I have had asthma for the best part of fifteen years now. It was brought on by a particularly severe cold one winter, and only truly kicks in to cause some breathing difficulties in cold and/or wet conditions. So, in winter time. Or steam rooms.
I have added it to my short but pointed list of “things that make Glasgow better than Aberdeen.” I grew up in a damp-riddled bedroom, for God’s sake. In one of the wettest parts of Scotland. And the first time that I get a problem caused by the cold and damp, is in my 30’s in Aberdeen.
My local medical practice in Aberdeen has given me the means of controlling this gift to an incomer. There is the attendant ritual of taking puffs from the preventer inhaler every morning and evening. And, of course, the blue “alleviater” (not “emergency”: don’t call it the emergency one) which should be used when needed. And the asthma nurse check-up and the flu jab.
It’s such an insidious condition, however. If I’m a bit tardy in starting the regime of morning and evening puffs, or if I forget to do it every morning and evening, or if I forget to renew my medication, well…nothing happens. At all. For quite a while. October was positively balmy in Aberdeen this year.
And, if I’m feeling tired, then…well.. who would be surprised? I am a 47-year-old mother of a little, lively girl (not so bloody little any more.) I teach at a time of turbulence.. The rest is recorded in sufficient detail elsewhere. Tiredness is a natural consequence of my life, not my asthma.
Except that, in February of this year, as in February of the last, I will be asked to blow into a tube so my peak flow can be recorded. And it may not be good. In fact, it could possibly be distressingly low. And another lightbulb moment will happen.
What brings all this painfully to my attention is the current condition of my throat and chest. The rawness of my throat and the exhaustion in my body which kept me in bed through the bells on December 31st, have been replaced by a general chesty discomfort which my blue inhaler is working hard to alleviate.
The prolonged swelling and pain in my throat, however, brought some dark thoughts when in bed last night. What if it was more serious? I am 47. If the number of additional tests and exams provided for free by the local health services are anything to go by, my odds in dodging any one of dozens of conditions and diseases are shrinking by the year. So what happens if I get something more serious? How would that impact practically and financially on my little family? Yes, we have various pieces of cover for critical illness for me as the primary breadwinner. What if there are issues with the payouts for these? My in-work sickness benefit will only last so long and go so far. Welfare benefits to people with chronic illnesses, sometimes terminal, are being scythed. Our grandmothers on both sides are also getting old, and have their own issues with their finances. Would it be best for Bob and me to separate, while I get treatment, so he can look after Ele properly? All this from one sore throat.
Which a slab of Viennetta ice-cream helped to relieve the following morning.
So, the minor, forgettable, I-have-other-things-to-do rituals relating to my health – such as my inhaler – start to seem considerably less minor or forgettable in this light. And my grumbling fears about being selfish in putting myself first, begin to seem nonsensical.
Rather than resolutions for 2015, then, I need a set of rituals. A ritual, for example, which will allow me to take a puff of my inhaler in the morning, or evening, as naturally as I lift the coffee mug or toothbrush to my mouth. Another ritual to pop a vitamin tablet, or to stay on top of my liquid intake, or to stop working at 10pm on the dot and do something relaxing (currently Skyrim.)
Apparently 21 days is the number of days required to build a new habit. So, if I start tomorrow morning, the 3rd January, by the 25th January, I will be a smoothly running health-enhancing machine.
Ready to meet the asthma nurse with confidence in February.
Ready to face whatever diseases, minor or major, come my way in 2015.
Ready to tap out with another bug come the next school holiday in April…