Not all asthma

Yeah, yeah. A play on the #notallxxxx that’s everywhere these days.

But there are various types of asthma. Not all asthma is the same, and as such they need different types of treatments. I have adult-onset, cough-variant, intermittent, intrinsic (non-allergic) asthma. It’s a mouthful. And hard to get out when you can’t fucking breathe or stop coughing.

“Chronic cough as the only sign of asthma is often referred to as cough variant asthma. It’s usually a dry, hacking cough that may worsen following exercise, talking, laughing or crying. Pulmonary function tests may be normal or reveal a mild obstructive pattern. When pulmonary function tests are normal, a positive methacholine challenge helps support the diagnosis of asthma. Such patients often have a dramatic response to asthma medications included beta agonists (albuterol), cromolyn sodium and or inhaled corticosteroids.” — The Asthma Center Educational and Research Fund

I’ve had the “official” diagnosis via the methacholine test. That’s a terrifying experience. Under close supervision, you inhale a chemical (micro-doses) that, if you have asthma and not just a temporary respiratory infection, reacts with something in your lungs and triggers an asthma attack in a very small concentration dose. No joke. They purposefully trigger an attack in order to diagnose you. Granted there’s a doctor right there ready to administer the albuterol to stop it, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. I had allergy tests as well, and my reaction to all the stuff they poked me with wasn’t significant enough to record. So no allergies. Just asthma.

Breathing is WORK when my asthma kicks in. And I’m working really fucking hard right now to just suck in oxygen. Long walks with the dog? Run errands? Long conversations? Nope, nope, and nope. Breathing. Just breathing is exhausting. Walk to the bathroom? Better have a chair half-way there to rest.

So asthma is as diverse as depression/anxiety. There’s no cure or solution, just treatments to manage symptoms and help you function. What’s frustrating is this isn’t known. Everyone has a suggestion for how to “fix” my lungs or asthma episode or prevent an attack. Triggers are just as unique. And since my asthma isn’t what everyone sees on t.v. or in the movies or the more common exercise-induced asthma type, no one believes that it’s real, kind of like depression/anxiety. Yeah, the invisible diseases (#TeamAlligator all the way).

I’m starting to wonder if the gods and goddesses are conspiring to prevent me from going back to work and getting back into a (new) routine and life. They might be at the point of bludgeoning me in the head to get their point across. What say you?

And please, STOP telling me things are in my head, for fucks’ sake. STOP telling me how to “fix” myself, or that I’m doing it wrong. STOP telling me to “pull myself together” or some variation of pulling myself up by my bootstraps. STOP telling me you have a “cure”. Just STOP. I don’t need anyone else berating me or making me feel guilty about everything. I’m doing good enough job beating myself up about it all and more. I don’t need help knocking myself around in my head, and I’m already plenty black & blue.

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On the sidelines

I was trying to explain to someone sometime in the past month about being alone and what I meant by that. In the strictest definition of the word, I am not alone. I have people in my life, in fact, I’m surrounded by people. But you can still be alone in a crowd.

But that’s not what I mean by alone.

The best metaphor I could figure out was the difference between being on the sidelines versus being on the field/pitch.

The field/pitch is where the action is and where everyone focuses. The folks on the sidelines are pretty much ignored/forgotten. In fact, in most cases the folks on the field/pitch could give two shits about the sidelines. They’re the key players, the important players, the team core, first string, etc.

Until we’re needed.

Then the sidelines are remembered. We are called in to sub, literally substitute, for one of the key players. And it looks like you belong, like you, the sub, fits. But in reality you are a placeholder for the first string player everyone is waiting to come back on the field/pitch.

The folks on the sidelines are also used/asked to fix things for the people on the field/pitch, or help. Bring something. Fetch this. Trade their broken thing for your non-broken one so they can keep playing while you fix theirs for them. We’re reliable. The key players know we’ll be there.

But as a sideline player, you aren’t included as a contributor to the win. You’re not first string. You’re secondary, and therefore your contribution is considered less than. Even if you end up doing/playing more than the first string that game. It doesn’t matter. The credit still goes to the key players and team core, and us sidelines folks are pleasantly surprised (and often shocked) if we’re remembered.

But you, the sideline player, are sure as hell used as an excuse when it’s a loss.

And then you’re forgotten again. Until they need a sub or someone to fix/help or meet a need they have or they need an excuse.

As a sideline player, you don’t know who, if anyone, you can lean on, rely on. Just because you’re on the field/pitch now, and it appears to observers that or sometimes even feels like you are part of the core, you never really are. You aren’t privy to the intimate communication between the key players. You are there, but not included. There are little gestures, inside jokes, etc. that as a sub you never learn and no one ever tells you.

As a sideline player, you try leaning on or relying on someone. But inevitably they aren’t there when *you* need them, but only when they need you.

I’ve been the sideline player for most (all?) of my life. I’m the “sub” for the friend that isn’t available. The one they call when they need help. Moving and being the new-kid/person every few years (with no support community like the military) didn’t help my sideline role. Everyone new starts on the sideline. How you get chosen to be first string, part of the core/key players I have no idea. I’ve never figured it out.

Maybe I’m just not a good reader of people. I choose to believe in the best of everyone, and give credit where credit is due. I believe that if I’m there for them, they’ll be there for me. I try to refrain from judging other people’s journeys and decisions. Maybe that makes me less able to figure out who I can trust, or maybe I’m just naive.

Because I usually get it wrong and trust the wrong person/people. And then end up floundering. End up reaching out into nothing. End up going it alone yet again.

Total trust fall fail. And as anyone that has experienced a trust fall fail, it really fucking hurts when you hit the ground.

If I get nothing else from my mid-life breakdown/decent into depression, it is showing me who I can trust. And per my trust fall fail pattern, who’s been there and who’s not has surprised me more than once. Who is sincerely in my corner, and who’s just biding time until I can be “useful” to them again.

I am sincerely grateful for each and every one that has reached out, been patient, didn’t give up on me, hold it against me, or take it personally when I stepped off the carousel of life for awhile. It gives me hope that I won’t always be on the sidelines. Maybe I, with all y’all, will change the game instead.


*Mind you, I’m only talking about my personal life and friendships/relationships. Work involves a whole other set of factors, including internal local politics, internal culture, power games, etc., all on a much grander scale than an individual trying to figure out who the friends are that they can trust if they need help and reach out.

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One step forward…2 steps back?
I’ve been feeling (my feelings are behaving?) like a pendulum – good, bad, good, meh, good, bad, etc. etc.
It’s like I’m one of those carnival or amusement park rides that swing back and forth and back and forth until eventually the spin you upside down and in a complete loop.
Either that or Edgar Allen Poe’s pendulum is slowly decending.
I’m not sure which is worse…the ride that results in nausea and a headache, or watching and waiting for the pendulum to strike a death blow.
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