I have had this ‘low key’ asthma all my life and have been lucky to go as long as four years without any asthma attacks at all. I do not have ‘bad’ asthma, like some suffer from. It doesn’t trouble me day-to-day. But I always carry a pump, my medication for my asthma, albeit out of date one’s unknowingly during the good times.
I never have asthma problems or any health problems when abroad but my little blue pump was a saviour at the end of my recent holiday. We were on the way to the airport to go home from Alanya, Turkey when I felt my nose get blocked. My lips felt like they were swelling and my chest began to get tight, feeling the need to cough and breathe deeply. I’ve dealt with this level of tightness before with good deep breathing, coughing opening my chest and attempted to use those techniques.
But very quickly I realised my usual methods were not working. My chest was getting tighter – it was getting harder and harder to breathe. I was unable to breathe through my nose at all, not in or out. My lips tingled and my chest got tighter and tighter until I knew I needed my pump – and quickly. It dawned on me that it was packed in my case in the boot of the bus, luckily within reach.
It was because I asked for help and sounded urgent (very unlike me) that my family panicked a bit. Seeing my distress and the symptoms of my attack, my daughter, dad and I scrambled with building urgency to get to my pump. I used it with desperation and it took a further twenty minutes to get to work, to fully open my chest. My nose remained completely shut down, my lips continued to tingle but no swelling until I got out of the bus.
At one point, as the pump didn’t seem to be doing anything, I thought about the worst case scenario. It took me over an hour to stop shaking and to be able to focus again. I felt wiped out for a few hours, despite knowing I was OK after using my ‘little blue friend’. This emotional reaction to what had happened physically zapped my energy, perfectly showcasing the cycle of impact both our emotional health and physical health has on our bodies and minds. Taking some time to allow myself to feel what I felt in my physical state as well as emotionally, to understand how I work and why – its been my superpower.
As to the cause, its still a mystery. Possibly it was something in the environment, some dust or perfume, pollen even. I haven’t had an asthma attack like that for 29 years, so it came as a surprise. I could kick myself for my complacency and not carrying my pump in my handbag. I had quite a fright as it got bad, really quickly. In a taxi, in a different country on the way to the airport, and with a driver who spoke very little English. I am so glad for my ‘little blue friend’.
Please don’t be complacent with your health. Whether its asthma, or any kind of physical health, emotional health or mental health. Just like we try to give our bodies what it needs to work well to support our physical health, our mental health needs to be nurtured, supported and cared for too. Often our emotions don’t have any visual signs or symptoms, other than our thoughts that remain concealed to others. The battle we fight in our heads make us masters at hiding the pain.
Things could have been so different if I hadn’t taken my pump away with me.
I urge you to check your pump, check in with your asthma clinic and be asthma aware.