Sunday, February 1, 2015

Thank You (A Suffocating Story)

You may not realize this, but sometimes I’m actually a story and have good stuff to tell you about my life—and I haven’t done one of these since October, so huddle up, people. I got somethin’ to say.

Asthma Inhaler
Flickr Credit: NIAID

A Suffocating Story 

by Heather

You may remember last month I posted a poem called “the trouble with asthma.” Some comments surprised me. Sympathy for the terrible disease that cripples my life and leaves me gasping every morning while the tears well up in my eyes, screaming “Why me?”

Is that what you were thinking?

I say it again: I was surprised. I sat there, perplexed as to why someone would assume that having asthma is horrible. Okay, it does have its drawbacks, more when I’m sick than anything else, but after fourteen years it hardly seems anything to get worked up about. And in all honesty, asthma has benefitted me more than it has inconvenienced me.

Weird to say, because about a year ago, my asthma was not under control. I used my rescue inhaler every day—not because of full-blown attacks; I just didn’t like wheezing. Winter was the worst. There were days I thought I’d faint walking to school. But it didn’t bother me, because it was all I knew.

I didn’t know I had other options.

There was a night, maybe  a week before the incident, when I accidentally indulged in too much of a trigger (popcorn) and had a full-on asthma attack. Looking back on it, maybe I should have gone to the emergency room or something, but a couple blasts from my inhaler got me through the night—so whatever, right?

At the time, though, I was frightened: my rescue inhaler was low, and I didn’t like approaching my mom about it—I hate asking for things, especially for help, and because my parents are gung-ho about health food and a monastic lifestyle (okay, it just feels that way) they have a bias against traditional Western medicine. Which is fine, it’s just not my thing.

I spent the day worrying. Could I breath, could I go to the hospital, could I even die. I spent passing periods feeling the stress on my lungs worrying about what was going to happen to me, and as I came down the stairs a girl with bright red hair stopped me, put something in my hand, said “This is for you,” and walked away.

I looked down at it. A bracelet: purple and blue, with white beads that say JUST KEEP BREATHING.

The Actual Bracelet

God has this thing about picking funny ways to talk to me. And yeah, I get it. This girl, for whatever reason, chose to be nice to me—but for all the impact it had on me it might as well have been that guy smacking me in the face.

I stayed up late that night while I was house-sitting, pondering this message, this objective, this strange need a girl I’d only ever seen in passing had thrust upon me. And this confidence that if I could just keep breathing, I would be okay. Whatever the cost, I would be okay.

Funnily enough, at my next doctor’s visit my old physician had been replaced by an ex-asthma center employee, and this new assistant convinced my mother, after years of resisting, to put me on a custodial steroid.

Best. Day. Ever.

(Note: this isn’t like a baseball player steroid; the worst side effect is that I could get a yeast infection in my mouth if I don’t rinse after using it. We can chat about that later.)

It is divine to breathe. I can push myself further than I ever have before, and I rarely have to use my rescue inhaler anymore. And I know that if I never struggled as I did a year ago, I would not appreciate the health I have now because of that change.

I saw the red-haired girl at school, in the hallways or walking home. I never thanked her—I hate talking, and get uncomfortable in social situations. But I also knew that she had done something that merited my thanks.

But I was scared.

Shy, embarrassed, nervous, clammy, worried, self-questioning, doubting, stifled by my worry that she wouldn’t remember, or she wouldn’t care, or I’d mess up.

Today is January 30. The girl and I were alone in the same room, waiting for a counselor. I could talk to her. I could leave, too, but the opportunity might never come again. If I didn’t do it, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.

So I told my suffocating fear to shut up and went over.


She smiled at me, gave me her full attention. And I explained the incident last year—she remembered—and out-loud-not-just-in-my-head thanked her. She seemed surprised; she knew there were some people who might have just thrown it away.

She was so pleased, she gave me a hug. And then we parted ways.

Now I’ve finally done it, and Im happy.


