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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 is 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 afterwards.

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?

Closing thoughts

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?

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


  • jce12071
    4 weeks ago

    I am stage 4 or end stage. Both parents had COPD, as do I now. Day to day is really a struggle. If you look at me, with the exception of the cannula, I look and act healthy. Unless I do any exertion I am not breathless. It does get hard to walk far, I have my faithful wheelchair to help.
    I think the worst thing to happen to me, was after so many years, the idiot doctor gave me 3 years to live. I gave up. I hibernated in my house, now it is an apartment, and hid from the world. I stopped doing things, and in the early stages, it is way too important, to stay active and not give up. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. One of the keys to maintaining this crap.
    I have been lucky, I have only been in the hospital for COPD once in the last 10 years. By the way , it was 8 years ago the doctor gave me 3 years to live. Manage your fear. Your life isn’t over, just a new chapter. Anxiety was the reason I was in the hospital, thought I couldn’t breath. Pffft I was talking, and if you are talking , you are breathing, but that still did not keep the squad away, lol. If you need meds for anxiety, ask your doctor, see what he or she thinks.
    Good luck!!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 weeks ago

    Hi jce12071 and thanks so much for sharing your history, experiences, and present situation. It sounds like you have learned a lot about your condition and are able to put it into perspective as you live your life. I’m appalled that a physician would assign a time constraint to your life with COPD. As you well know, that is totally irresponsible of him. No doubt it is that very (false) information that caused sufficient anxiety to aggravate some of your symptoms!! We appreciate your viewpoint and suggestions here – it is clear you are living to your full potential at this point in time. Keep up the good work!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • severe60
    4 weeks ago

    Having watched my dad struggle with, and lose his battle to COPD, my fears are great. I not only am experiencing first hand what he went through, but I also know what to expect in end stage which can be very frightening.

    I’m in the severe stage or stage 3. I also live in New England where the air quality is poor, and we’ve had several humid days… that’s when my symptoms are the worse. I try not to go out when it’s humid, choosing to be inside with air conditioning. If I must go out, I make sure I have my rescue inhaler with me. My day starts off routinely at 7am using Spiriva and Flovent. I also have hypothyroidism so I take meds for that an hour before. I don’t have sleep apnea, but I have found this respiratory medicinal tea works at reducing coughing incidents at night. It’s from an herbalist company named Traditional Medicinals and the name of the tea is Breathe Easy. I found it at Walmart in the tea/coffee aisle. Before I started drinking a cup at bedtime, I used to wake up in the middle of the night needing my inhaler. You should try it to see if it helps you at night. God Bless!

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