The asthmatic witch: introduction

This is an introduction to a series of posts I’ve been contemplating for a long time. I was diagnosed with asthma in my college years, and still struggle with it regularly. It’s something that I have to keep in mind when looking at some kinds of ritual design, some practices and techniques – and just generally, in terms of being self-aware.

Asthma is sometimes called ‘the magician’s disease’ for various reasons: a number of well-known figures in esoteric circles have suffered from it. However, there isn’t always a lot of realistic discussion about what to do about it.

This series (which you can find under the tag ‘asthmatic witch‘) is going to focus on what’s worked for me (and that might also work for you or asthmatics you know), and what some of the many and varied options are.

Obviously, though, you are responsible for your own health. Don’t assume that what works for me works for you (and that what isn’t an option for me isn’t for you.) Check with your doctor and other medical advice. Below the cut, you can find some specifics about my personal background, preferences, and limits.

A little background:

Asthma varies by person, though there are some common issues. So you know where I’m coming from, here’s what the issues are for me.

Triggers: Mostly allergy related, though I tolerate some kinds of exercise just fine and others not at all. (Running and climbing stairs are almost always hard for me, where walking, horseback riding, and swimming aren’t, even when I’m exerting myself.) I’m very allergic to feathers, quite allergic to dogs, mold, and fall pollens, and varying degrees of allergic to dust, cats, spring and summer pollens, and various other things.

I react to some kinds of incense, etc. but not all: almost anything is fine if it’s in a decently sized, well-ventilated room.

Lung issues: Along with the asthma, I have some lung scarring from bacterial pneumonia when I was 11. (I think that the scarring has something to do with my exercise issues: there are some body positions – like leaning forward when running or on stairs) that seem to decrease my lung capacity significantly, and if I’m already having trouble, it’s just too much.)

Between the two, I’m usually running on 80-90% of the ‘normal’ lung capacity for my age and height. If it drops much below 80%, I start seeing a drastic decrease in my ability to function – not just physically, but mentally. Online stuff that normally takes me 45 minutes will take me 3 hours to get through, along with the more obvious things like having trouble climbing stairs, walking long distances, or dealing with other allergens.

Medication: I take an albuterol inhaler as needed for immediate relief, but I’ve had extremely bad luck with side effects to the inhaled steroids I’ve tried (they send me into fast-cycling mood swings. This is not a way I want to live. Everyone agrees with me once they’ve seen it in action.)

In late 2006, I started seeing an herbalist, partly for help with asthma related issues, and that’s been really succesful. I still have problems, particularly in the fall (when I hit the combination of fall pollens plus mold) until the first few solid frosts – but I’ve been way better otherwise, and can moderate what I’m taking based on how I feel day to day (within the guidelines my herbalist gives me) without noticeable side effects.

Triggers I’m around: I live in Minnesota, so there are pollens around. I live with one cat (who I tolerate really well: I wash my bedding regularly, feed her food that helps reduce her dander and her own food intolerances, and run an air filter all the time in the bedroom.) The covenstead of the group I’ve trained with (I’m getting ready to hive, so this issue is diminishing) has two dogs, five cats, and I do have allergic reactions regularly, even though they work hard on cleaning before events.

Minnesota is generally fairly good about mold (we get a fair amount of moisture most years, but it generally dries out fully in between), except in the fall, until the frosts kill any mold from fallen leaves. Fall is definitely my worst time: early September through late November eats my brain, my energy, and my focus.

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