Thank you, Asthma.
Thank you, Asthma, for forcing me to slow down when things were moving too fast.
Thank you, Asthma, for bringing me to my knees in prayer for breath.
Thank you, Asthma, for teaching me the miracle of a full, deep breath.
Thank you, Asthma, for acting up when I was in an unhealthy space.
Thank you, Asthma, for teaching me how to tune everything out other than the sound of my own breathing.
Thank you, Asthma, for being the way I properly learned to breathe as an adult.
Thank you, Asthma, for making me prioritize my health over outside demands and assignments.
Thank you, Asthma, for showing me that sometimes modern doctors can only do so much and encouraging me to explore other avenues of healing.
If you have never experienced asthma, let me describe it to you. It’s a mysterious disease with various triggers. Doctors know that sometimes it’s hereditary and sometimes it appears for no discernable reason. Asthma also has different ways it manifests. Sometimes it likes to come up as a hundred pound weight compressing your chest and ribcage. Sometimes it pairs up with a tightness in the throat with a big dose of phlegm. Sometimes it’s like someone is trying to suffocate you with an invisible pillow because no matter which way you turn your head, you cannot get more than a small gasp of air. Sometimes there’s wheezing, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes it comes up suddenly, sometimes more slowly and subtly. Sometimes it appears because of a physical allergen, sometimes it appears because of an emotional stress. It is more common in children, however many adults experience it as well. It is not contagious, however it can be fatal.
I do not remember a time before I was diagnosed with asthma. My older sister had it. My mother had it. Her sister had it too. As well as appearing in family lines, it can be brought on by air pollution and poor air quality as research shows it appears more commonly in urban environments than in more rural areas, as long as they are far away from factories.
Asthma affects the lungs, the airways, and the throat. It causes the airways to contract and it also produces phlegm to make those contracted airways less effective at doing their job. It is mostly associated with the Heart Chakra, however I also associate it with the Throat Chakra as the asthmatic symptoms I’ve experienced go to the throat as well as the chest. Asthma is also seen as a symptom of something sucking the very life force, the very breath, out of someone.
When I was young, I was put on a preventative medication that was supposed to make it so I would very rarely need my rescue inhaler for an actual asthma attack. It was presented as the thing that would get me as close to being cured as possible, since doctors believe there is no cure for asthma. This medication was and still is frequently advertized on tv with the disclaimer “may increase risk of asthma-related death.” That never sat well with me. But I wanted to believe this medicine was helping me and I didn’t want to disappoint my doctors, so I kept taking it for 14 years.
During that time, I suffered a deeper depression than I had ever and hopefully will ever know during and after college. During this time I gained a lot of extra weight. One of the side effects of this medication was the ability to easily put on extra weight and the great difficulty of losing it. I had doctors continually tell me that I needed to lose the weight and that I needed to eat healthier, but not one of them gave me the compassionate reasoning of expressing it may be very difficult for me to lose the excess weight because of the very medication I needed to breathe.
By chance, I found a new doctor when I moved who was concerned I had been on this prescription for so long. She was the only doctor I had ever seen who told me my weight gain and difficulty with losing the weight could be due to the fact I had been on this medication for nearly a decade and a half. However she still recommended I be on it, just a lower dose, since I still experienced asthmatic symptoms regularly enough to warrant medication in her book.
This doctor’s appointment stirred something strong within me. Anger. Betrayal. Feeling like I had intentionally been kept ignorant. Distrust of the established medical community.
I started Googling alternative and ancient medicine. I started Googling changes I could make to my diet to help my asthma. I started reading up on the spiritual associations and meanings to the condition of asthma. I refused to believe this life sentence of dependance on this medication that was advertized as a life-saver but that actually made my lungs weaker.
I kept my prescription, but started to distance myself from it. I stopped seeing it as a thing that would save me. I started believing that maybe, just maybe, I could save myself. I started to believe in the opposite of what I had been taught. I started to believe there was a cure.
I started off with supplements and teas that the internet told me could help; things that seemed like an easy change. Yoga became a regular mainstay in my life. I’ve never loved exercise and I am still healing my relationship to physical activity, but there were a number of poses I discovered that really helped expand my lungs during a tough asthmatic time. And yoga in general requires a focus of breath which was something I really needed.
Around that time was when I started working with crystals in my meditation – I started to have a meditation practice, too! I learned that green and pink stones were associated with the Heart Chakra and blue stones were associated with the Throat Chakra. I started attending classes in town whenever I could. I started exploring more and more.
I started to pay much more devoted attention to the way my body felt and what I felt in each moment. I began to be my own researcher and noted my emotional state, the environment I was in, the weather that day, what I had been eating, what I had been thinking about. I started to prioritize myself in a way I had never attempted or thought important enough to do before.
I started to love myself and my body for all that we been through together. I started to slowly lose the excess weight. I started to feel more confident in myself and my intuition. I started to feel healthier than I had ever felt in my life – to be clear – the level of emotional and physical health were both going up, for we know that one can appear physically fit, but be emotionally unwell.
I share all of this because while I am grateful for modern medicine and its life-saving capabilities, for they have saved my life when asthma landed me in the hospital years ago, I am also very grateful for the lessons my chronic disease gave me and the paths it encouraged me to explore. If it hadn’t been for asthma, I would not feel so grateful for a simple deep, belly breath.
What if our chronic diseases or issues are trying to tell us something? What if they are trying to tell you to turn back from this environment or situation? What if they are trying to tell you to stop overgiving to others and to come back to yourself?
My hope for you is that if you are going through something difficult with your health, that you are able to explore the many avenues of healing out there with an open mind and an open heart, that you remember the truth that health is our natural state, and that you remember your power to find healing within.
First published on Clouds + Dirt, July 2019
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