I have been cursed with asthma as long as I can remember. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but for anyone who understands what it feels like to have asthma, I salute you my fellow comrade. Though it is a part of me, it doesn’t affect me 24/7, and it’s not like a disease. But for a homeschooled teenager, it is my Thanos. And when Thanos snaps, he literally snaps my oxygen out of existence. Asthma is the inner nerd in me. An absolute pain in the neck.. or shall I say the lungs (though sometimes I have a far lower opinion of it).
Asthma isn’t a completely useful condition, yet it can sometimes help out in dire situations. I guess the time has come to expose the advantages of asthma, which nobody should ever use, but maybe I will just one more time. Not only is it a pain inducing condition, asthma sometimes makes an entry in the most peculiar situations.
A long while back, my family and I went out for dinner. I sat with my father and my mother sat with my brother so the conversation went along amongst our two separate groups. Our server obviously noticed this, as at the end of the meal, whilst my father was in the restroom, she asked my mother twice if we needed separate cheques. The third time she approached her, the waitress was adamant on splitting the bill, and I was intently listening. My mother refused once again and the waitress complied, then left to retrieve the machine with a sympathetic smile.
I instantly burst out laughing at the thought of somebody thinking my parents were divorced. Not like it doesn’t seem like it at times, but the thought still came across as absurd. Where the heck does that assumption even come from? And finally, to top the cherry on this sundae, Mr. Asthma showed up at the party and I started heavily coughing. The cough lasted up to the point where my “divorced” parents almost had to call someone for help. My father returned and the experience made us all giggle into the night.
Thinking back to most of my asthmatic moments, my public school memories rush back instantly. Oh what fun I had during those times. Of course, asthma didn’t come in handy all the time, and there were some moments which I definitely blame for creating a problem, but all in all, I can’t crap on it too much.
I remember every year, I would always find some odd way to bring up to my new classmates and teachers that I had asthma. Believe it or not, even 8 year old Adi knew this condition would somehow come in handy during the school year. All I had to do was lay out the groundwork and make sure it was set in stone, that poor, tiny, thin Adi Sharma was wrongfully bedevilled with asthma. It was essentially a perfect plan… let me rephrase, it was the perfect plan according to an 8 year old.
During my years in Elementary school, we had the opportunity to join sports teams near the end of the semester. Now, being the avid sports player I was, I eagerly signed up to join as many as possible (who could refuse a day off from school with free jerseys, snacks, and a free ride to the venue?). Let’s just say, I didn’t make the second cut of any team until late fifth grade.
Subsequently, every time I didn’t make the cut, I blamed my obvious athletic faults on asthma. Imagine this, I am running and dribbling the basketball in my right hand. A defender is all over me, but I’m sure I can get through him and make the shot. My teammates are calling for the ball, but what am I, some sort of team player? Absolutely not. I go up for a layup and… the ball is blocked and slams right into my face.
Now, at times like this my mind would either go into a frenzy and scramble hopelessly for the long gone ball, or, I would revert to my lifeline. It was almost like a computer program would initiate the wheezing and coughing protocol. With sorrow filled eyes and a posture worse than a witch, I got up and apologized to my gym teacher,
“Sorry Mrs. Moulson, it’s asthma. I just can’t control it!”.
With my plan already in effect since the moment Mrs. Moulson had met me, she nodded, cooly dismissing my horrible skills and lack of camaraderie for a breathing condition. She continued with writing down students who made the first cut on her clipboard. Let’s just say I got away with this excuse more time than I can count.
There were also times where I really was affected by my asthma and I have got to say, it is pretty awesome. Being the attention seeker I was, having a circle of teachers looking after me while the class girls watched with empathy in their eyes wasn’t a bad experience. Though during these situations I am coughing repeatedly and my chest feels like it has tiny needles stabbing it. But the attention still outmatches the pain.
And since it is sort of the perfect problem to have (not life-threatening but still severe), it’s just cool to say I have got asthma. Every person I tell instantly feels some sort of remorse, it is almost hard to watch now. You really get to take advantage of it and move up the social chain at school. The perks of just making it my excuse for everything are limitless, and there is no telling what students will believe or not believe, so it’s a hit or miss situation.
“Adi, why can’t you get your work done quick enough?”
My only reply to that is asthma. It is eating at the muscles in my hand and straining parts of my body, almost as if I am paralysed. My oxygen intake is lessening drastically and my chest is in agonizing pain. There is just no way to get the work done!
Of course, this is an over-dramatization of asthma, but I always recycled those terms depending on the class and teacher, and I still can’t believe they continuously fell for it. Now, you’ve heard all about the good things that come from asthma, but don’t forget, it’s still a pain in the neck.
For 3 years, I attended a creative arts camp in Niagara, Canada. Since it was placed in a rural area, there was a lot of pollen. And of course, pollen is the one thing I am allergic to. It is the worst trigger for my asthma and can make it far more pain inducing than usual. So, every evening when we would have camp wide activity time, my experience would go something like this.
I am walking with the people in my dormitory, probably doing something part of the game or event we are participating in. I am having a good time with friends and a beautiful sunset is seen over the horizon. Suddenly, we come up to a small area of grass, and there it is, the dreaded pollen. Instantly it attacks me with the mighty vigour of a thousand elephants, and just a few steps later, walks in asthma.
I am panicking, but the deed has been done, and pollen has left me for the dead (not really). I start to wheeze and fall behind the group. My chest is starting to hurt and I can barely breath. There is a peculiar throbbing sensation climbing my back as well. Thankfully, one of my friends knows the drill, and he informs our counsellor that we need to get back to the dorm room for me to take my inhaler. I start to jog as fast as I can, the asthma catching up to me quicker than Usain Bolt has ever run.
My back has a searing pain and I am barely keeping my body up. We run into the dorm and grab my puffer from my room as I signal my panicked friend to hand me the water. I shake the inhaler, take two puffs and wash it down with a few gulps of water. Seconds later, I am relieved. The pain is gone and I collapse on the uncomfortable, rigid cot, finally able to breath again. As my friend motions me to come along in a few moments, I agree with a shaky thumbs up and a deep sigh of relief. But, in the back of my mind I know, I may have won this battle, but asthma will win the war.
Now, this may seem to be yet another exaggeration to you, but in fact to a teen with asthma, it is no less than the harsh reality. I mean, the back pain and scrambling for my puffer, they were just getting things started for my two weeks at camp.
I have heartily taken advantage of this condition, I’ve battled it for quite a while now as well. I like to think of asthma as a mother. Always sticking with you no matter what and very helpful at times. But also waiting to attack at your most vulnerable moments, literally knocking the air out of you.