Dealing with a new normal - advice?

Posted by coughmaster35 @coughmaster35, Aug 19 5:51am

Hi everyone,

I used to teach high school students in March of 2020 and was very animated, could speak loquaciously, and even to the point where I was able to spend time subbing for choral classes. Since then over the past two years I dealt with a gradual loss in my ability to communicate. I dealt with harsh coughing episodes for nearly a year to clear stubborn throat secretions. Since then, I've been able to control the episodes with medications, but as a result, any time I have to swallow is a battle to stop saliva from going down my windpipe and choking or coughing.

I now hide my throat clearing as best I can but I still do it hundreds of times a day. I used to be able to speak in long sentences but now often have to pause to clear my throat when speaking or to catch my breath. I feel like I have a vibrant personality and inner mind that no longer has the ability to effectively communicate anymore as I once did, and it feels in many ways like a new life threatening normal, always feeling like you're going to choke if you dont cough. My partner has been concerned but understanding the whole time, but I feel like I'm no longer the same person I was in early 2020.

I lost a lot of confidence in myself and am finally coming to terms with my new limitations by putting myself out there again. I try to keep the coughing in the background and hope I can brush it off long enough to make something of myself in the world again. I don't care what other people think about it in public as to them it's just a tic. To me it's like a chain that never leaves. Any advice to deal with this new reality?

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Hi, @coughmaster35 Welcome and you raise a very good question — how to deal with "new normal" in our lives. While I have not shared your experience, I did help my wife through her many changes, our many changes in our lives, and now my life after she passed away. All these resulted in new normals for us and/or me. While I don't have any great advice, I can tell you what helped me along the way.

First, I had to grow thicker skin and begin to not care about the weird looks, side glances, and even sometimes rude remarks made by others. I told myself they knew nothing about what we were experiencing so I no longer was going to be bothered by how they reacted to my wife, me, or us as a couple.

I also would keep as a mantra that in spite of the challenges of our new normal, we were lucky to be out and about and on our feet! I also decided we'd need to focus on where we were going and not rue the losses of what we used to have, be like, or were able to do.

I hope this is of some help!

Strength, Courage, & Peace

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Hi @coughmaster35 Just jumping in to add my welcome to Mayo Connect along with @IndianaScott. But I’m heading off in a different direction and wondering if you’ve been to see your doctor about what is causing your coughing?
It might be as simple as post nasal drip causing this to happen or acid reflux which are both treatable. Anytime we have a prolonged cough that is disruptive to a lifestyle, bringing on the need for a “new normal” is worth getting checked out.
I’ve had similar episodes myself as yours and it came from a medication I was on, causing post nasal drip. I was able to take Benadryl to dry up excess drainage when it became challenging. It has since cleared up but it was really inconvenient not knowing when a cough attack was going to happen.

Have to talked this over with your primary care doctor, allergist or ENT?

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@loribmt

Hi @coughmaster35 Just jumping in to add my welcome to Mayo Connect along with @IndianaScott. But I’m heading off in a different direction and wondering if you’ve been to see your doctor about what is causing your coughing?
It might be as simple as post nasal drip causing this to happen or acid reflux which are both treatable. Anytime we have a prolonged cough that is disruptive to a lifestyle, bringing on the need for a “new normal” is worth getting checked out.
I’ve had similar episodes myself as yours and it came from a medication I was on, causing post nasal drip. I was able to take Benadryl to dry up excess drainage when it became challenging. It has since cleared up but it was really inconvenient not knowing when a cough attack was going to happen.

Have to talked this over with your primary care doctor, allergist or ENT?

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Or endocrinologist for thyroid issue

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Hi @coughmaster35.
I am really not sure if I can help you but it might be helpful to hear a few things that happened to me.
I noticed I was clearing my throat quite often during class and students confirmed this when I asked for a reality check. I never did that before but my throat just hurt. I had a few episodes in which I coughed so hard that I tasted blood coming up from my throat. I had a bad GP at the time who said this was impossible.

