How I Unlearned Asthma

The connection between mental and physical health.

Welcome! I’m glad to share this story with you. I have already shared several stories of my inner transformations. Here is one that demonstrates the power of the linkage between our mental health and our physical health.

 As a child I developed asthma, before I was four years old. I was given allergy shots to help with the symptoms. My asthma was a constant illness for me until I was in my late 30s. In addition to allergies, exercise and other stresses could induce attacks in me, so I had to take medications, limit exercise, and watch my exposure to allergens.

Like most people, I believed that my asthma was the result of an overactive immune system. I took medications to help with the symptoms and always carried an inhaler. I could not live without one. I thought it was a lifetime illness.

That was until sometime in 2005 or 2006. I was participating in a therapy process where we “work” on various past traumas to heal the old wounds. I was at that time working on dealing with past family issues. It was not uncommon for me to have to stop the “work” and take a “hit” from my inhaler because an asthma attack was coming on. Several times I had tried to “work” through the attack, but ultimately had to stop as the attack would get worse.

There was one particular event where this started to change that I recall very clearly. I remember feeling the start of the asthma attack as I was “working”. My therapists noticed my trouble breathing and asked if I needed my inhaler. I told them to hold on for a second. I knelt down and relaxed my body with a few breaths. As I calmed myself I focused on the anxiety i was feeling. I located the part of my mind that was worried and anxious based on the emotions I was feeling. I then told that part of my mind, “You don’t need to do that now. We are safe here. You don’t have to have an asthma attack. It’s ok, we are safe.”

The asthma attack stopped! All symptoms of the attack were gone, as if a light switch had been turned off. Over the next several years I continued to practice this, with some success. When I was ill, or my allergies were stirred up, the attacks would come back and relaxation or meditation wasn’t always enough, but I had learned to stop attacks that seemed to be related to emotional stress. I also severely reduced that asthma attacks that were induced by exercise.

In 2011, I returned to active therapy to work at a deeper level on anxiety. At that time I had my asthma pretty well under control, using an inhaler once or twice a month. However, over the last three years as I’ve continued to reduce my feelings of anxiety, I’ve reduced the number of asthma attacks until, at this time, I do not have an inhaler and I haven’t had any attacks that lasted for more than 2-3 minutes in the last two years. When I feel an attack starting I normally bring them to a halt by slowing my breathing and meditating. Most of the time it just takes me saying “It’s ok. There is no need for an attack right now. I am safe.”

Asthma plagues millions of people. In the US it affects about 1 in 12. The fear and stress the disease itself introduces is very real. The panic of not being able to breathe is a memory that I can pull up at any time. Asthma attacks are very real. In my opinion, anyone who suffers from them should take medications to reduce the severity and number of attacks. The long-term effects of the attacks are real. However, I encourage all asthmatics to consider anxiety as at least a partial contributor to attacks. Reducing stress and anxiety can’t be anything but good anyway. 🙂 For me, the impact of reducing anxiety has been very significant.

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