Counting Down a Decade of Asthma – No. 3, No One Understands

Part of the series A Decade of Asthma.

And they never will. Seriously, not ever – not unless they’re living with asthma themselves or caring for someone who is.

My family has tried to understand over the years, and many of them have tried to help, too.

Various friends have attempted to listen to explanations of flares and bronchodilators, and certainly they’ve sympathized with stories about my daughter’s struggles to breathe, trips to the hospital when she was little, and my anxiety over both.

Asthma is largely a disease that no one outside my four-member family ever sees, not in its truest form. Kids at school and friends playing at our house may see AG use her inhaler and some family members have seen her in the hospital, but it’s not quite the same as watching her doubled over from coughing, desperately trying to catch her breath. Since severe flares tend to occur at night or when she is sick and therefore contagious and quarantined in the house, no one experiences AG at her very worst except the Steadfast Sidekick, Mr. Asthma Mom, and me.

And that’s okay because, really? How could anyone else ever understand the terror, the racing heart, the nausea that grips you in the middle of the night as you lie awake, listening to a harsher cough than you thought possible for a child to make, wondering if this will be the night she stops breathing? That’s not a fear most parents can imagine having, not until something like an asthma diagnosis makes it their (read: “my”) reality.

Failure to understand makes it easy for other people to think we’re overreacting or coddling our children too much when we take drastic (to them) steps to reduce their exposure to triggers and treat their health issues. Related, here are some of the more annoying pieces of unsolicited advice I’ve heard over the years:

“You need to put her in some kind of sports, help her grow out of that asthma.”

“Bleach? I can’t use bleach around her? Why not? I don’t see how that could bother her.”

“I don’t get it. It’s just asthma, right? Lots of people have asthma.”
“Well, I get colds easily and (fill in the blank) doesn’t give me problems.”

I am not even kidding on that last one. Rather than respond to comments like these and try to force an understanding of my kid’s asthma that is just not likely to happen, even with people who mean well,

- I just go ahead and do what I have to do.
- I make no apologies for the steps I take to protect my child.
- I find someone who’s fighting the same battle, who understands, and I talk to them about it instead.
- (Hence this blog.)