Thinking Out Loud

August 11, 2008

Guest Blog: Ruth Wilkinson

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — searchlightevents @ 12:12 pm

This is the Air I Breathe

This is what an asthma attack feels like.

First, you get a tickle in the back of your throat, way down in your chest. It’s annoying, and makes you cough.

But when you cough, it feels different. Like the air’s going out, but then not coming back in again. So you breath deeper, which moves the tickle deeper in your chest and makes you cough several more times.

At this point, you realize what’s happening and your chest starts to feel tight. Like you’re being squeezed in a giant fist and everytime you take a breath in, you can hear it, like a wind tunnel or a storm.

You start to feel a bit dizzy, light headed and need to lean on a wall or a friend for balance. Then, if you’re still standing, your arms start to feel weak and your legs get shaky because there’s not enough oxygen getting that far.

And every bit of focus you’ve got goes into breathing. Just trying to get enough air into your lungs.

So you dig out the puffer. The ‘rescue medication’. You shake it well, like the directions say, then empty your barely functioning lungs, put the puffer to your lips and, with your oxygen deprived mental faculties, try to squirt and inhale at the same time.

Then, to add insult to injury, you have to hold your breath so the medication stays in your lungs for a few seconds. Then, in 5 minutes, you do it again.

It takes about half an hour for the medication to do much good. At which point, you can at least stand up again.

I didn’t have asthma as a child. Like many, I developed it as an adult. Keeping it under control means taking meds everyday, as well as identifying and avoiding triggers. Which for me, includes perfume.

Your perfume.

That stuff you bathed in yesterday before you left the house for church.

I smelled it as soon as I walked in the lobby and my first response was a knot in my stomach. Oh, crap. What do I do? Do I sit in the parking lot while my family worships? Do I insist we all leave? Run down the road to a pharmacy and buy a face mask?

Being a stoic, I decided to soldier through. I thought, How bad can it be? Stupid question.

Did you notice me shaking my inhaler and taking a dose? Did you find it distracting?

I was sitting near you unable to breathe. And it’s your fault.

I spent the rest of the service just waiting for the moment when I could stagger across the parking lot to my car. And it’s your fault.

I couldn’t listen to the sermon, couldn’t sing, couldn’t enjoy the solo. And it’s your fault.

I couldn’t stay afterwards to talk to people in the lobby. And it’s your fault.

I went home and spent the next hour in bed. I’ll need 2 or 3 days to fully recover. And it’s your fault.

I will never ever again visit your church. And it’s your fault.

Don’t bother to tell me that you have the right to wear perfume, that much perfume, to church because I don’t care.

I just want to breathe.


  1. Paul here… I didn’t want Ruth’s message to go missed, especially by a few pastors in the denomination in question — a denomination where people like to dress up more for church — which I am 100% confident has a greater preponderance of this particular problem.

    One of the five pastors I sent this to replied, “You can’t be serious that you think that _________ churches have more people in them who wear perfume than any others.”

    Well, I’m no expert on comparative religion, but when it comes to comparative denominations, I get a lot of requests for information from pastors based on the depth of visiting I’ve done over the years, including a recent “tour” of 31 churches in our local area.

    I reminded him that some churches in his own denomination have tried to deal with this issue in a bulletin insert.

    I wrote, “What my wife experienced was major. These are the most acute symptoms she’s ever had. And she will be suffering for another 1-3 days. She was needing to vent; I didn’t have a column ready for today; and I wanted to give her that opportunity.”

    He then accused me of (a) appointing myself as ‘the keeper of the churches,’ (b) speaking into his personal situation where we don’t have a personal relationship, (c) drawing wrong conclusions, (d) having a critical attitude — odd since I was trying to help heal a situation constructively and didn’t actually write the piece in question — and, (e) not being part of a local church myself but “merely wandering from church to church…”

    Funny, this pastor actually replaced another with whom — many, many years ago — I had only one major issue: the excessive use of chemical pesticide on the church’s front lawn. I was also told then to back off. (That particular pastorate later ended badly.) Interesting that both issues are somewhat environmental in nature.

    He asked to be removed from our mailing list so that he could “…build his life by not getting caught in needless chatter.”

    You know what, Pastor? Admittedly speaking entirely in the flesh, I can’t help think that the ironic thing right now would be if YOUR wife or one of your four kids got really bad asthma. I wonder what you would think about this issue then?

    I also wonder how many people with similar issues simply don’t return to the church — or denomination — in question without ever saying anything? Faithful are the wounds of a friend. You are better served when people are straight, honest and transparent with you than you are when they simply leave and say nothing.

    Pastor, you blew it today. You totally over-reacted. You showed no compassion for my wife or others in her situation. You showed yourself to be no different than the pastor you replaced.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 11, 2008 @ 5:24 pm

  2. Dear Ruth:

    My heart goes out to you and I sense your frustration.

    I used to wear perfume — until I discovered it was the source of my migraine headaches. Until then, I hadn’t realized the negative effects perfume could have on people. It is probably a source of many physical problems people have, but they don’t realize it.

    Please have mercy on those who don’t yet know how harmful perfume can be to others. They need to be educated. How about writing an article about it, from a medical and emotional point of view, and posting it to this blog?

    I love my church and its people. I won’t leave because women wear perfume there(actually men’s after-shave lotion has the same effect on me), because I doubt there is a church where they don’t!! But I do change my seat if a perfume-wearer sits down next to me, and I do gently tell them why I am moving: “I’m sorry, please don’t take offense, but I am allergic to perfume — it gives me migraine headaches.” And I hope they get the message.

    Comment by kaybee — August 12, 2008 @ 11:23 am

  3. […] Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:04 am The incident discussed in my wife’s guest blog a few days ago, or more accurately in the comment that I posted to it, is a reminder that there are […]

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    Pingback by Making Your Church a Fragrance Free Zone - Encore Presentation of a Guest Blog from August « Thinking Out Loud — February 5, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

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