Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Maintenance

Almost exactly two years ago, I had one of my biggest personal maintenance failures as an adult- I landed myself in urgent care with an acute asthma attack.

I haven't forgotten about that event, but I don't actively think about it much. Whenever I realize I have let my maintenance inhaler run down to zero doses without getting a refill (again), the memory of that visit to urgent care and the unpleasant side effects of prednisone motivate me to get myself to the pharmacy before I miss more than one dose. OK, sometimes maybe two doses.

As it happens, last week was one of those times when I let my inhaler's dose counter go to zero before I called for a refill. Personal maintenance is surprisingly hard, even for something as straightforward as mild asthma that is well-controlled by standard medicines.

I've been thinking about this over the last day or so, as my Twitter feed has been full of people moved by Robin Williams' death to make brave and powerful statements about their own history with depression or other mental illnesses. I am moved by their words, and inspired by their example of strength. I am also heartened that we may finally be removing some of the stigma associated with discussing mental illness in this country.

There is no stigma surrounding my discussion of my asthma, and there should be none around discussion of any disease. Our bodies and our minds are fallible, that is part of what it means to be human. The management of any chronic disease is hard, because there is never really a break from it. Managing it becomes routine. This is good, because routines are how we do something day after day. But it is also bad, because a routine can lull you into not paying enough attention to what your body is telling you about how it is doing on this particular day.

I have nothing wise to say about depression, but to anyone out there who is doing the hard work of maintaining their health in the face of a culture that so often misunderstands what that means and underestimates what that requires: you have my respect and admiration. Keep up the good work.

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