Overcoming Fear and Living Life to My Fullest
Last updated: April 2021
Many of us that have progressed stages of COPD also have a harrowing tale of our first exacerbation and the fear we felt when we couldn’t catch our breath. My personal tale was one of a near-death experience that changed my world and my life as I had known it. Not being able to breathe and hanging on to dear life was like nothing I had ever experienced. And suddenly fear had a whole new meaning to me.
Fear took the driver’s seat
I had always loved to travel. It was no big deal to drive long distances or fly when time was short. I traveled alone and traveled often. A few years back, I developed a fear of the Interstates. I preferred traveling on the back roads. As a result, I found routes where the roads were less traveled. So it was not a big deal to jump in my car and take off.
After my big COPD exacerbation, one of the first things I noticed was my fear of being in a car. At first, I thought that as I got physically stronger, driving would be second nature again. Today, two years later, I wish I could report that my brave inner being has resurfaced and I have overcome this fear. But, that is not the case.
Making the most of living with fear
Sometimes living with COPD means learning to live very differently than what we are accustomed to. Living our lives to the fullest can become a daily challenge. I had always enjoyed being in control and that meant being the driver. I wasn’t a very good passenger and was often referred to as the proverbial backseat driver. After fear set in, letting my partner drive became a necessity if I ever wanted to enjoy traveling again.
Today, I can get myself around town. I go to the grocery store, park, and walk our Main Street district and make it to the edge of town on my own. Yet, have found it feels much safer traveling in the passenger’s seat. I can close my eyes if another vehicle seems too close, not something one should do while driving.
Learning to trust Grant to be the driver has created new opportunities for us. When the pandemic hit, we decided to purchase a little camper and began taking mini-vacations. To date, all of our camping trips have involved less than thirty minutes of travel time. I felt safer staying close to home.
Living life to my fullest
This week I officially retired from the full-time job I have held for years. Grant and I will be camping more often. We are now scoping out campsites that will require driving up to three hours to get where we are going. This summer we are even planning on a trip to meet up with our children and grandson. We will take the back roads where I am most at ease and will take two days to drive what used to be a one-day trip.
Having accepted that my life has drastically changed and will never be what it was before, I am determined to live life to my personal fullest. I will continue to take small steps to have a fulfilled life, enjoying it as much as possible. I hope reading this inspires you to find ways to live life to your fullest too. We all have a different definition of what “life to the fullest” means to us and no matter what it means to you, I hope you will give it your best.
Do you know the difference between a COPD exacerbation and lung function decline?
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