Friday, September 9, 2011

Dear Asthma, You Don't Own Me Anymore

I was talking with a friend recently, telling him about some of the things that happened in my childhood that led me to be less and less active.

Say hello to my new friends!
When I was a kid, I loved to run. I loved the sound of my feet slapping against the concrete, and sometimes I would purposely exaggerate that noise as I ran.

I could never run for long, though. It felt like I had a dragon breathing fire in my lungs. I tried describing it to my mom, but I was using kid language, and I don’t think she quite believed me, anyway.

I also loved to play soccer. I played soccer at recess in elementary school, until the bully kicked me out. Then, I would play soccer by myself, kicking my soccer ball against the one brick wall in our back yard that didn’t have windows. I kicked as hard as I could. I was even pretty good at dribbling.

And another sport I loved? Tennis. I was decent at it, too.

But the pain in my lungs was too much. After losing patience over and over again because I couldn’t run the way I wanted to, I gave up trying to play sports. I gave up running. I gave up tennis, and I gave up soccer.

I resorted to riding my bike, and sometimes even then, I had problems.

The main culprit was exercise-induced asthma, which went untreated and undiagnosed for the duration of my childhood and well into adulthood.

In fact, I wasn’t diagnosed with asthma until I was living in Boston. I got sick for about 6 weeks with bronchitis, an upper respiratory infection, sinus infection, and both ears infected. I was so sick that I probably should have been hospitalized. It was a desperate time for me. I was lonely and miserable, with no one there to really take care of me. If I needed medication, food, or anything else, I had to find a way to make myself go out and get it.

For about two weeks I literally could not sleep because I was coughing so much. I was so exhausted that I became weak and delusional.

At that point, my doctor realized that the reason I wasn’t getting better is because the exercise-induced asthma that had always been lurking in me had finally tipped the scales to become chronic.

He put me on a daily ritual of taking medications to try and get the asthma under control. It took months to become stabilized, but I did.

And my asthma has been under good control for years, now.

I occasionally have bad days, when the air quality is particularly bad, or when it’s particularly humid and hot outside. But on most days, thanks to modern medicine, my lungs behave just like a normal person’s lungs.

Last September, when I had hit about the 35 pound mark in my weight loss journey, it occurred to me that I wanted to become an active person. I wasn’t sure what that really looked like yet, but I could see it on the horizon.

Over the next months, I started exploring that. I began incorporating more walking into my day. I also began dancing again, and I started practicing yoga.

Now, I am a regular with yoga practice and dancing, and I’ve started incorporating some light weight training into my workouts, as well.

After a really great hard workout earlier this week, I realized a few things:

I need to remember that working out relaxes me, clears my mind, and empowers me to take action on real and important things in my life. 
This is my holistic approach… work hard to take care of my body with exercise, yoga, and listening to what my body is asking for (usually sleep, rest, and movement, and sometimes food, etc…) and then taking care of my Mind*, with writing, writing, writing… 
And really, what I need to focus on is taking care of my body. My body helps me take care of my mind and spirit… it’s NOT the other way around!!! My body knows more than the Busy Mind does… almost always. 
If I am too busy moving my body around to loud music that I love, assuredly annoying my neighbors, then my Mind has no room. My Mind simply has to go with the flow… 
And then I am clearer, and my Mind has relaxed and let go of the reigns ever so slightly, and I can then think with a clear head, and do whatever needs to be done.

Maybe it was the realization that the more active I keep my body, the more calm my Mind feels… maybe it was the endorphins making me a little loopy. But, on a whim, I saw a friend’s Facebook posting about a 5K run on Sunday, and I decided to sign up, too.

I haven’t run on purpose since the 20-minute mile run back in junior high, when I had to wear ridiculous day-glo orange shorts and a plain white t-shirt, and the gym teacher also didn’t understand that I couldn’t run because of my stupid lungs…

But I have a lot of inspirational friends on my Facebook, and I constantly see them posting about running, biking, and pushing themselves to new limits. I’ve been wanting to run for a long time. I remember loving that feeling when I was a little girl, and I’ve been aching to experience that again.

Finally, I feel like I’m in decent enough shape that it won’t be a lost cause. I might actually be able to do it.
And, as usual, the easy way isn’t how I attack things. If I were going to do the easy way, I would do a program like Couch to 5K. But that’s just not my style.

Instead, I’m just going to dive in.

My goal with this 5K is to finish. Even if I have to walk most of the way, I just want to finish.

Asthma may have stopped me from being active years ago, but it definitely doesn’t stop me anymore. I’m determined to continue exploring and pushing myself to find new and meaningful ways to bring more movement into my life. Movement of my body equals movement of my mind and spirit.

I am thankful for what I have learned so far.

And as for Sunday? Well, we’ll see what I do…

*When I say “Mind”, I don’t mean my actual brain… I mean the parts inside of me that spin… the spinning wheels that keep thoughts constantly whirring, like the sound of an old hard drive spinning (and blowing just about as much hot air, too).

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