I thought I was having a heart attack.
My chest was tight. My breathing was labored and it felt almost impossible to take in each breath.
I’d been having trouble catching my breath for awhile but blamed it on peri-menopausal weight gain. On this day, it scared me.
I walked myself around the corner to my local doctor. Noticing the color draining from my face, she rushed me into the examination room.
"You are having trouble breathing...for how long?" she asked, concerned. I told her that today it became unbearable, but my chest had been hurting for some time and my breathing, thinking back, had been shallow for months.
"I will do an EKG," she said. "But I can tell you right now - you are having an asthma attack."
"Asthma attack?" I was stunned. "I don't have asthma."
"Now you do," she said.
Thus began my journey through adult onset asthma, and a health crisis-turned-healing experience that would change my life.
I had no idea you could just "get" this at my age. And as a spiritual person, I knew that asthma for me was not just a diagnosis – it was a message from my soul.
Asthma constricts breathing and, among other things, causes chest pain. The diagnosis, to me, was symbolic of a number of things. First, each breath we take represents the taking in of life; hindered breathing, on a metaphysical level, represents fear and a rejection of life. Secondly, the chest represents the area known in holistic thought as the “heart chakra”; pain in that area signals a heart ache of some kind. And finally, even if I did not believe there was an underlying emotional and spiritual cause, there had to be something in me that had become imbalanced enough to make me vulnerable to this condition.
I suspected this was some sort of call to better health that would require me to take a mind, body, spirit approach to finding out why there was a part of me that resisted breathing in life and why my heart (chakra) was aching.
Ultimately, it would lead me to take better care of myself and to deal with issues that were very painful to own up to.
Choosing Medical treatment ... and Spiritual Growth
I know God works through good doctors and I respect, honor and bless traditional medicine. But my preference, always, is to treat things as holistically as possible. I believe in finding out the medical facts and reasons for a condition when possible, but prefer to combine traditional medicine with complementary healing.
When my doctor insisted on giving me a steroid shot to help me breathe that day, I did not want it! But I am glad I allowed it. Although it felt like my chest and lungs were cracking open at first, the shot almost magically gave me deep access to my own breathing. In that moment, it was clear to me it had been a long time since I’d been able to take in air fully and efficiently.
The doctor suggested the asthma was being caused by intense allergies or allergic reactions, but to what exactly, she could not say. A full allergy work up was called for. Before I left, she told me to immediately change my diet and give up dairy, yeast, sugar, fried foods and coffee, all of which can all be severe asthma irritants. I made the commitment to do so.
I asked her for the tiny, empty bottle of Solu-medrol she used for the shot in my arm. To me, it was a symbol of my opened-airways. It represented my prayer that God would restore my breathing to its best, the way that medicine had. I wrapped it in my sacred mala beads, and created a “health altar” in my living room. I set it in the northeast area of my home, which in Feng Shui represents health and family. The health altar would become a sacred place where I would bless prescriptions, medicines, doctor's business cards and anything related to my health care.
What's Causing It?
I should point out that I'm in the love and blessings business, and breathing well is required. As a wedding officiant, I have to be able to deliver a wedding ceremony without choking and coughing as I pronounce a couple "husband and wife."