My other problem is one I've had ever since I was small: I can sometimes suddenly not make the movement to swallow my saliva. Physically impossible, it 'doesn't work anymore'. This would freak me out as a child but I would tell myself that no one knew about this problem and maybe the others all had it as well. I would calm myself when I was four/five and then continue to play. My GP said this was nothing, never heard about it, the works.

I finally went to and ENT and they did research.
All the problems (there were more) were confirmed and they helped with exercises for my tongue and throat.

*THE SWALLOWING PROBLEM*

EXERCISE 1
The most important exercise was this one.
First off: do not use fluids to do this, no saliva either.
Bite into the tongue (as deep inside the mouth as possible but this usually means 1 or 2 inches away from the tip) to fixate it.
Then try to swallow (remember no fluids).
Do this seven times until you can do it well, and add until you can do it more often.
Do this three times a day.

EXERCISE 2 (after you master exercise 1)
Ly down on a flat and somewhat hard surface (important).
Move your head to the side; your left ear towards the floor as far as you can.
Then move your right ear towards the floor as far as you can.
Repeat as many times as possible.

CLEARING THE THROAT
This was a problem that needed tackling as well. So, before class, I had to do a few exercises. This really helped. The one that was the most helpful to me was the 'brrrr' with 'horse lips', if you know what I mean 😹 I won't post a pic let me tell you! 😹 But imagine you close your mouth in a relaxed way, then blow out the air; your lips will tremble. Breathe out loudly and you'll make a sound while you do this. This will clear your throat. But it does more than that: it will also help it heal and you will at some point notice you don't clear your throat as much. I hardly do anymore!

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Just a comment after reading all the posts here. I feel that life is a series of new normals. Always evolving and always changing. At every stage we learn to adapt. Somehow we find a way. Make a plan and carry on. Never stop looking for answers to medical situations. Never stop asking questions. And never, ever worry about what others think. They can think whatever they want.

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Thanks to EllAmster for the suggestions.
I've been trying to ignore my own increasing awareness that my slowly accumulated saliva suddenly heads toward my lungs causing a coughing fit. And I do more frequent throat clearings.
I think concern about other's reactions helps keep society rational, but being a slave to them is counter productive. Assuming most people are well meaning, a brief description of your medical issue, might reduce the rude comments and actually provide some education – something any functional human improves from.

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Such challenges life gives us! My girlfriend has had this issue for nearly ten years now. Did all the tests and doctor appointments, did as they instructed. And it definitely is less of an issue, but it’s still there – albeit in a bit more of fits and spells, and not all day as it was when it first started. . She, like you, has had to make peace with the new normal … she takes a light hearted approach ( rather than an explanatory one) and politely detours all the “ advice” she gets with a “ I’ll bounce that one off the doctor” . I feel for you and I am sorry you have to deal with this. But that being said …you’ve taught high school, nothing scares you. What a challenge from being the main “ talker” in situations to being the main “ listener”. With the right mind set – this could prove a whole new interesting world to you. Just a silver lining I guess. Change what you can, accept what you can’t ( so easy to say, so hard to practice ). And to give hope – my friends first five years with this were rough … and now we all forget this condition exists within her until she has an off day. Good luck, you’ve got this!

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Hello, have you been to see competent doctors? I had brain surgery and it affected my throat. I used to act professionally and sing and can't do either now and my voice is weird. I have had choking episodes. I feel very sympathetic toward you and I understand because of what I've been through.
I hope you can get some relief from your condition. There should be some help for you depending on what is causing this bad situation. I had something called thyroplasty done (it's a surgical implant to the throat) and a great deal of speech therapy which did help. Wishing you the very best.

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@coughmaster35 – The pandemic has had major effects in our lives, causing anxiety symptoms that manifest in different ways in different people. I can only imagine how much stress this new normal in your life is causing you. Would some sort of relaxation therapy help?

Might this help you?
https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/stress-relief-stanford-breathing-technique-psychological-sigh.html

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