Living With More Than One Diagnosis

You know, sometimes I think "why me?" Life is hard enough living with COPD and then you have something else and something else - sometimes it really feels like it's never-ending.

A vicious circle

Though I have stage 4 COPD, I try to live my life not dwelling on it. Along with this diagnosis, I also suffer from severe anxiety and agoraphobia. Those can make life difficult and at times debilitating by themselves.

When at an all-time high, they affect my breathing which then affects my COPD. So it turns into a vicious circle. Trying to avoid the triggers of a panic attack is pretty difficult as at times they just come out of the blue. What I have found is that the pursed-lip breathing we do for COPD works well for anxiety/panic attacks. A bit like a 2 for 1.

Having been officially diagnosed with COPD for only 3 years, it's obvious I had it many years before. The anxiety and agoraphobia I've had for 28 plus years.

Let it go

COPD, anxiety, and agoraphobia are not things I feel will totally get better. Rather, they will be with me in some form for the rest of my life. The most important thing to remember is it doesn't have to rule your life. Make sure you rule your life and you rule whatever comes with it. Ok, so you cannot stop something from happening but you can make sure you deal with it and let it go. When we face things head-on we can work through them. Don't just push them aside. Look at what triggered that flare up or anxiety attack.

Battling through daily we get a bit stronger. I find exercising a good way to battle anxiety and at the same time make me stronger physically. I also enjoy keeping a journal of everything I do. I love to write to express how I feel. It's good to see the changes, the ups and downs, and how I got through the day.

Routine and other tips

Routine is also a good thing to have in your life, though it is hard if something crops up and your routine is broken (which I've found out). But yet again you get through it. Following a routine, you can get through the day knowing what you are going to do and how you're going to do it. This makes things easier. You also learn your limitations and how far you can push yourself physically and mentally.

Having agoraphobia, it is difficult trying to go out when you're afraid of all the open space. Adapting to it is difficult as you also need to go out for fresh air to help your COPD. I've adapted to it by always walking on the inside of the sidewalk (or using my mobility scooter) so I can stop and look in shop windows or pretty gardens. I pretend to look at things when really I'm just taking a breather and taking stock of myself.

Another coping strategy I use is to pretend I'm on the mobile (cell phone). Or sending a text. It works great to get my bearings and to steady myself and nerves. If walking it's great to catch my breath. All these coping mechanisms work for me so hopefully they do for you too.

Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Debz passed away in October of 2021. She is deeply missed but her positivity and resilience live on through her articles. Thank you for everything, Debz.

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