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what helps you mentally during an attack?

When my daughter had her serious asthma attack this past year, I was a mess afterwards (and still am from time to time).  I had some post-traumatic stress experience after that really terrifying situation, and through that I have talked to many people on asthma one being my mother.   Despite everything that doctors said (she needs this med she needs that med) my mom told me that the absolute number 1 thing I can do for her is calm her down and relax her when she's having a flare up.  Not to ignore medicine or anything, get her quick relief inhaler right away but she stressed that the way I speak to her, talk to her and act is going to make or break the situation.   She said my grandfather (who had COPD) would have breathing attacks and at times she could get him breathing well again just through talking to him.  Being calm, relaxing him, comforting him and getting him to breathe and out of that state of panic. Being uneducated on it and inexperienced, I kept the advice in mind but didn't realize the depth of it.   I was with my therapist a couple weeks ago telling her I was having some recurring issues of anxiety and struggling still with the trauma.  I told her that one of her pulmonologists had said something to me about asthma being like brearthing through a straw and it really triggered me and made me fearful because I tried this one day and I felt such a sense of panic and anxiety and sadness that my innocent toddler had ever struggled like that. She did an exercise with me using a straw and we breathed through the straw as if struggling for air, as if in a state of anxiety and fear.  I could barely breathe.  It was terrifying.  My body felt like I was suffocating and it got worse quick.   She had me relax, calm, and we had totally restored balance and asked me to breathe through the straw.  I could breathe OK.  It wasn't "ideal" by any means but I could breathe.  I was OK – my body was able to adjust and I wasn't suffocating.

It was really unreal to me how the mind works.  I needed to do such a simple exercise to realize the power of the mind in these things.

Has anyone else had similar experiences?  Not saying have you been able to avoid your meds, I'd never ever try to avoid giving her the inhaler, but were you able to really help ward the attack off if you stayed in a good mental state?  Just wondering feedback.  What BEST helped calm you?  Just someone talking to you?  Reassuring you? Helping you count and distract you a little?  Please share what helps you mentally during an attack?  

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  • K8sMom2002

    This is such a great topic, Tiffany! I think it's awesome that you're working through this with your therapist and you realize that you can have such an impact on your daughter. 

    I think one thing that has helped me with my own daughter is to realize that bravery isn't the absence of fear — it's doing what needs to be done in the FACE of fear. 

    Another thing: fear feeds fear. When people of any age see fear in others, they become more afraid. 

    When I was young, I had the bad misfortune to develop scarlet fever as a complication of a strep infection. My mom was great — she took care of me while I was so sick, and she seemed calm and together. 

    It was only when I was much older that she confessed she was terrified the entire time. A childhood classmate of hers had gotten scarlet fever and had serious heart issues from it when my mom was little, and she was terrified something like that would happen to me.

    That taught me a lot — I would have felt a lot more afraid if I'd seen her worry and stress. She dealt with it by finding other folks to talk to — just like you're doing. 

    Things that I do that's helped me in mid-asthma attack (and my daughter as well).

    • I remind myself that I have a plan, and I know what to do.
    • I go FIND that plan and actually READ it. (You can put it on the side of the fridge or keep a mini-copy in your wallet).
    • I preface every instruction with, "Our doctor says do X now." For some reason that gives it some extra authority that helps me.
    • I try to regulate my breathing and not panic. (When my DD was little, I really would say "okay, let's breathe in together … and breathe out …" (People tend to match breathing patterns, so if you're breathing fast, other people around you may breathe fast, too.)
    • I visualize my lungs opening up and the medication flowing in, relaxing my airways. 
    • It's nice if I have a calm person around, but if someone is NOT calm, that feeds into my panic. 
    • If I'm feeling warm, I seek out cool air. If it's cool air that's triggered things, I try to find something warm.
    • I look ahead on my plan and see what the next step is — if that's use my inhaler, then I have my inhaler in hand. If that's call the doctor, I go ahead and have my phone and the number pulled up. 
    • AFTER the attack, I try to figure out what triggered it, and I talk through my action plan with my doctor. How could I have headed it off? What could I have done differently?

    Hugs … your work with the therapist and the fact that you know more about asthma and you know your plan will really, really help. I think this is AWESOME and you rock as a mom!

  • Jen

    @Tiffany F. Do you think you'll be able to use those skills you tried with the therapist?

  • Shea

    The worst I ever was was when I had an allergic reaction to nuts and was anaphlactic–last Christmas. A lot of people were trying to calm me down and tell me to do this or move that way and ti stay calm, it was not helpful. I didnt want to waste my precious breath explaining to them that I was in the best position for me to breathe, and I didnt want to put my head between my legs or anything, but I had to try tell them that or they wouldn't stop telling me to do it… The ER people like to ask 20 questions while Im nebbing.. But when i try to answrr they say dont stop nebbing… I dont know sign language people… And i was not calm while I was waiting for the ambulance abd aftee because i had two epipens in me and insane amounts of adrenaline pumping through me, plus i couldnt breathe. I think what I would have preferred was someone saying:

    just be in as comfortable position as you can for you

    the ambulance is on the way,

    you are just going to breathe the best you can until it gets here

    …Because I felt like people were telling me "just breathe, breathe in, calm down… And all im thinking is,  I cant breathe, i dont want to be calm, im going to die… Dont tell to calm down..

    Lol… Im sure it was a sight, but I just wanted people to say, i know its scary you cant breathe well, but your going to make it to the ambulance gets here, and im with you, and you got your inhaler, you took benadryl, ill make sure you get a shot of prednisone and a breathing treatment as soon as they get here… And not expected a response from me beyong a nod, nor for me to do anything or answer any questions. 

  • Katie D

    Oh on Christmas!  That must have been terrible.  Sounds like such a bad reaction.  

    Hoping this Christmas goes much much better for you!  

    Thanks for opening up and sharing.  Sometimes it can be hard to know what it really feels like for someone to go through that.  My daughter has had one really bad anaphylactic reaction when she was really young so it really is helpful to hear what "it really feels like" from an adult who can articulate it and how to best help them. 

  • Jen

    Shea – ugh.  I would be so irritated.  I hope this holiday is a healthy one!

  • Shea

    It was a healthy one! Mostly at least. I did get stuffed up and worst coughing and more fatigue after my parents house–which i believe is due to secondhand dander on my brother from his cat, since cat dander is like cryptonite to me, and I didnt wear my mask because… I just am not brave enough yet too. I had a really good time visiting with family.. I just wish hed find a home fir his cat so I didnt have to mske this mask-or-sick-or-be-alone decision…. I always choose sick. But Im just laying around today trying to rest up.