As I sat in my immunologist’s office filling out the usual form on current health status, I was feeling good about everything. I had no apparent health issues and was grateful for that. I happily marked the box totally controlled, referring to asthma. I have been diagnosed with asthma. But, in my mind I thought, “I do not really have asthma…just allergies.”
The nurse fetched me from the waiting room and took me back for my lung test. “I do not have any lung condition, but they do this with all patients,” I thought. After the initial test, the nurse had me do the test a second time. She frowned and told me I should keep the equipment with me in case the doctor needs it.
“Huh? Why would the doctor need it? I don’t have any lung conditions.'”
After the doctor listened to my lungs, he glanced at the sheet I had filled out. He looked puzzled. He asked me if I knew what the symptoms of asthma were.
“Hmm…” I thought I did, but I don’t really have asthma anyway.
I quietly answered, “Shortness of breath?” He asked me to exhale as hard as I could. “Oh my.” I heard an awful whistling sound.
He said, “That is asthma.” I laughed, and wondered where the sound of a wizened old man was coming from. He asked, “Do you hear that sound? That is asthma.”
He asked me if I was taking the medication he had prescribed on a previous visit and if I was using the inhalers. I admitted that I had not been taking anything. He shook his head. He knows me well and knows that I am Always In Denial. He went over the symptoms of asthma with me and told me that my asthma was not at all well controlled. He asked about exercise tolerance. I admitted that on a recent hike I had felt that I could not get enough air. I told him it was because I was out of shape. He said, “No, it is because you have asthma.” I sensed exasperation on his part and he now had a new plan for me.
I was to take 2 puffs from my inhaler twice per day for a month. He then went on with other instructions. He made me repeat the instructions back to him. I promised that I would be a good patient and follow his protocol. He would see me again in 3 months and test again, so he would know if I was following the plan.
The nurse escorted me up to the check-out desk and had me repeat the instructions several times on the way to the desk. They wrote down the instructions and handed me the sheet. They were quite serious about the new plan.
Denial has always been my main coping mechanism. It works until…well…it works until it no longer works. I realized that I needed to rethink things.
I LOVE the outdoors. My soul blooms when I am outside. I love nature, and hiking is my favorite stress buster. I was not about to give any of that up. However, I had to admit that on my most recent hike, I had “run out air.” I had avoided hiking after that. Somewhere in my denying mind I must have known it was not just from being out of shape, or I would have been out there working harder. Now, I was facing the reality.
People face all sorts of challenges in life. Those challenges take us off the path we are on and put us on a new path. With some adjustments, we can still get to where we want to go. Or, we might choose a new destination based on our new circumstances. It is still up to us – we still have the power to choose.
For a full month after that visit, I took my 2 puffs twice per day as my doctor had instructed. I stopped coughing at night and breathing became easier.
On a beautiful morning this past weekend, I challenged myself to a hike up to the highest ridge in a park near my home. My husband was with me, encouraging me all the way. When I got to the top, I saw just a handful of people who had taken that route – the most challenging in the park. They were half my age and in great shape. I had made it! It took me longer than it did the younger, athletic people. I had to stop and catch my breath a few times, but I got to the top, enjoyed the view and felt wonderful!
I chose my fate! I chose to continue to hike. Denying the condition didn’t work. Making adjustments based on the new condition is what got me to the top of the ridge.
If a new obstacle comes along, challenge yourself to face that obstacle. Work with it. Overcome it. Make adjustments to your goals as necessary, but keep the faith that you still have the power to choose your own path. It may shift, or even take on a new direction, but it is still your path, based on your new choices.