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I wheeze A LOT

By Rachel Murray

I from the west coast of Ireland, Sligo. I am a 31-year-old teacher living with severe brittle asthma, a congenital heart condition, adrenal insufficiency, migraines, and gastroparesis.

“You are so young”, “you look really well”, “you have had heart surgery twice, really?”, “are you better now?”, “you don’t look sick”,” you look great!”

These are often questions and statements that I nod at, smile graciously, and agree with. I don’t have the energy to explain. I have heard it countless times and it is an issue I will face in the future as I live a life with a chronic illness. It is something I normalise without even noticing. I know people mean it as a compliment, but it can feel invalidating and does not reflect my situation.

A chronic illness is not a “one size” fits all, it varies widely from person to person and most of us look like any other individual you see walking down the street. The other problem people have a misconception about asthma, that it is “mild” and not debilitating. It is the opposite for some of us; it is life-threatening and all-consuming. A typical blue inhaler does not “fix” my symptoms I take a medley of medications in an attempt to gain some control. Like the weather in Ireland, my symptoms change daily. It can be challenging when people have this idea of what “sick” should look like, I deal with symptoms every day; chest tightness, breathlessness, piercing pain in my ribs/chest, stomach bloating, severe migraines that make me nauseous or I am bed bound with exhaustion or infections.

Since my asthma deteriorated in 2014 and it changed to severe/brittle my body on the outside does not reflect how I feel on the inside. Unfortunately, I can’t take my lungs out and show people how clogged, tight, red, angry, and inflamed they are. It is tricky when I am dressed up, with a face of makeup on, I have fake tan applied, a smile plastered on my face, but it means nothing; it does not mean I am symptom-free or not in pain.

Going to work, meeting friends, and having a few drinks on a night out doesn’t mean I am better. I have to work to pay my mortgage and bills and I want to try and enjoy my life when I can. I have no choice but to function sometimes even if I am experiencing pain or my asthma is flaring; my outward appearance is not a reflection of how I am feeling or what I am battling, you never know the real pain someone is in by looking at them.


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