I think most physical symptoms can mess with your mind, particularly asthma. Going through life questioning if today will be a day that I can’t breathe is plenty enough to kick off any amount of anxiety.
I’ve been at events (dancing) without my inhaler (not smart) and had to retreat to the bathroom to focus on breathing, too embarrassed to ask for help (not smart).
There are two emotions that are associated with my years of asthma: anxiety and depression. I know in the mental health world they are related.
Anxiety can pop up anytime, like when I’m dancing or if I happen to go somewhere without my inhaler.
Depression is more deeply set. It shows up when a friend mentions they’re doing a really cool hike with “amazing views” or when I wonder if natural childbirth might be absolutely impossible for me – or carrying at all.
I think society discounts that for every physical condition there’s likely a mental health impact – ranging from anger or anxiety to depression. I’ve read too many stories of people who wanted to end their lives because of unbearable health issues.
Let’s face it: Asthma is a life-threatening disease. While my asthma is well-controlled now, the memories of when it wasn’t and the knowledge that it still can be a dangerous disease are not lost on me. Talk about PTSD. If you’ve had even one asthma attack, I think it can get in your head. Not being able to breathe is an indescribable experience. I’ve written about how it feels like being underwater too long, to the point where you think you might drown. There’s a panic that sets in, and depending on where you are when you have an asthma attack, it can even for a moment make you wonder if this is it. This may be how you go. Ughhh ... it is awful, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t wish it on my best enemy.
I know for years I focused on addressing physical symptoms or mental health, but they really are connected.
I dream of a world where every medical/physical appointment is followed by an insurance-covered mental health appointment in the same day, same office, same appointment. I imagine a world where all doctors ask how you’re doing mentally, and all therapists check on your physical l health.
If you have a condition as consuming as asthma can be, I encourage you to consider therapy – group, individual, family.
Just as I believe physical ailments can increase mental health challenges, I believe your mental state can worsen certain physical conditions. For me, stress and an increase in asthma symptoms are inextricably linked. I have to be very careful about who and what I allow in my circle if I know certain things will get under my skin. These days it’s not worth it. By that, I mean a stressful situation (that I allow) can impact my breathing. I don’t know a situation or a person on the earth that’s worth that.
I continue to grapple with where the lines blur between my physical and mental health. In the meantime, I take a deep breath. I acknowledge that my mind and my lungs are connected, and I’m kind to both.
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