Fear of Dependency
I’m sure you are familiar with this story. Once upon a time, I was very independent. Anxiety was something other people had. I took care of my family and home, shopped, and worked. My social life was busy with a large circle of friends. Shortness of breath was becoming more noticeable, but I was still physically active. It all came crashing down around me with one long hospital stay.
Life changes in an instant
When a person goes from being self-sufficient to complete dependency, it is not only devastating but extremely fearful as well. That was the most difficult for me, living with fear.
Although not as overwhelming as it used to be, it is still part of my life. Fear lingers constantly in the back of my mind. It isn’t just dependency on other people that wreaks havoc with me, but medicine and oxygen as well. I feel like a prisoner, held hostage by, not just my lungs, but also by my worry.
The 'what if' game
Those are 2 words always rolling around in my mind. My biggest "what if" is my husband passing away before me. He is my rock, my caretaker, my chauffeur, and the person that isn’t afraid to give me a push (or shove) when needed. Then I feel guilty for thinking such a thing. I feel like I am being selfish. What a crazy merry-go-round we can put ourselves on.
There are numerous other "what ifs" as well. As I write this, a storm is expected here in Massachusetts overnight. There will be high winds and rain. Many times this will cause power outages and my generator is broken.
This causes concern for oxygen and how long will a power outage last. When I go out, there is the "what if" I can’t find a restroom scenario. I have had anxiety about my oxygen tank not working, my mobility scooter breaking down, or needing to ask a stranger for help if I can not breathe. Dependency creates many vulnerabilities.
Living with the anxiety and fear I created for myself had to change. As I get stronger, I have become more independent within my own home. I do as much as I can without asking for help.
It built my self-confidence back up. Finding new ways to complete chores is important. If I stumble, I don’t beat myself up. Try again, or find another solution. Not everything works out the first time.
Online shopping has given me back control as well. My husband is an impatient shopper because he doesn’t like it. It made me anxious if he came home with the wrong product. I don’t want to criticize him because he is doing what has always been my job. Now I know I can shop for groceries, household products, pretty much anything I need, and have it delivered.
I am taking baby steps to work on other fears. If we go out shopping, I wander off by myself. My husband is in the store somewhere, but not with me. He has dropped me off and come back in an hour.
I don’t like to shower without him at home. Many times he will go out in the yard to work or go buy a coffee just around the corner. These little changes are slowly helping me gain independence. It has taken a few years to get this far. I am sure I will continue to be a work in progress for a long time.
Let’s talk about it
Has COPD created fears within your life? How have you dealt with them? Are you dependent on a caretaker? Are you able to work towards being more independent? I love reading your comments and ideas. Let’s share stories!
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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