Ask the Advocates: Irritability
We asked our COPD advocates for their thoughts on irritability and here’s what they had to say.
Irritability with COPD
Our families and friends know that I have COPD, asthma, allergies, and more. They know they aren’t to come in wearing scented products, especially Axe cologne. I have terrible reactions from that - it takes my air away. For five days in a row after exposure to it, I had to go in for steroid shots. Some still come wearing these scents and smells. It’s either we see them or I don’t get to see the grandkids.
Knowing that I have struggled with this for years causes irritability that I just explain. My hubby tries to catch them before they come in the door, so he can do the “sniff test”. The most difficult thing about someone bringing in scented products is that it might take three days plus before the air clears and I just get sick and sicker. I can be bedbound for a few days as well. Often I end up at the doctor, and then off to the pharmacy for Prednisone and an antibiotic. Now with COVID in so many places, hardly anyone stops by.
There are mornings I wake up grumpy and other days it seems to sneak up on me. It might be a gloomy day causing it or the usual stresses of everyday life. Most of the time it is mental fatigue catching up with me. The continual struggle of managing COPD can be tiring. I long for the days of waking up, jumping into the shower without a second thought, and racing out the door to meet my day. I miss the days of spontaneous activities. I am usually a positive person. There are days I don’t want to be. I want to throw myself down on the ground and have a good old fashioned temper tantrum.
I know it is okay to hate this disease. Who wouldn’t? When the irritation of living with it really starts to get to me, I have to stop and remember all that I have to be grateful for. I know gratefulness is one of those buzzwords that sound like it's the answer to everything. It really puts life and COPD into perspective. Starting and ending each day with gratitude melts away the irritation.
Do you ever feel irritable? I know I definitely do. Irritable because I'm no longer able to do the things I used to do or at the speed I used to do them. Irritable because I can no longer wear my favorite perfume and irritated I have to avoid the shops that I used to love going in. I can no longer go in (or even walk past) the Yankee Candle Shop as the perfume sets off my asthma and COPD. I'm actually irritated that I no longer have the life I used to. Irritated that I have to watch others do what I cannot do. Sometimes I think they can't do what I used to do as well as I did it. Then I get irritable with them, wishing I could do it or show them how I did it. This irritability is definitely enhanced by COPD. The life I did have is gone and now we're trying to get used to the new way of living.
Irritability seems to be my second name right now. Fall is here. The days are short, the nights are so long. Then, having COVID-19 numbers so high fills your brain with scary thoughts and “what ifs”. My irritability starts as the sun goes down in the late afternoon. As the evening inches on, my irritability kicks into high speed.
It begins with itchy feet and hands. While scratching my feet and hands, it then progresses to my arms and legs. Some nights I scratch until I bleed. I can not seem to sit still; I am so irritable and agitated. As darkness blankets me, my symptoms become more intense. Sometimes, my entire body shakes. This happens every night. I can not concentrate on anything but the itch. I have had several long talks with myself on this issue of what I call ‘night terrors’ that cause my irritability. I have decided that since I can’t seem to conquer this on my own, I asked for help. My doctor has set up an appointment for me to talk to a professional counselor.
I’m not a psychologist. I wasn’t really attracted to the sciences and their study as an undergrad. But I do believe there are emotional “stages” to COPD. By that I mean, I think we who live with COPD go through a number of junctures where different personality traits manifest themselves through no conscious efforts of ours. At least I don’t think they’re conscious. Maybe they’re unconscious but, as I said, you’re asking the wrong guy.
For instance, there were times in the past 10 years since I was first diagnosed with COPD that, I know, I was miserable to live with. Just ask, my wife. No seriously. Day-to-day problems get magnified sometimes when you’re dealing with COPD. With the emotional “stages” of COPD it would be most helpful to see if others are going through the same thing that I am or you are.
Although I don’t feel as if irritability is an emotion I’ve encountered much over those 10 years, I do know that going through a stressful period can make a person feel more irritable than usual. When we experience a stressful life event — with work, school, or family — we may find it more difficult to manage our emotions and can become overwhelmed. We may feel less tolerant of the people around them (and they, of us!).
I hope I have not appeared that way to friends and family. I don’t feel as if I have. But – I could be wrong.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?