a man, carrying a comically oversized oxygen tank, follows behind his partner

Feeling Like a Burden With COPD

I have had COPD for quite a few years. Although I knew my breathing was slowly getting worse, I still lived an independent life and was very active socially. In January 2014 I caught a cold that put me in the hospital for a week. I bounced back in a couple of weeks, as usual. The next month, I had another cold. I managed to recuperate without a hospital stay. March 31, 2014, another cold turned into a major infection and a two-month hospital stay.

I came home on oxygen and have been on it since. I was barely able to walk and for the first time, I was dependent on someone else just to get through the day. I was fearful, anxious, and filled with guilt for allowing this to happen. On top of all the emotions that come with COPD, I also had the emotions of feeling like a burden to my husband. There are times I see a fleeting glimpse of frustration, or is it my imagination? I know he understands the physical limitations I have. He can see those. It is the emotional side that isn’t always understood. Or again, is that my own insecurity about being ill?

Working together for an answer

I don’t like to ask for help, nor do I like to inconvenience anyone. On a poor breathing day, I have little choice but to ask. I know my husband doesn’t mind. He knows if I am asking, I truly need it. Feeling like a burden is within me, the negative voice inside my own head. My husband has never once said that I am. It is always the opposite. When those feelings take over, I stop and ask myself, why? Most of the time it is my own frustration and guilt about lost independence.

More on this topic

There are chores I have done throughout our married life that now fall on him to help me with. One is grocery shopping. He doesn’t complain but I know he doesn’t like it. We are also different types of shoppers. I am particular and a label reader. He grabs the first item he sees and it goes in the carriage. It doesn’t matter that he has been drinking one percent milk for thirty-nine years. The container said milk!

For me, finding an alternative solution is the key to alleviating feeling like a burden.  Communication is as well. Letting my husband know that simply telling me I am not a burden did not make the emotions disappear. Including him in finding an answer together was. Grocery shopping became a once per month chore. We go together with a list I work on throughout the month for meals. It is a little more work but is something he only has to face once each month. I have prescriptions delivered and shop online for as much as possible. When we do go out, it is now more about having a good time together rather than him doing errands that were once my responsibility.

It isn't just about me

Living with COPD is an everyday struggle. It isn’t like a cold that will come to an end. When I stopped allowing the disease to eat into all my thoughts, I began to be in control again. I haven’t changed. My lungs did. I have an illness that makes me short of breath. I no longer apologize because I need help. I don’t take advantage of that help. I still want to be as independent as I can.

COPD turned my life upside down and inside out. I have to remember it did the same for my husband. As powerless as I feel when I struggle to breathe, he feels the same way watching me struggle. I often wonder when I am feeling like a burden, if that isn’t me just being selfish. I may be the one  with the disease, but it isn’t just my life that changed. It is easy to forget that in the struggle of symptoms. It has had a negative effect on every person important in my life.

Has COPD ever made you feel like a burden? What have you done to overcome feeling like it?

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