A much needed rant.

It might make some people feel disappointed or angry or whatever if they were to read this- and I apologise in advance- but the truth is I find asthma embarrassing. I find asthma embarrassing because the general perception of asthma is that it is not a something which can be at times debilitating on a day to day basis and that it is something that can be ‘fixed’ with a blue inhaler. It is embarrassing for me to say well sorry no that is not the case, because it’s affected several areas of my life to such an extent like largely the reason I’m still doing my A Levels now is because I’ve had a lot of problems both on a chronic level and also admissions either during exams or during periods of time when I really needed to be in school. Because asthma is so common I think in some ways that can detract from how much of a problem it can be for some people, not everyone with asthma is the same severity for example but it seems like it gets generalised as most people who have asthma don’t have many problems controlling it with the right combination of treatment. I don’t just find asthma embarrassing, I find it frustrating too. I find asthma frustrating because I find it is difficult to directly control, I take my meds, avoid my triggers, and stuff where possible but ultimately that isn’t enough. When I was little I used to play this game where I would run up the stairs trying to trick my lungs by I don’t know thinking if I ran fast enough up the stairs I could leave my lungs at the bottom of the stairs. For half a second I would think I had managed to do it – left them at the bottom of the stairs… until they ‘caught’ up with me and I’d feel really wheezy and short of breath.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole asthma community thing; I’ve found in the past speaking to others who also have it helpful. However these days I’m not sure I would say the same. I get wound up when it seems that some people are either not telling the truth or are exaggerating. And what makes it worse is that some of these people I’m referring to- I once got on very well with. I don’t care how mild or severe someone’s asthma is, because in a health community there are going to be people of all severities and types and a person who has mild asthma can still be supportive of someone with more severe asthma, it’s not just talking about asthma itself but maybe for example just having someone listen. It seems that a small group of people like to create an exclusive little ‘club’ of being the most poorly with asthma and being on the most meds. And I think it’s pathetic, especially because some of them are quite clearly attention seeking and it’s getting boring now. Because of the creation of this ‘unspoken club’ there seems to be a divide between them and everyone else who they consider beneath them and not worthy of their ‘friendship’. I was going to write this all out much more carefully but hey this is my blog and I’m fed up of biting my tongue about this. I feel some of these people, especially those who are exaggerating/attention seeking they trivialise what it is like to live with difficult to control asthma. And while I get wound up with people like those I’m referring to, I’m much more annoyed with myself for getting bothered by it. I’m trying to ignore what they say and what they do but being how they are they don’t make that easy. It’s too much energy I waste getting wound up by stupid strange people who do these things.

I just want to make it clear that I don’t feel like this about everyone I speak to who has asthma, just a small select group. I have some friends who also have asthma who are supportive and I would never consider them to be in this little club I’m referring to.

My rant has come to an end, hopefully my next post will be a happier and more positive one.

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Things ARE a little better!

Here are 3 positive things about the last month:

– I’ve been feeling relatively well for the past 4 weeks asthma-wise.

– 2 weeks ago (24/01) I got a bit of a surprise in that I received another university offer albeit not for Medicine (this university doesn’t offer undergraduate Medicine courses), I remember feeling horribly nauseous and was about to cry when I got the UCAS track email on my phone to check my UCAS as I thought it would be a rejection so it was a pleasant surprise to see it was an offer.

– Exams weren’t completely horrendous.

I have carried on with counselling; the session before last was particularly useful as it was quite I guess goal-orientated. I was given a large piece of paper, about 2 metres long and had to draw a set a steps and on each step I had to write a target and then underneath the step write the little targets to achieve that target. For example, to try harder to go into college when I have lessons. It has become really tempting lately to not go in when I should be in college as I’m just so tired/sleepy. I’ve had no counselling last week because the day has changed and then it’s half term after today’s session and I’m not sure if I will be having a session then.

As for exams, I didn’t really revise. I had already resigned myself to resits in the summer as it all felt too much and too late. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I tried the papers but I was completely calm about it, none of the chewed up stressy feeling when I have actually revised. It is a scary thing that to feel that way it had to be because I wasn’t expecting anything. The papers were OK in that I was able to answer everything. I thought it was positive to feel calm about all of this but it has been suggested by my counsellor, that this is self sabotage but I don’t see how it is.

