So I joined an online Asthma Support Group the other day. And it changed my world.
It’s been over 2 years now that I’ve got adult-onset asthma and I’ve struggled with a lot of things since then. General self-doubt, all kinds of fear, feelings of worthlessness and instant depression after an attack, just to name a few. But what’s been worst of all has been the feeling of isolation and not being able to talk about it. Really talk about it. Without alienating or boring people or getting the ever so shitty but classic “Yeah I’ve had a cold last week, too!“ response.
When I get sick (flu etc.) or have any breathing issues, I go to my doctor straight away. He knows me and my symptoms like the back of his hand. The catch is that he’s Japanese and we communicate in very basic English, so I can’t discuss my questions or worries in depth. Some of my closest friends actually have asthma, but they’ve had it since they were children, so talking to them about asthma when I was first diagnosed with it, and freaking out big time, I felt like it was hard to relate to each other, for me and for them. (Or maybe it was just me. I was definitely not myself back then.)
Somehow, I’ve learnt to keep a lot of my thoughts and feelings about asthma to myself and just deal with it. When things get worse and I come home from the doctor’s office and the pharmacy with a huge bag of additional medication, I cry, feel shitty about myself for a while, and then tell myself to get over it. “No one cares plus there are people who have it worse. Crying and self-deprecation aren’t going to change anything for the better.“ Right? Well yeah. But that’s a great way to keep everything bottled up inside.
Then came the online support group. A few days following the chats and interacting with people there have blown my mind. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Suddenly there are people who have the same thoughts and feelings and worries like me. Who go on rants about hating asthma and how it changes your personality. How it scares you and and how non-asthmatic people just don’t understand. How it trips you up and keeps you from doing what you do and being who you are. How you feel like you’re letting a whole lot of people down. I know this doesn’t sound great or you might think that talking about these things would bring you down, but for me, the opposite is true. I feel understood. I feel relieved. This is what I’ve been missing.
I think what I’m trying to say is this: Whatever it is you’re struggling with in life, do anything you can to find people who go through the same thing or at least something similar. Not to bathe in self-pity, but to feel that someone gets you without even trying. Someone who says “I know“ because they do. It’s been giving me a lot of hope and assurance that I’m not alone in this but part of a group of incredibly strong people who don’t give up.