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.

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?

Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Carol passed away in February of 2022. Carol's storytelling and advocacy will be deeply missed, but her legacy lives on through her articles and in all the people she inspired.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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