I know a few awfulizers. Headaches are signs of brain cancer, lumps are other kinds of cancers, any forgotten detail means we have Alzheimer's, we’re all going to get laid off, the world is ending—I’m sure you know some awfulizers, too. Maybe you are one.
Not me, all my life I’ve been a normalizer—whatever is going on with me is normal, nothing is wrong, I’m fine and everything will work out. Usually I’m right, but sometimes I’m drastically wrong. When talking through this with Kent last night, he immediately reminded me of the scallops incident. He’s right, that’s a perfect example:
A few years back, my mother (an RN) was in town and took me, my brother and sister-in-law out to dinner at a nice restaurant. I ordered the scallops. When we were about halfway through dinner, I commented on how much I loved scallops even though I couldn’t really taste them once I’d eaten a couple, and wasn’t it weird how they make your mouth numb? My mother immediately told me to put my fork down right then and never eat scallops again. It had never occurred to me that my reaction wasn’t normal. I’m just lucky my airway didn’t close then.I was diagnosed with asthma in my 20s while in the Army. I’ve basically ignored it ever since, and I’d decided surely I didn’t have any problems because I don’t wheeze. I didn’t know enough about asthma to understand that wheezing is just one symptom. Besides, I was a wind instrumentalist for decades and I've run most of my life too. How could I have asthma and do those things?
I got a wakeup call on Tuesday. As I wrote earlier this month, I’ve really struggled with breathing and with coughing ever since that pipe burst in January. So I went to the doctor on Tuesday; he ran a breathing test and I didn't do so well. In fact, my lung capacity was 50% of what it should be (his exact statement to me was that I had the lung capacity of an 84 year old). Boy, that got my attention.
I got some immediate treatment on the spot which improved things dramatically in the short term. I’m on some drugs to get me to the point where I can be on a long term care plan, and have a follow up appointment in a couple of weeks. I'm reading everything I can find about asthma from reputable sources, and I'm paying attention to my lungs now. I think I dodged a bullet.
I've also realized that normalizing everything is not any more effective or helpful than awfulizing things. So now I need to find that balance between the two. Don't expect me to turn into Chicken Little. But I probably need to back off the Orphan Annie routine just a bit.