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a person with a tangled line in his head with clouds and a pair of lungs behind him

COPD and Depression

So often with a chronic illness, a person becomes depressed. It gets so difficult to feel like we struggle so often. We get sick of being sick… tired of being so tired and on and on. I’m sure that you can think of other feelings and expressions.

Do these sound familiar?

  • She sits in the window and looks out, watching the leaves, in their majestic colors falling from the trees. She can remember her childhood, how she and her siblings, along with friends would rake the leaves and jump in them. They could do that all day. When she got older, she loved to get out and walk, she could hear the crispness of the leaves under her feet and felt so alive. A tear falls, what happened to those days? What she would give to go out and enjoy the leaves and the day. She knows how being outdoors affects her, how she struggles to breathe. Why can’t she do this anymore?
  • He looks out over the water. It’s a cool evening so breathing isn’t too bad. The water always brought him peace and relaxation. He used to love skiing and fishing. He sees others, so often spending days on the water. It’s hard to remember when he didn’t struggle to breathe, when that humidity has increased, which is most of the time. He moved here just to be by the river, now it brings sadness. His wife doesn’t understand, she tells him just to enjoy it as it is.
  • Another grandchild is celebrating her birthday. It’s hard to believe that she’s 9 now. Where does the time go? They don’t understand when she has to tell them that she can’t go again. It’s a pool party and the humidity and chlorine makes it so hard to breathe. Even the parties that are held in the homes, usually have to be turned down. So many wear the strong perfumes. That mix of so many scents just seem to take her air away and often throw her into an exacerbation. Others don’t seem to smell anything, so they don’t understand.

Do these sound familiar? I’ve heard things like this from so many others. Even from myself. It makes it hard when people don’t understand. As my husband says, it isn’t that they try to cause problems, they just don’t think. That’s something to ponder. He’s had me put an allergy alert sign on the front door so that people with scented products don’t come in, because it gets in the house and I will keep reacting because it’s hard to get it out of the house. Allergies often trigger my asthma and COPD exacerbations. This triggers others as well. We know this, others know this. It’s easy to secure our homes to keep the scents outside. We can meet at a café if we are up to it.

Still… we can see how it affects us. We can see that others sometimes just don’t understand. We are finally learning to say No… no I can’t go, no you can’t come in, etc. It doesn’t make us feel any better does it? Why, what if… What about me? What about you?

We have COPD. We feel lost, this must be depression.

Depression is not something to feel bad about or even ashamed. You are not alone. Sadly there are things that we look back on and know that we can’t go backwards. Looking forward may seem bleak, or cause depression because we can’t be part of so many things. We can’t look forward because we don’t know what it holds, we can hope and dream, but we don’t know what tomorrow brings. As we so often hear, we must live for today, we must do the very best we can and celebrate each moment and the accomplishments we have made along the way.

Find a support system, a group of those who are coping with COPD and depression as well. If we need to grieve the passing of who we were, or to find ways to celebrate who we are and all that we go through, to be the person that we have become, we need to reach out. Even to talk with a counselor. COPD isn’t easy and depression makes it more difficult. I hope you know, one can affect the other and you aren’t alone. There is always someone who lives a similar life, yet never the same.

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.


  • Paula
    3 years ago

    Up and down, up and down! I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. Two weeks ago I took out the trash. Sounds easy? With my little rolling cart, it took 3 trips and all day long. Let me say right here, the dumpster is 1/2 a block away down the alley so one trip amounts to walking a whole block. At the end of the day I was proud of my accomplishment … and totally exhausted! And I’ve paid for that day ever since, not even able to get out of bed some days and others absolutely forcing myself to do things when I really shouldn’t have been doing them but there was no one else available – the grocery store doesn’t deliver! In fact, I spent a good portion of yesterday in bed. For reasons I do not understand and certainly cannot predict, today is a good day and I feel energized. Up and down, up and down … it is VERY depressing never knowing if I’ll be able to do what needs to be done or what I want to do. So my coping mechanism is to do what I CAN do, maybe not in the same way as I used to do it but in a manner where I get a certain enjoyment and feeling of achievement. No, I can’t go out and rake leaves or mow the yard but I can sit in a chair on the porch and just be in nature, listening to the birds, and being part of the world. People on their daily walks have come to expect me to be sitting outside, some even coming to the door to check if I’m not out for some reason and for some it’s just a wave as they pass by. But you know what? Life isn’t always “up” so we just have to take what we get and deal with it, do what you can do, spend very little time mourning what you can’t do, and get on making your life count for YOU!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Paula and welcome. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences living with COPD, the ‘ups and downs’, challenges and accomplishments! You are not alone! Many in our community have expressed similar sentiments as yours when it comes to living with COPD. I thought, in view of your comments, that you might find it interesting to ready this article on that very subject:
    We are glad to have you in our online community and will look forward to your continued participation. We are always here to provide support, share scientific articles and personal anecdotes, or to lend a sympathetic ear.
    Wishing you the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

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