“We were made to breathe the air that surrounds us, feeds us, and fills us. Some call it God.”- Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater: Spirituality & The Twelve Steps
My most vivid childhood memory was laying on our couch in the living room watching cartoons with my mom leaning over me, asking me, “Are the people in your chest singing?”
That’s what wheezing sounds like in my body.
I know a lot of people who never think about breathing. It’s just one of the many automatic functions of the human body, like the heart beating. These people often take breathing for granted. I am not one of those people. To me, breathing is serious business – literally and figuratively.
According to the CDC, over 17 million adults have asthma.
Over 6.3 children have asthma.
Asthma is responsible for 10.5 million doctor office visits and 1.8 million emergency room visits.
That’s big money, my friends, but there is more…breath is symbolic.
The breath marks the beginning and ending of human life.
We begin life with our first breath.
We end life with our last breath.
Some spiritual traditions would say that the breath is the realm of the spirit and God.
When you breathe in, you receive the gift of life.
When you breathe out, you give plants their life.
We need plants; they need us.
Breathing represents our relationship to all of life. We all share air.
But what happens when a chronic inflammatory disease like asthma threatens your breath of life, like it did mine, and that crucial exchange of air does not occur as well as it could?
Well, two things can happen.
One is that you surrender yourself to the medical model. That is what happened to me initially. Diagnosed with asthma at the young age of three, I began my journey with inhaled steroids, oral steroids, antibiotics, and antihistamines because I didn’t really have a choice.
Things got extraordinarily worse in my early teens when my parents decided to take me to an allergy specialist. We had to stop the allergy shots after a few months because I was on the highway to hell. I had pretty much stopped eating since a side effect of all the meds was reduced appetite. I missed so much school that my teachers were considering holding me back a year. I threw temper tantrums that out-performed Linda Blair in the movie The Exorcist.
I didn’t just have asthma. I was an asthmatic. Can you see that distinction? In the latter example, I became my disease.
I want to say right here that I am grateful for medical care. It kept me alive. I wouldn’t be here right now with you if it weren’t for their tools. But at some point, in my healing journey, I realized that this system was not serving my highest good. From a point of desperation, another option emerged besides being an asthmatic.
This shift in my consciousness was slow. It took years. But the second option is the opposite of the first, and instead of surrendering to asthma, I started to think, “Fuck this shit. I want to breathe on my own.”
From a depressed victim to an empowered woman, I now saw that I had some options outside of more pharmaceutical drugs. Life without asthma was possible after all. I started studying nutrition, herbs, and holistic healing modalities, and I haven’t stopped since 2002.
Here is what happened:
#1 I stopped going to medical doctors. They no longer had what I was looking for. I showed up for my Albuterol inhaler prescription and declined all other meds. I did not realize this at the time, but this was a major factor in my recovery.
Drugs make you more comfortable. They essentially took away the symptoms of my asthma. Why would I be motivated to change if I could breathe with the assistance of drugs? Transformation doesn’t come when we are comfortable. It comes when we are in distress. Now, I was in distress. I woke up every night to use my inhaler and sometimes found myself using it hourly. I didn’t like this.
I want to be very clear here: I am not telling you to stop all of your medications. That is a decision to make with your doctor. I just want to share my personal experience with you because I think it is a story that needs to be told.
#2 I eliminated all refined carbohydrates from my diet: sugar, white flour, white rice, pasta, and alcohol. Good-bye. Farewell. So long. These foods are inflammatory and contributed to my dis-ease. Instead I went on a diet that was 85% fat, like an Eskimo. I started to heal.
Flashback: When I was 16 years old, my swim coach fed me animal crackers because I was so hungry during practice. One day, he pulled me aside, and said, “Charlotte, I’m worried about you. I’m reading a book called Sugar Busters and I keep thinking of you.”
I quickly responded, “You’re reading the book. Clearly, you have the problem.” And I jumped back in the pool. That is the language of an addict.
A decade went by until I realized that I did indeed have a problem with sugar. I called him to apologize.
#3 I exchanged all of my toxic personal care and cleaning products for natural, environmentally friendly brands.
#4 I gave up my dog.
#5 I eliminated all gluten-containing grains.
#6 I eliminated dairy.
Flashback: I was 29 years old when the first person told me I had a problem with dairy, but I wasn’t ready to hear it. Another 4 years would go by until I was willing to take another look at that.
#7 I learned how to manage my respiratory infections without the use of drugs. I learned to trust my body and facilitate healing from acute infections. I learned to use rest, herbs and whole food nutrition to support my vitality when I was sick. As an adult, I used fevers to clean-up years of suppressed infections. Every time I got sick as a kid, my parents rushed me to the doctor where I would get non-steroidal inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and antibiotics during viral infections. Walking myself through fevers as an adult was some of the hardest work I have ever done and also the most rewarding.
#8 I embraced acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage therapy to rejuvenate my nervous system and overall vitality. These are not luxuries; they are therapeutic interventions.
#9 I discovered Standard Process supplements, which are available through qualified health care professionals and have a variety of organs and glands in them that can help tissue repair. Our ancestors had a saying, “Like heals like.” If you have a problem with a specific tissue, EAT IT!
#10 On-going therapy. Everything is one. The body, mind and spirit are not separate. I have thought patterns and trauma that I will continue to work through, but this has been a crucial part of my healing process. My family always thought crazy people got therapy. Trust me on this, the crazy people don’t get therapy! It’s the other way around.
Now, let me give you the time frame because this is important. Our society worships the silver bullet, but it doesn’t exist.
My health hit rock bottom when I was 26 years old. At that point, I landed in the emergency room with a severe viral infection. This is when I realized that I was really not well. Up until that point, asthma was so much a part of who I was that I didn’t even think about it. I started to breathe easy without an inhaler when I was 33 years old. I am now 40 years old.
So that was 30 years of asthma, with a 7 year healing process.
DON’T YOU DARE GO TO YOUR HOLISTIC HEALTH PROFESSIONAL FOR ONE APPOINTMENT EXPECTING A MIRACLE!
My miracle took 7 years. It pisses me off to no end when people say that nutrition, herbs, and holistic healing modalities don’t work. They work. They work really well, but you have to work, too. You have to participate in the healing process.
YOU HAVE TO CHANGE! And yes, I am screaming at you in all capital letters. At a certain point you will have to decide if your disease or vitality will define you.
I have held my story close to my heart because I didn’t know if it was real, but after 7 years without a major asthmatic event, it is time for me to share it with you.
Yes, I still have an Albuterol inhaler because if I am exposed to too much particulate in the air, I may suffer a mild attack, but that has only happened a handful of times.
Asthma is just one of many chronic inflammatory diseases. You, your child, or your family member may suffer from something else. Inflammation doesn’t just happen. The body lights a fire in response to how you choose to live your life. The foods you eat, the drinks you drink, when you go to sleep, how you move your body or don’t move your body. The list goes on and on and on.
The people near and dear to me know that the quickest way to motivate me is to say, “Charlotte, you can’t do that!”
Really? Watch me!
I believe that there is a spark of defiance in everyone - part of you that cannot be defined and resists any and all labels, including diseases. My invitation to you is to find that deep place within and use it as a platform for change.
I share my story with you because it inspires me. I don’t ever want to forget where I came from. I do not think it is a coincidence that the word inspire not only means “to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative,” but it also means “to breathe in.”
Breathe in Peace!
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