I’m finding Chemistry and Maths very, very difficult. I’ve missed a few Maths lessons because of exams and not having the book at home has made it difficult to do work outside of lessons for it. I think I’m going to see how the March exams go and depending on the results in April I will either take the final exam in June or drop it. Chemistry at the moment is very mathematical at the moment hence the struggle, I’ve been referred to the learning support centre at college for a complete assessment to see if I have any specific learning issues such as dyscalculia or whether my problems with Maths are simply because of the amount of school I missed when I was in primary school due to leaving early 3/4 times a week to go to hospital for dressings change or admissions so they think the foundations may not be there. This partly all stems from one of my lessons where I couldn’t see something which was really obvious but maths based, I was turning the page around to try to find it but couldn’t and it was suggested by the teacher that it might be a cognitive problem. I think it would be good to get it cleared up once and for all as in primary school I was also assessed and they said I was fine just that I had missed a lot of school but I was left to it though college think maybe because I was ‘high functioning’ it might not have been ‘detected’ (for want of a better word) and that in either case (specific learning difficulties or not) I should have been helped with catching up. Even if the assessment doesn’t throw up anything specific, I think it is clear that I’m never going to be particularly good at Maths and it is going to be something I’m always going to have to work that bit harder on.

When I last blogged I was feeling quite low, probably the lowest I felt in months though I am feeling a little better at the time of writing this. I did at one point think it was finally time to go and see my GP but in the next moment completely backed out of the idea. There are a few things that concern me about going to see my GP about low mood. Firstly, it will be really hard to talk about it and secondly – and this is something which has played on my mind a lot – the consequences of potentially being diagnosed with a mental health condition. This is because of: a) my family history and b) there are a lot of preconceived ideas and things mentioned in medical literature about difficult asthma and mental health issues; I have some friends who have both asthma and depression, some of them have had problems with doctors trying to pin down their symptoms to their mental health to a large perhaps overly significant extent. On my medical records it does mention stress as being related to my asthma; I disagree with that in that I’m always under quite a bit of stress because of the usual stuff of studying etc but also caring for mum and if stress contributed significantly to my asthma I think I’d actually be a lot worse off i.e. be in hospital far more often, on the other hand I would definitely say my eczema is made worse by stress. I have no issue with stress being mentioned in my list of triggers on my records (I genuinely don’t mind) it’s just I don’t think it’s as big of a factor as some of the others for example pollen/hayfever. It seems like some doctors think depression and uncontrolled asthma go hand in hand and there might be the problem of the other factors not being addressed as much because the mental health side of things becomes the focus. I don’t doubt that having a mental health condition can impact on asthma it is just that sometimes it seems from what I have seen with others- some doctors can run away with the idea of mental health and asthma. I haven’t always had a low mood, it is a relatively new thing in respect to my asthma being uncontrolled. I think the two in my case are not really linked and I am addressing the low mood thing with counselling already and I would like to try to resolve it without having to see my GP about it / without medical treatment, if I can. On a similar note; if I get an offer to study Medicine this year, I will have to go through Occupational Health screening and due to asthma alone this could be difficult but a diagnosis of a mental health issue of something like depression could further make it problematic. Medical school is stressful and tough, not an easy ride at all, a diagnosis of depression could throw doubt on the ability of the medical student to cope with high workload and distressing situations. And while I’m aware of that and aware of the current issue of low mood I don’t feel that it will impact on my ability to study Medicine though I can’t say that at this stage if I’m correct as I’m not yet studying it and this could well change. However, to assessors of Occupational Health I can see it is perfectly logical to maybe question whether someone with circumstances like these whether they would be able to cope with the course or not. I have known of people to have problems getting onto their course (Medicine or Nursing) because of asthma, depression or both. Occupational Health also links to why I want to avoid immunosuppressant treatment in addition to other reasons mainly side effects.

Anyway, I’m babbling on again as usual. I aim to blog again soonish. Hopefully onwards and upwards!

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