a woman covers her face. Her tiny twin emerges from her head and covers her face too.

Short Of Breath Embarrassment

A week ago my husband and I were going to dinner at another couple’s home we have been friends with for many years. They have lived in South Carolina for quite some time.

We have remained in contact, but have not seen each other since my COPD diagnosis. Now we live just a few miles apart and I was anxious about seeing them.

I told my husband how I felt. He asked why them and not other social gatherings we have attended. At first, I didn’t have an answer but kept thinking about it as the day grew closer.

Then it hit me! I was no longer the healthy person I was the last time they saw me. It didn’t bother me that my hair is now all gray or there are a few more wrinkles.

Now I am on oxygen and can get quite breathless moving around. I knew from experience I would be very short of breath walking into their home and I felt self-conscious about it.

It didn’t matter that they also had some health problems or they too had all the telltale signs of aging. I was focused only on my shortness of breath and not being able to hide it.

The more I obsessed over it, the more anxious I became and we all know what happens then. I was getting short of breath simply thinking about the visit.

Yikes! What a merry-go-round I created for myself.

Facing my fear of embrassment

I called my friend up and explained how I was feeling. She laughed and said she was too. She had put on a few pounds and walked with a cane due to knee issues.

I told her no hugging or talking until I recovered from the walk to the house from the car. I felt so much better.

The time came when we pulled into their driveway and I had to face my silly fears. Good!

It was not a very long walk to the front door. I might make it after all.

When she opened the door I saw a center island and went straight to it so I could lean against it. I catch my breath easier leaning against something versus sitting down.

It didn’t take long to recover and I could finally hug my long-time friend.

Dealing with public shortness of breath

I certainly don’t have all the answers to this. I am hoping by starting a conversation about it, we can find answers together.

What worked for me with my friend was discussing it. I told her how I felt and what to expect. She was very gracious and did everything she could to accommodate me.

I was enjoying myself so much, that I even ran out of oxygen and didn’t realize it right away. I had a backup in the car, so it turned out fine.

Some of my anxiety about going out is being self-conscious about when I do get short of breath. I don’t think about wearing oxygen or using a walker or scooter, but gasping for air can’t be an attractive picture!

That’s the picture in my head. What I have come to realize is that no one really notices. I am really not gasping but trying to get it under control with pursed-lip breathing.

I’ve educated myself enough to know how to do this. It works! Having faith in the knowledge I have gained is important.

Are you worried about being short of breath in public or at social engagements? What do you do? Let’s start a conversation about it!

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.How are you doing today? Click the button below to share a status update with our community!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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