Are You Scared? Don't Be.
Are You Scared?
When I was first diagnosed with COPD a few years ago, I was terrified. What did this diagnosis mean? Was my life over? Was I going to die? Would I linger like a Victorian invalid on my fainting couch while someone tended to me? Actually, that one didn't sound so bad.
Fear is a natural reaction
When you've just been diagnosed with a major chronic illness, it's natural to be scared for your health and for your future. Your life will change. You may have fears depending on caregivers, about losing mobility and autonomy, about death. You may fear that when we are active you'll get short of breath or worse, get in an exacerbation.
You are not alone in feeling scared
An article in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine in 2008 stated that “Panic disorder has been found in up to 32% of depressed COPD patients and is a leading cause of Emergency Room visits1.” Now, remember this is way beyond feeling a bit anxious sometimes. We're talking about Panic disorder with a capital P. This means overwhelming fear. This means panic attacks out of the blue. And a third of us go through that. So if that many suffer from Panic disorder, it's a good bet that even more of us feel scared in lesser degrees.
A realistic outlook on COPD
Let me help: COPD is not an automatic death sentence. A big percentage of patients live decades after their diagnosis, especially people who take care of themselves. And luckily, there are lots of ways you can take care of yourself: Eat well; get help if you are depressed or anxious; quit smoking if you are a smoker; go to pulmonary rehabilitation; keep your mind engaged by learning or having a hobby; stay on your medical regimen; and keep active.
It's natural, but don't let yourself fall into the trap of being so scared that you refuse to live the life you have. Don't give up on yourself. There is still a lot you can contribute to the world. You are still you and you still have purpose. It may be different than it used to be, and it may be different than you thought it would be, but you can find your new purpose.
Do what you can for yourself
You are more limited in what you can do, so do what you can. Keep as active as you can, whether that's running a marathon (there really are runners with COPD) or simply walking down the hallway to a different room in your house. Both are admirable pursuits and both will help your health.
As for me, I've been diagnosed for about six years now. I'm not able to do as much as I could back then but I do my best and keep on keeping on. I take a walk every day to take photos. I read a lot. I do as much as I can with my teenage son because he's my top priority. And I write about how COPD has affected me and changed me, not always for the worse. I never thought I'd be a writer and an advocate, but, hey, life is funny like that.
Which of the following best describes your COPD diagnosis?