Celebrating the Fourth of July looks a lot like wearing red-white-and-blue bathing suits, sipping drinks with a straw in a festive cup, floating around on inflatable flamingos in a pool, relaxing in the sun, cookouts with family and friends, going to parades, and watching fireworks. My social media accounts were filled with pictures from these celebrations.
Looking at other people’s pictures from the weekend, I started feeling jealous. I was jealous of my friends sporting their tans that seemed so effortless. I was jealous of the pictures of people drinking and partying, the ones taking vacations and long weekend getaways. I was jealous because I was struggling with remembering who I once was this time of year.
Although it was great to be around my family and friends last week, I felt defeated by my body because I wasn’t the girl I used to be. I was no longer the party girl, like those I was envying in the photos on Instagram. Trying to have a few drinks just made me feel overly exhausted, sick and sweaty, and it wasn’t worth it. Drinking made my heart race to the point where I had to take medication just to control the rate. Taking this medicine just made me feel more tired and I was unable to tolerate the heat. It was tiring to go back and forth from the beach to my beach house to cool down, get more oxygen, check my stats and blood pressure, and walk back as if everything was fine. The harsh reality was the party-girl me was gone.
Not only was “Party Britt” gone, but also the beach bum was gone, too. I tried very hard to avoid using my oxygen on the beach. It is difficult for me to have people come up to me and immediately ask “What’s wrong?” instead of greeting me as they once did.
I used to get compliments on my bathing suit, questions about how school was going, comments about how “good” I looked (thanks to when PH was an invisible illness), or was asked simply, “How are you feeling?”
This weekend, I wanted the oxygen cannula to go away, if only for a few hours. I wanted the version of me who was treated like a “normal,” everyday girl. I didn’t want the version of me who could barely sit in the sun and breathe in the ocean air. I used to lay in the sun from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.; I didn’t want this version who felt exhausted and worn out after laying out for an hour. This me couldn’t swim in the waves, something I used to to all day. The harsh reality was that “beach bum Britt” was gone.
Last week, my biggest enjoyment came from watching the July 4th fireworks. I was able to enjoy the experience around those who were doing the same thing. Aside from the oxygen on my face, it was the first time all weekend I felt like I could enjoy something that I always had done. Of course, it came with new anxieties, especially with the idea of open flames being near an oxygen tank. I couldn’t use a sparkler or sit close to a fire, but I could appreciate them from a distance. I also was able to enjoy the cookout (mostly because of the ice cream and brownies). Dessert-loving Britt, thankfully, is still sticking around!
This weekend, I learned the hard way that there are versions of me I once loved that I will never get back to the same extent. I push myself to try to still be all I was before. But at what price? Any version of me always would want what is best for my happiness and health. It’s important to let yourself grieve who you once were. It’s also important to start to figure out what you still can do.
Chronic illness leaves you thinking about and mourning “the old you.” A lot of times, we forget that it gives you the opportunity to create new versions of yourself, too.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.