhaler, we did it in 45 minutes with no stops.
I spent years beating up on myself, thinking if I just worked harder I would be in better shape. I would go on bike rides with friends and pretend I was okay and my lungs weren’t burning because I didn’t want to appear weak.
Now I know better. I’m learning to let other people’s opinions wash past me and affect me less. It’s not always easy, but I’m getting there, now that it’s a conscious thing.