Don’t feel bad—I get it, the story isn’t pretty. Like my life was a living hell. Believe me, it wasn’t. It still isn’t. And I don’t regret any of the things I’ve mentioned in this story.

Yes, breathing is hard. So is thanking someone. The extremes in my life make me realize that only at my lowest can I rise above. A stranger can minister to me. I can be brave. And I can remember that even when I forget, God is there to strengthen me.

And, against all odds, He can make asthma awesome.

Art for Asthma 2009 Winner
Flickr Credit: Baylor Health

Did you do anything that was hard for you this week? What was it, and how did you overcome?


  1. It's pretty amazing how a bad thing can lead to so many more good things. While I can't pinpoint a specific time that's happened to me at the moment, in general it happens to me a lot, and I am so grateful for that.

    1. It is, isn't it? And I think recognizing that this kind of thing DOES happen to us all the time, and isn't just a one-in-a-million story is always an important reminder. :) Thanks for commenting!

  2. *cough* I may have been one of the overreacting commenters. I do have a friend who has asthma, and she's normally fine except in weird weather and sports class. I'm really happy that it's not affecting you seriously anymore and you've learned a lot from it!

    That bracelet, by the way, is so lovely and heartwarming. Also, you have a sign just for your blog! I normally don't even bother to stick my URL/name on my own photos, ahaha :D

    1. XD Well, it wasn't over-overreacting, it just startled me, is all. And yeah, weird weather and sports class are both the worst for me too, although sometimes not just for asthma reasons. But yeah, I'm pretty happy about that too!

      :D Yeah, I keep it on top of a thesaurus in my room, actually, but I like to pick it up and admire it sometimes. And yes, I made a sign out of wastepaper. XD I like putting my url into pictures. It means it is MINE.

  3. My sister had asthma as a child (she's pretty much grown out of it now), and one of the scariest moments of my life was watching her overdo herself in a swimming competition, and they had to pull her from the pool because she couldn't get out or breath.

    Yay for real life stories! I love hearing how God works through people, and how others grew from an experience. It must be amazing for you to stretch yourself in ways you've never been able to do before.

    And approaching the girl? Thats amazing! That took a serious amount of courage.

    1. :O That would be scary. I know that my parents were initially really worried when I first started showing asthma and they took me to the emergency room; I think it was not one of their favorite memories.

      And yes, yay! God totes does great stuff, and I do love being able to do things I couldn't have done a year ago; the medicine really helps and that makes me happy. :)

      It did take a lot of courage, but you know what they say! All things are possible...

  4. I'm glad you got your asthma under control, though. :( My family has a history of asthma. Apparently I had it as a little kid, but I've mostly grown out of it now. It flares up for my dad and nephew whenever they get sick, though, so I know the pain. :( I'm glad you found an awesome light to see it in, though.

    1. Me too; it's a good feeling. And I'm sorry your dad and nephew deal with that. I hate getting sick, just because it means my breathing is all over the place. It's always good to remember that it's not the end of the world, though, and that's what I try to do. :)

  5. Oh, this is wonderful...I don't have asthma personally (although I do have a brother who struggled a lot with it for many years, so I know the feeling secondhand) but I do have some...quirks of my own that help me relate to this's something that used to be a big deal but that I've gotten control of now, even though people still freak out about it when I tell them xD I've totally had people help me and give me that little bit of encouragement when I need it most, and it's SUCH a blessing, so I'm so glad you've had that kind of experience too! Basically, I love this post, and I've been inspired to perhaps be brave and talk a little about my stuff too sometime.

    1. *nods* I've looked on as my family members have struggled with other things, and it gives you an insider's-outsider's perspective, now? And I can imagine that it was a big deal; things are always big deals, but sometimes they should be less of big deals and more of big opportunities. But yes, having those blessings show up, even unexpectedly, is AWESOME and I love hearing about other stories like mine, so if you talk about your stuff too, then feel free to send me a link, because I would absolutely read it! :)


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