The first couple of years after my long hospitalization and diagnosis of severe COPD were very dark days. I didn’t just struggle physically with this new life, but mentally as well. My sense of self was completely deteriorated.
I don’t want my life to be all about managing COPD. At first, it was all-consuming. Navigating my way through the education, symptoms that went beyond just being short of breath, and learning a daily routine took every waking moment.
One day my husband told me all our conversations, regardless of content, seem to revert back to COPD. He wasn’t trying to be hurtful. He knew I would take that comment, analyze it from all directions, and do something about it. Even though I was stronger physically, I was allowing my illness to paralyze me.
It is time to reclaim my life. I still don’t know exactly what that life is. I’m discovering it all the time, but that brings new excitement into it. I have a list of all my favorite activities. Can I still do them? If not, is there another way? Are there other interests I can pursue?
Old hobbies a new way
I have had a love affair with reading since I learned how. Bookstores and libraries were a favorite destination. I could easily read two to three books per week. Now, getting through one chapter is difficult. I struggle to stay focused on reading anything lengthy. I won’t give up on it. It is too much a part of my life. I had to accept I can no longer read a book in a day or two. Now it might take weeks.
Changing my reading habits allowed me to keep something I love in my life. I bought a monthly membership for an audiobook club. Books with complicated plots are downloaded for listening to. I still purchase books but save these for easier reading.
I attended a lot of personal development seminars before COPD became severe. My interests lean toward the spiritual meanings of animals, crystals, and meditations. I can no longer attend these seminars because the stores or classrooms are heavily perfumed with scented candles and incense. I had resigned myself to the fact this part of my life was done. Until a website popped up in my news feed on Facebook one day. It is an online community with hundreds of courses being taught. Not only have I found a learning platform for my previous interests, but I found some new interests as well.
The difficult part about rediscovering a new life is letting go of what no longer serves you. I love cooking - or at least did. It has taken me almost six years to realize I don’t like it anymore. I have always cooked from scratch. To not cook a large meal almost every night is a new concept for me and a work in progress. I’m having fun discovering new recipes that are healthy, light, and require little cooking.
Learning what to give up and what I can keep has given me a new perspective of viewing my life ahead of me. There is no hurry. I don’t even have to decide what that life is. It is okay to not like something anymore. It is okay to try something new and not like it. Not everyone will choose to stay and walk this path with me. Old friends will get replaced with new ones.
I still have days of wallowing in self-pity, yearning for my life before COPD. It is part of the healing process of moving ahead. Most of us have heard the saying, “I am not my illness.” COPD provides me with circumstances I have to overcome and live with daily. It has taken a lot from me. I am taking my life back with new excitement and energy looking forward, one breath at a time.
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.