The following is a spoken word piece I wrote regarding my struggle with severe asthma. I am sharing it today partly as a means to express a part of my life I have kept to myself for far too long, but also because I want my experience to enlighten those who know or might even be suffering from severe asthma. The one thing I wanted more than anything while growing up was for others to understand what I was going through, and this is as close as I can get to reaching that goal.
Take a moment and clear your mind. Think back to this morning, as you were just waking up. You may have woken to that damned alarm of yours, or you might have overheard your children doing something mischievous in the other room. Now, try to recall that initial burst of life as you opened your eyes and the light bombarded you in all its infinite majesty. You, being the fatigued, hard-working individual that you are, attempt to shield your eyes until suddenly, something seems wrong. Your mind must be playing tricks on you. What is this odd sensation in your throat? Why are you unable to call out for help? When did you forget how to breathe?
Reality sets in, but so too does panic. You feel like a diver whose oxygen tank hit empty hours ago, thrusting every bone in your body to fight for a simple, small breath. As you attempt to suck in air, you realize you are fighting a losing battle. You look around for something, anything to keep the clock from striking midnight. Your phone is on the corner of your desk, it takes all the strength you have to reach for it and send an emergency 911 text to someone you can count on. Minutes later, you’re skating on the brink, seizing up as help finally arrives. You point to the closet across the room. They pull out a small blue machine and stick the mask on your face, it’s a good thing you keep the chamber filled and ready for emergencies. As the machine hisses away, life is restored to your lungs. The color emerges in your skin once more, your entire body shivering despite the warmth of your blanket and significant other. Your nightmare has surfaced once again, further paralyzing your sense of comfort and safety. Why must this always happen to you?
This is what it’s like to live with severe asthma. Everything you do in life is paralyzed by the fear of a condition the doctors have fought valiantly to control. You live through each day feeling imprisoned and afraid that tomorrow you may not be able to reach the phone or make it to your breathing machine. When asked what causes your condition, you feel guilty because the lifestyle choices of those closest to you are what impact your health the most. Strong odors, cigarette smoke, anything beyond two minutes of exposure to cold, dry air and plenty more are the things you have to take into mind with every decision you make. To account for these worries at times feels nothing short of maddening. The medications you’re placed on to help control your illness are extremely expensive and, without proper care, can lead to worsening the conditions they are prescribed to treat. The worst part is that you can’t maintain a job because breathing turns out to be incredibly important in all lines of work.
“So what do you do?” You may ask. You fight. You push forward against all odds, seizing all options on that fateful road to oblivion. You came into this life for a reason, and only you have what it takes to rise above what holds you back. There will be days that you want to give up, but you will persevere because that is the only way to beat what afflicts you. You will push for opportunities to better yourself, from college to speaking out and eventually to confiding in someone you trust, sharing your burdens and alleviating the strain they have on your life. Are you doubtful? Do you need proof? Well this is your proof. I'm living through this and am sharing it with you, someone I trust. I've assembled my secrets for all to see and have never felt better.