Coping With Reality
Being relatively new to living with COPD, my experiences thus far have been mild compared to some others. There have been symptoms that were easy enough to get rid of by making small changes such as having a medication changed and by trying to be more consistent with the once-daily inhaler. There have been surprisingly few instances where the rescue inhaler had to be used once these basic changes had been made, but there are still times when it is definitely necessary.
Difficult deep breaths
Something new that I have noticed lately has been finding it difficult to breathe after small things cause me to start a coughing fit, like dust or certain smells. It usually only involves a few bad coughs. But when it happens, it becomes difficult to take a deep breath afterwards. The deeper I attempt to breathe, the more I have the overwhelming urge to begin coughing all over again.
Another development has been issues during the night while I am trying to sleep. One of the other conditions I have is sleep apnea. I am finding that I have a difficult time figuring out a comfortable position to sleep in that is also comfortable to breathe in.
Stress of new issues
These things were not an issue as little as a month ago, so their presence has been pretty stressful. The trouble breathing after a coughing fit is easy enough to deal with by using my rescue inhaler. From start to finish, going from normal breathing to struggling and back to normal breathing is usually less than a minute.
The issues while trying to sleep are absolutely terrifying. As a result, I am finding it more and more difficult to go to sleep at all. The sleep apnea is enough of a pain all by itself. The COPD is making it worse for the simple fact that when I stop breathing, I also have a difficult time catching my breath afterward.
Fear of falling asleep
This has led to, for lack of a better way to say it, being afraid to fall asleep. Fear is not something I am accustomed to living with but a health condition that causes breathing limitations has most definitely changed that factor. This is not me being cocky but once you dedicate years of your life to the US Army, you lose the average person’s fear. It is even scary once I have started breathing again. Even though I know I will be fine once I catch my breath, it still scares me.
Thankfully at this point, all of these things are momentary/temporary. What I am afraid of though is that down the road the symptoms will eventually become more frequent. What if they become the norm instead of occasional incidents? What if having been a smoker for twenty plus years and having been in a career for sixteen plus years working around hazardous chemicals that I am sure were not great for my lungs leads me to having a leash attached to an oxygen tank?
We all deal with our conditions and the stresses they bring in our own ways. Something I have recently begun to try has been, taking at least a small amount of time each day to decompress. For thirty minutes each day, I try to allow myself not to stress about money, work, or my medical conditions.
How do you cope with your COPD symptoms? Do your symptoms ever generate some degree of fear for you?
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?