When I fell ill with a handful of chronic illnesses as a child, the first one I was diagnosed with was asthma. I’ve been working for myself for about a year, and it has helped me learn more about my body and manage my asthma better. That said, I don’t use my inhaler as much as I should, and it shows in how I move through my day-to-day life.
Here’s what an average day in my life is like with asthma.
I’m usually awake by this time, unless I’ve had a rough night dealing with pain, insomnia, or asthma attacks. Luckily, last night was a (rare) good night, and I wake up in my actual bed! My husband has already been at work for nearly two hours as I get started on my day.
While I’m in the bathroom, I check the weather to prepare for the day. It influences how close I stay to my medication regimen. It’s not supposed to be too bad in the morning here, so I omit my nasal spray and open the windows around the apartment. I like letting in some of the cooler air that the morning brings, especially before temperatures and humidity both rise later. The two of those, combined with allergies, aggravate my breathing issues. But there’s something so invigorating about that chilly morning air. I wish I could put my finger on it.
I settle down on the couch in our living room. My main morning activity? Snuggling our two guinea pigs! Gus Gus and Jaq are our little boys, the completion of our tiny family. They bring so much joy into our lives — like how Gus won’t sleep while snuggling unless I sing Broadway songs to him.
I need to go to the store. Okay, it’s more of a want than a need. My plan for dinner tonight is to make spaghetti, one of my specialties, but I don’t have everything I need for it. Since I don’t usually take my inhaler with me to the store, I opt for coffee. Some research shows a warm black coffee can stave off asthma attacks or treat the symptoms. Plus, I just really like coffee!
By the time I leave the store, someone is smoking outside and standing closer to the exit than is technically allowed. I shoot them a grumpy look and try to hold my breath until I’m far enough away that the smoke won’t be an issue. (Note: This never works.)
When I get home, I go up the stairs very slowly to our second-floor apartment. The stairs are something I struggle with on a good day and, well, right now it feels like I’m climbing Mount Everest. I close all the windows and throw the air conditioning on to help control my exposure to triggers.
The coffee I had this morning was a lot stronger than I expected it to be! My brain is racing. That’s always a good thing for my productivity, though! Since I got home, I’ve been writing, answering emails, cleaning the kitchen, and starting to cook dinner so I can try to have it ready by the time my husband gets home.
It’s been about an hour since I took my evening medications. I’ve given the guinea pigs their nighttime hay, brushed my teeth, and gotten ready for bed.
My husband and I do our best to make each other laugh every single day. This is even truer after a long day. I’ve always been someone who laughs hard and deeply, which is normally something that I’m proud of. Unfortunately, it upsets my asthma.
Tonight, I’ve laughed too hard, too many times. I can’t catch my breath. The tone goes from lighthearted and funny to serious and concerning quickly. We both remember what it was like when a former coworker of mine lost her son due to an attack.
I sit up and he rubs my back. I break out the inhaler and find that I need to double the normal dose to get any relief. He gets me some water and keeps rubbing my back. I quip about how that pesky inhaler aftertaste is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. We giggle again, but I make sure to keep it just to that — a giggle.
My husband found sleep a while ago, but it’s not coming for me anytime soon. That same shaky feeling from earlier has come back and, no matter what I do, I can’t seem to quiet my brain. I’ve been trying to play some games on my phone, but it’s no use. It’s another night of moving out to the couch to try to find some sleep… at least, eventually.
Kirsten Schultz is a writer from Wisconsin who challenges sexual and gender norms. Through her work as a chronic illness and disability activist, she has a reputation for tearing down barriers while mindfully causing constructive trouble. Kirsten recently founded Chronic Sex, which openly discusses how illness and disability affect our relationships with ourselves and others, including — you guessed it — sex! You can learn more about Kirsten and Chronic Sex at chronicsex.org.