When we are kids it seems like most interactions with adults are just endless streams of questions focusing around what we want to be when we grow up. It’s around this time when we start to think about our personalities, what we like and what we don’t like, and what we are capable of. Over the years we develop a distinct personality and we learn what makes us happy; these things begin to define who we are. Most people manage to hang on to parts of their younger selves, but slowly lose their grip on other parts, leading to the dreaded midlife crisis. Most people trade in parts of themselves for a better job, being a good spouse, or to have children; they become the husband, mother, or boss. But what happens when you are forced to focus your energy on a chronic illness? It becomes a defining feature in your life, often taking over completely.
Most of the time my asthma is well controlled. Most of the time it doesn’t impact my day to day life that much. Which is really the way it should be- it’s what all doctors aim for. But it wasn’t always that way (especially at the beginning) and sometimes to this day my asthma sneaks up on me and goes into attack mode. It usually happens after I’ve been exposed repeatedly to something that I know is a trigger like cigarette smoke or dander. In these situations I know I’ve been exposed and I wait nervously for my lungs to decide if they are in a good mood. While it often passes in a few hours or a day, if I’ve been exposed I know that it’s fairly likely it will trigger a flare up. I understand how it happened and I can deal with it. I’m used to it. But, sometimes my asthma is like a ninja. It comes out of nowhere and I end up winded, blindsided by an attack I didn’t see coming. This is the asthma I can’t stand.
It’s human nature to want to avoid things we don’t want to do or to make up excuses for why we failed. Everyone does it, but people with disabilities have an obvious cop-out just sitting there waiting to be used. It would be so easy to blame everything on one’s disability. Perhaps it’s because there is still a lot of misinformation and stigma surrounding disability, or maybe it’s because those without disabilities just feel awkward talking about it, but it’s certainly easy to get away with playing the disability card.
Last week I had my first kitchen fire.
I was chopping vegetables when I heard the the oil I was heating ignite. I turned my head and saw the flames. No problem I thought, I’ll just grab the lid. I turned to grab the lid from the drying rack, turned back towards the pot and saw that the flames had TRIPLED in size.
That’s when I started to panic. I called Jay. He managed to get the lid on the pot and the fire died down. But that was far from the end of the ordeal. The top third of the kitchen was full of dark smoke. The fire alarm started to go off. That’s when my usefulness ended. I had to go stand on the balcony to avoid having a serious asthma attack.
I am torn. Half of my feels wonderful that I have a man who will protect me and help me when I need it. I am so grateful that I have someone in my life that I know I can rely on. I felt like a princess. The other half of me feels useless and pathetic; I couldn’t take care of the situation on my own due to my asthma. There was so much smoke I was forced to abandon the problem, even though it’s completely against my nature.
I’m one of those people who is great under pressure. Move my stuff out of it’s “spot” or leave crap all over the house and my OCD will freak out on you. But, when it’s serious and important I’m calm and collected. I have first aid training from multiple sources and have lots of practical knowledge. So, it stung a little to have to give up control and walk away.
Is my tough girl persona just smoke and mirrors? Am I really strong or am I just weak and needy? I used to think I could do anything I wanted to if I set my mind to it. Since developing asthma I’ve had to accept that sometimes I am limited. No matter how badly I want the smoke to not bother me, I can’t control my asthma. I’m no longer the 100% unrestricted woman I used to be, although sometimes I like to test that theory. I often push the boundaries of my asthma by doing things like cleaning a little longer than I should. I’m just not ready for a blanket “I can’t.”