15 June 2008

Keep Breathing (It's the Most Important Part)

Last fall I had a little surprise, in the form of getting asthma. Odd that I hadn't expected it at all; I've had allergies all my life -- to various pollens and plants and cats, when I was young. Then, when I was studying for my doctoral orals -- I gather it was a Stressful Time -- I went to the Dordogne in the middle of summer and the beautiful French countryside put me into a 24/7 allergy fit from which I never really recovered. Went back home and continued to sneeze all year.

Then when I moved to Pittsburgh, and was staying my first summer in an attic apartment without air conditioning, some friends lent me a window unit that had been in their basement, and as soon as I put it in the window and turned it on, my face swelled up. Mold. Can't take that, either.

Oh, and there were foods I couldn't eat -- mostly tropical fruits -- avocados, mangoes, papayas, blah blah blah.

But I took drugs - it's Zyrtec these days, for which I am very grateful, and I kept my cats, and things were fine.

And then last fall I realized I was wheezing. And my chest got tight sometimes. And the doctor told me it was asthma. I got an inhaler, and I worked on my breathing meditation.

But a few weeks ago I was at a medieval conference, and I was using the inhaler all day long. And I came home and I had birthday cupcakes, and I was using the inhaler all day long. And I hit the wall, and I finally did something I'd been thinking about for 20 years: I tried the Elimination Diet.

And. I can't eat wheat, and I can't eat milk, and I can't eat safflower oil. And the first day of the Elimination Diet, I cut the use of the inhaler to a fifth of what it had been. And now I go days without using it.

And I want to tell you, the fact that I can't eat any of the foods which were my favorites (the cheese! the cake! the ice cream!) is fine by me, cause boy, do I like breathing.

I'm breathing better than I have in a long time. I may well have been breathing this well as a child, but if so, I don't remember it. I love it.

I have been for decades an excellent baker. And now I'm going to learn how to bake differently. I know it can be done, because Pittsburgh is lucky enough to have Gluuteny, at which one can buy milk-free and wheat-free treats* which are VERY good. So if they can do it, I can do it.

And soy milk in the Yorkshire Gold tea is just fine.

I've been remembering a song we used to sing a lot in the early days in Reclaiming -- keep breathing, it's the most important part; you kick, and then you glide; you kick, and then you glide; keep breathing, it's the most important part. It's all in the rhythm, it's all in the rhythm, it's all in the rhythm of your heart.**

I'm still working on the breathing meditations, too.
*They're gluten-free, really, but I only care about the wheat; it's not the gluten itself I'm having trouble with, I gather, since oatmeal and barley don't cause me to have trouble breathing.

**Somebody tell me in the comments, please, who wrote it; I can't find a copy as I write this.


Beth Owl's Daughter said...

Wow, Pandora! This is serious stuff, but I am very glad you're okay, maybe even better than okay! Please keep us posted. Sending you lots of deep, airy serenity!

-- Beth

CarlBrannen said...

Part of the reason I moved to Seattle was the fairly clean air. I guess it's a good thing mold doesn't bother me because it is everywhere. Ah the sacrifices of academia, jobs aren't everywhere.

annehill said...

Oh my, the things we must do in order to live well in our bodies! And yes, it really is sublime to have a deep, full inbreath and a long, slow, complete outbreath. And then another. Blessed be.

Lora said...

I am so glad you are feeling better!