Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to find out who your real friends are. And, although living with PH sucks, it is a really good obstacle for weeding out people who don’t belong in your life. From friends and family to partners, PH helps separate the weak from the strong, the compassionate from the unsupportive.
When I was diagnosed, it became clear who couldn’t handle my diagnosis and who was willing to try to be there for me. The issue was, I could barely handle my own diagnosis. Actually, I wasn’t handling it well at all. (After my RHC, I had to have a nurse stay with me, because my file noted that I was a suicide risk.) Because of this, I felt it was safer to push people away. I couldn’t ask anyone to help me through this when I could barely fathom what I was going through. I was on a solo trip, riding the hot mess express and thought it would be selfish to drag anyone down with me.
For support, I’ve mostly relied on my parents, my best friend, Melissa, and my now ex-partner. When my relationship ended, I realized how badly I needed more friends. You see, when I was diagnosed, I read a lot of self-improvement books for people living with life-threatening diseases. Many of the books I read discussed studies linking a good support system to survival in cancer patients. And, yes, while PH is different from cancer, I believe these are important factors for anyone facing a serious illness.
According to an article post in the Huffington Post, social support can help ease the pain and symptoms for breast cancer patients. A strong support system also was found to help improve the quality of life among late-stage breast cancer patients. Supportive friendships also may help improve survival among breast cancer patients. According to the Huffington Post, “… researchers determined that while the quantity of social ties a woman has impacts mortality more, the importance of quality shouldn’t be discounted. Indeed, women with small networks and low levels of support were 61 percent more likely to die from breast cancer and other causes than those with small networks and high levels of support.”
When I found myself down a member in my support team, I was worried that I would wither away, so I did something that terrified me. I went out on social media and asked if anyone wanted to reconnect or become friends.
As a self-proclaimed hermit, it felt really scary to put my needs out there. I also worried that no one would want to be my friend or reconnect, especially because my life feels so much more off-base compared to my peers. But I was pleasantly surprised by how many people reached out with friendship and kindness.
Even though I find myself in a confusing situation, it has helped so much to have the support of friends, both new and old. I have found it beneficial to be able to meet up with wonderful people, grab a tea and catch up on life. It also has been exciting to be around so many kind and strong like-minded women.
I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has been kind enough to grab onto my olive branch. Exchanging stories, hugs, laughs, friendship and even a few tears has been much more therapeutic than I could have imagined.
And for those of you who find yourselves longing for better friendship and support, don’t be afraid to take the first step. You might be surprised by how many people have been waiting for your invitation.
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.