Saturday, January 3, 2009

Magic thinking and me

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe in ....well everything.  I believe in science and rational thought.  But I also like to be open about the possibility of ghosts in the closet,  (friendly ones, and they are there for scientific reason), teleportation, healing with quantum physics, and the power of thought.  I visit psychics and I have a deck of tarot cards, and I am sure there is a scientific reason for why they work--or don't work.  And yes, Penn Gillette himself yelled at me on Facebook for suggesting that oil of oregano works for illness. (It does, Penn! The Mayo Clinic even says so!) 

That said, I spent the last few years writing a novel (which will be out in 2010 from Algonquin) and one of the characters is a boy who has asthma.  I spent my childhood battling asthma. We had to give away our beloved cat, Elvis,  which upset me so much I wound up in the hospital!  I was in and out of hospitals and ERs through my childhood and my teens, and so fiercely ashamed of having the disease that I hid it as best I could.  I told people I had a "lung infection", which had more of a je ne sais quoi sound to it than asthma, which actually means pretty in Japanese, I am told. I hid my inhalers, once even elaborately tying it around my waist under my dress so no one would see. Asthma was an old man's disease, a joke where you were the punch line. I almost suffocated rather than let my first boyfriend see me wheeze. I refused to admit the disease to myself.

Then I got pregnant.  My asthma got better!  I began to think more about it and to write about it and to create this peripheral character I just fell in love with, this sturdy, edgy little boy who has asthma.  And the more I wrote about him, the better I felt.  It was magic thinking--I know that. Surely writing about a boy suffering asthma attacks is not going to make mine go away.  But, the thing is.  It did. It really did. The more I wrote, the more my lungs seemed to widen.

I got a new pulmonologist who told me that my lung function tests were so good, I was nearly normal.  He even suggested that I could go off all my meds! Slowly, I got rid of the pills that made my heart jump.  Then I stopped using the rescue medicine which opens your lungs the way a crazy person flings open a closet door, hard, so the wood cracks.  Down to one medicine!  Imagine! Being able to run outside without an inhaler, without pills, without worry.  Sleeping through the night and waking up, bounding out of bed. This went on for two years, making me wonder if I should write about another problem I might have to heal it.

And then I got sick this week and the asthma came back. I'm sad.  And disheartened.  And sick.  I know this is the path of asthma. It comes, it goes, you can grow out of it and into it and no one really knows how to cure it.

But for two blissful years, I thought I had.


Unknown said...

So sorry to hear about the return of your asthma, Caroline. I had it for awhile in college, but never as bad as you seem to have been saddled with. No fun.

Keep that magical thinking going, though. It's just a matter of time before you kick asthma out the door again!

Gina Sorell said...

Caroline, you are going to beat that Asthma! You did it before you can do it again.

Try telling yourself it's come back for a while but not to stay, and that's okay. Try not to get stressed about it because that will only makes it worse.

I do this whenever one of my migraines return. Twelve years ago I was getting migraines 3-4 times a week, and they would last for days. If I had one day a week without a headache, I was ecstatic! I was eating 3 tylenol every 4 hours, bathing in Lavendar, seeing naturopaths, getting acupuncture, having my sister a fellow sufferer massage me and calm me down, soaking in tubs of warm water, cold water, ice packs you name it. And after years of changing my diet, my exercise, my stress, they have pretty much gone away. But when they come back I have to consciously stop myself from getting upset, because then they get worse.

I know Asthma is different. I am just thinking good thoughts for you. I too had bad asthma as a kid and it sucks. My parents cut all sugar and dairy out of my diet and it really helped. I was lucky.

Stay positive and yes keep up that magical thinking!