Thursday, July 23, 2015
this is what it feels like
They say to avoid triggers. Avoid triggers, that's a hoot. It appears just about anything triggers my mess. I'm not even sure what it was this time. We've had high humidity (for us) which often triggers asthma symptoms in myself. There was rain. Rain can really screw up an asthmatic's life as well (not to mention that I walked in said rain at a beach surrounded by eucalyptus and eucalyptus is not my friend). I've been working in the pink room as well, kicking up the dust bunnies like it's the last disco on earth and well...dust is one of my (many) triggers. And to wrap it up, I ate something that had bell peppers in it. Up until now, bell peppers merely itched up the throat and caused a mild wheeze with a little tummy distress but who knows? Maybe in my middle age, bell peppers have turned all Snidely Whiplash on me.
Whatever the cause, it began with a bit more wheeze than usual. Wheezing happens when your bronchial tubes (or bronchioles) spasm making the airway passage narrow. Our air passages are already pretty narrow but an asthmatic's are a crinkly mess. Even when we are not wheezing away, it is possible our bronchioles are so damaged that they are permanently narrowed. In an attack, as they spasm, they often decide to quirk it up by throwing mucous into the midst. So while a normal person is breathing through a clean straw, an asthmatic is breathing through a straw whittled from wood with sap till stuck in it.
When you breathe in and out, air flows into your trachea and down to your bronchioles and into your lungs (and alveoli). Oxygen is taken in and carried to your blood and which exchanges it with carbon dioxide. During an attack, your bronchioles spasm and produce mucous thus blocking your airways. You end up gasping to bring air in deeply but it feels like it only reaches the front of your lungs. The tube becomes so inflamed that the alveolus cannot release air or carbon dioxide to or from the bloodstream. To me it feels like I am being held underwater which is rather scary. Often, panic will flare up and my heart will start to race and there is a tightness all around my chest as if I am being embraced by the mightiest bear of all. Very little air goes in, even less is expelled.
Then, to mix things up a bit, my allergies like to include other parts of my body. They are equal opportunity attackers. For some lovely reason, not only do I get to not breathe through my mouth, but I get to forfeit breathing through my nose as well. Go me. Some time ago, my body decided to build polyps in my nasal passages. When said polyps decide not to play well with others they become incensed, nay, inflamed! They puff themselves up in anger and block my right to breathe through my nose.
So yeah, breathing is rather not fun for me when my allergies are being bullies.
Which, brings me back to last night. I had been struggling with abnormal breathing and a slightly inflamed set of polyps for a few days, sucking on my inhaler way more than I should be and being all mouth breather because my nose wasn't working. During the day it is annoying at best but during the night a different beast comes out. Fuseli's beast, actually. I have to sleep sitting up otherwise I feel like the nightmare is sitting on my chest. I cannot breathe through my nose as the beast is holding it closed so I am left gaping my mouth like a fish gasping for air. It also feels like someone has wedged a bean up my nose and to make matters worse their is drainage. My ears are also clogged to oblivion, muting all sounds save the ones my body is making, so the symphony of wheeze is not a lullaby but a raucous mess that is worse than nails on a chalkboard. There is snoring and gasping and gasping and snoring. My mouth is as parched at our drought driven lakes and there is no rest for the weary.
I toss and turn and turn and toss. I sit up. I cry. I stand up. I drink water. I suck on my inhaler. I try to get comfortable. I wake up and think is it almost morning but it has only been an hour since I went to bed. This goes on throughout the night. The tossing, the turning, the sobbing, the gasping. I finally find rest around 7am and sleep for two hours. When I wake up my mouth is so parched, it takes three glasses of water (and a mug of hot tea) to feel somewhat hydrated (and now, at almost 3pm I am still feeling parched). The curl in my hair has left me for sticksville and the bags under my eyes are a pretty shade of plum. I feel like I slept under water without an oxygen tank and I look it.
Allergies are not just allergies, are not just allergies, are not just allergies. They are an autoimmune response that can wreak havoc on our bodies and our day to day lives. I can tell you right now that I hurt. My body is in pain and I feel curled into myself just to breathe. I am so very grateful to have found a medicine that will give me temporary relief but am struggling to figure out how to do this without meds. Hydration is key and knowing those damn triggers can sometimes be helpful but one of my key allergies has me worried as from what I can tell it grows on everything even fresh greens from my garden. So all I can do is take baby steps, observe, be aware, and make sure there are meds in place for when the nightmare decides to visit.