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Afraid to Ask for Help with Asthma? Here’s How I Got Support

Reading time | 3 mins

I’ve long felt comfortable writing and talking about asthma. I only recently learned the importance of asking for help. I used to think that I had to manage my asthma entirely on my own. I only relied on my doctor when it was necessary.

Asking for help can feel like you’re admitting failure, that you couldn’t do it all on your own. It’s a real source of shame for some people, myself included.

While training for my first marathon, I wanted so badly to prove that my asthma wouldn’t hold me back from finishing the race. I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to believe that I couldn’t do it or that I was falling behind on training.

When I caught a cold and had to cut back on training, my medication dose was increased, and it took weeks before I felt ready to run again. I wasn’t about to share that with anyone, even my close friends and family.

I canceled workouts with my running partner and made excuses about a busy schedule. Only later that year did I learn that she also had asthma. I also learned that my not being open with her likely made her less willing to share her struggles with me as well.

Looking back on the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned, I know it takes a village to manage a chronic condition like asthma.

When it comes to your health, you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for support. It isn’t selfish. Sometimes, it’s necessary. And it isn’t as hard as we often make it out to be.

Asking for help requires having real and open conversations. What better way to connect with your loved ones? Relationships are built on mutual trust and understanding.

Here’s how I got the support I needed from my friends, partner, and coworkers.

I joined a sports team to meet supportive friends

Joining an intramural sports team was the easiest way to make friends when I first moved. I fit exercise into the work week while exposing my asthma to everyone I met.

I also made supportive friends. I found at least one buddy at every meetup who could help me in an emergency. It was embarrassing to admit that I needed to slow my pace or switch out of a game to rest. But my health took priority.

It’s taken a few years, but my friends do their best to make me more comfortable. They proactively ask me to slow down. They ask how I’m feeling. When I visit them at home, they move the cat’s litter box, so I don’t have an asthma attack.

These everyday actions help me to stay healthy. For my friends, they’re second nature.

I prepared an “emergency action plan” for my partner

In the beginning of my relationship with my spouse, I avoided talking about my asthma. I didn’t want them to worry. I also didn’t want to feel like a burden.

After five years together, my partner now reminds me to bring my medication on trips. They dust to keep our home clean. They’re used to sleeping with a noisy air purifier.

Together, we continue to prepare for any scenario involving asthma. I recently made an “emergency action plan” to combine all of my important medical information in one place. My plan includes:

  • the closest in-network hospitals to home
  • my medication
  • my doctor’s information

I printed out a copy for my partner so it’s handy in an emergency. It gives me peace of mind knowing that they can help me in the event of an asthma attack.

I didn’t hide my asthma from my coworkers

I work with a small team, and I was quick to tell my coworkers I have asthma. That knowledge helped them to help me.

Sometimes we travel together. On one of these trips, I wound up in a clinic for a nebulizer treatment. My coworkers weren’t surprised when I didn’t show up for a meeting. They caught me up on what I missed. They were nothing but supportive and concerned about my health.

If I hadn’t been upfront about my asthma, missing that meeting might’ve negatively affected our relationship.

Today, I know that I don’t need to manage everything on my own. My health is my biggest priority. Asking for help doesn’t make me a burden.

When you open up, people want to help. You might even find that you get closer!

For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

NPS-US-NP-00480 SEPTEMBER 2019