As the name of this blog suggests, I suffer from asthma. But, for a large part of my life, it wasn’t just a condition I lived with. It was the thing that defined me. Some people will define themselves as being Jewish or Christian, but I was an asthmatic and chronically allergic, devoted to my hyper reactive immune system
This devotion had its rituals:
- Always carry allergy pills, a shot of adrenalin and steroids.
- Stop exercising when you feel the asthma coming.
- Ask all your friends if they had cats, wool, or carpets before agreeing to a play date.
It had rules:
- Know your doctor’s numbers: the paediatrician, the allergist, and the endocrinologist
- Bring your own hypoallergenic bedding to a “dangerous” new setting
- Do not get over excited at your birthday party (this one always failed)
I don’t complain because I had a great upbringing. But I couldn’t help but feel that my body was my enemy, a time-bomb ready to explode at the most inconvenient times: On the top of a mountain; on a night out dancing; travelling with your best friend; trying some delicious food on your anniversary and you start to become purple.
Even though having all my pills and rules made me “safe“ I developed huge levels of anxiety and was constantly angry with my body.
I sucked at sports, so I tried to not get involved for as long as I could, doing it as medicine. I never thought I could physically achieve anything. To this day, I am scared of swimming.
So, how does this person goes out and runs a marathon?
My body didn’t change – but my mindset did.
A few years ago I ruptured three ligaments and couldn’t walk for months. It brought a new dimension to my asthma & co. At least I couldn’t control my asthma, but not walking made me feel dependent on too many people.
So in between needing my mother’s help to take a shower and move around, I vowed that I would put myself first. For a whole year. And that meant being as healthy as I could, in this body, while still being me, going out, having a social life and all that.
I would wake up at 6am four times a week to do physiotherapy. I hired a personal trainer to get rehabilitated and that meant sometimes waking up at 5am, so I could still work 12 hours a day (which I don’t recommend, mind you). I downloaded a LOT of TV shows to endure endless hours of cycling on the stationary bike. Another endless hours walking slowly on a treadmill, paying attention to form.
But, from the time I decided that I was putting myself first, I never felt like giving up.
After eight months I slowly started to run. That feeling of thriving, or seeing improvements and just plainly walking without pain meant the world to me.
I changed doctors, did tons of tests, found out I had new allergies and decided – very very very slowly – to commit to a new way of eating as well.
I had relapses where I would eat cake and spend two days in bed. These days are like a really bad hangover. As I say, work in progress.
I must say, through all this, nothing had such a major impact in my life as running. I could never run as a kid. When I did my first 5K I took my steroids and nearly fainted. I hated it.
But I tried again. And again.
Running was the only sport that could fit around my crazy work schedule and I knew it would be good. I could feel the benefits.
Running constantly and eating better, I started to experiment and not take my steroids daily.
From then on it has been a journey of self-discovery, testing limits and readjusting.
So last year, when I was in the middle of a life crisis, I decided I needed a new challenge to focus my mind: I signed up for the Paris Marathon.
I reached out to the same trainer who had helped me walk again (I need external accountability!)
Surprisingly, this time I was easier. Sure, some runs were hard. Sometimes I was super lazy and didn’t give my all. Sometimes life happened and I didn’t do all my training plan of that week.
But I wanted SO SO BADLY to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted to leave the Asthmatic Religion.
This motivation, the internal motivation, what you feel in your gut, is the one force, which can drive you forwards. When I was finishing the Marathon I was in tears. I could think back to all the times I hated myself; I felt smaller, weak, and an outsider because I couldn’t just play.
And there I was playing with thousands of people, across 42 km.
I don’t think everyone needs to run a marathon and I totally get that there are way trickier illnesses and conditions out there. However, I live on this body. I don’t wake up everyday loving it. I don’t think I ever will. But I started to ACCEPT it.
So my one advice from all this is:
Find that little itch in your gut.
And embrace it.