To retell the whole story about overcoming asthma and severe allergies I should just go back to the time in my life when I made a decision. That decision was “I have to live a medicine free life.”
It wasn’t that simple. Medication had been a part of my life since I could remember. I didn’t know how I was going to do it at the time, but there was a really big reason that pushed me to make that decision.
I was a new mom, sharing in all the confusions of early parenthood with my now husband. At the time, our relationship was only a year old. We were about to experience a large cultural shift in our lives. Before motherhood, I focused most of my time on my personal goals regarding my career. My passion for teaching and alternative education was the path I followed. I worried over questions such as “What is my purpose as teacher?,” “What am I contributing to alternative education?,” and “Will I make a difference?” I threw myself into projects at work and enjoyed every one of them. However, I thought very little about my health. Actually, I perceived myself as quite healthy because I was very physically active. Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, I spent my time rock climbing, skiing, hiking and playing soccer. After arriving in Hood River, OR, I picked up mountain biking, an activity that brought me to my husband. When it came to exercise, I was game for almost anything. If someone recommended a program or wanted to try the new class at the gym, I was there. When I thought I wasn’t getting enough exercise, or I needed to contradict that chocolate lava cake with wine I had after dinner, I turned my living room into a personal gym. To me, if I exercised enough, I would be healthy enough.
I figured, I’m a very active person, I must be a very healthy person. Right? Well, there was a catch. I was active as long as I had my lifeline with me, my asthma inhaler. It went everywhere with me. And when I say “it” I actually mean I travelled with 2-3 of those things. I hid them all over the house. If for some reason my brain fog got the best of me, because I did suffer from that too, and I got too busy and distracted and in the middle of it all forgot to pack my inhaler with me, I panicked. It felt like leaving my lungs at home. I depended on it even for peace of mind. I used it when I wasn’t necessarily active. Stressful situations could cause my breathing to change, or sitting in the grass, or talking too much at work, or sneezing fits from severe allergies. At the slightest tickle of an oncoming asthma attack I reached for that little inhaler because I knew just how bad it could get. I knew how horrible it felt. It was something I had experienced too many times, that feeling of drowning above water.
I took other medications as well. In addition to regularly using my emergency inhaler, I took a regular steroid inhaler twice in the morning and twice at night. That was the control medicine, meant to manage the symptoms. I topped that with nose sprays, allergy pills, and sometimes creams. As a child, I tried just about every asthma and allergy medication on the market as recommended by doctors. Managing my symptoms always meant new medicine. I used to do the regular breathing treatments each night. I caught pneumonia more than most kids my age and would end up on prednisone for a while. I rarely slept through the night. And, bless my mom, she always stayed up with me.
Even though this was my life I believed I was healthy because I was physcially active. I just saw myself as a healthy, active asthmatic. It didn’t really occur to me that my asthma and severe allergy symptoms were signaling something wrong internally, that there was an immune response. I had learned that I experienced asthma because I had inherited the asthma gene from both sides of my family and it was just something that I had to tolerate, that I had to accept medication as a part of my everyday life.
Then my priorities changed. My passion for my career had to make room for my new passion for motherhood. There was this beautiful new baby in our lives, and I lived with a man who had a different view on illness. He did not live his life medicated, usually avoided the doctor, and was quite healthy. He gave me the idea to search for another option, that I could give our baby a medicine free mom. The responsibility of nourishing a developing life trumped any other responsibilities I had ever taken on before. I didn’t feel right about sharing my heavy medications with her. I didn’t necessarily know what to do, I just knew that it had to change, even if temporarily, it had to change as long as I was her sole nourishment. I made that decision, “I need to get off my medication.” I didn’t say “I really wish I could get off my medication” or “I really hope that I can live with less medicine in my life.” I declared “I will get off my medication.”
That marked the turning point. That statement became my anchor. With focused determination, I set out to figure out how to make that statement true. I didn’t have any idea where to start at the time but I knew I had to do it.
Thinking about who I am now, what I know now versus what I knew in that moment, it amazes what incredible transformations can take place in such a short time. I didn’t know much about nutrition at the time. I didn’t know how to breathe properly. I didn’t know about natural movement and the true impact of stress. I didn’t consider the details of wellness. I had a general idea that I had to take care of myself to be healthy, but I didn’t actually know how much deeper I had to dig to really understand what kind of care that required. It didn’t mean following the food pyramid and exercising an hour a day, I can tell you that. At that time I was focused on my studies in school and my contributions as a teacher. But I really needed to care about myself too. My health impacted my family.
I made that decision and because I made it with such certainty, as a non-negotiable, it sealed my future success. And, boy was I going to mess up along the way. I made so many mistakes because I had no idea where to start. I started by saying “I’m going to get off my medicine” and then just completely took myself off everything without changing anything else. I thought I could just try to deal with the symptoms. So, that was obviously a disaster. I experienced a lot of failure. Everytime I struggled I pulled back on that anchor. I had a wonderful support system in my family members, both my immediate and in-laws. I had supportive local friends and in online communities. They were all part of the anchor as well. But the very first thing that had to happen was making a decision. Not “I hope” or “I wish,” but “I will” and “I know” that I’m going to be medicine free. I didn’t know exactly how it would turn out, but I was going to figure it out.
And, with great help, I did. 🙂
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