“You just have to be patient.”
I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard this throughout my years of managing chronic illness. Although I have 26 years of experience with doctor’s appointments, testing, surgeries, medications, and the many joys that come with maintaining my health, I haven’t quite perfected the act of “being patient.”
What exactly does it look like to be patient? How can I ease the difficulty of waiting? How can I be patient when it feels as though my whole life is a giant test of patience?
“Being patient” often leads to anxious thinking. Waiting around is extremely difficult. It’s even more difficult when it feels as though the state of our physical health relies heavily on test results and the outcomes of procedures. It becomes frustrating and feels as though we don’t have much control over external factors, such as how quickly things get done.
This lack of control easily makes our anxiety take hold of our thoughts. While waiting, our minds jump to the worst-case scenario. We can become fearful and ask ourselves numerous questions.
“What if my numbers didn’t improve? What if my blood work comes back abnormal? What if this scan shows that I need to have a surgery? Is the state of my health declining? Are my pulmonary function tests lower than last time? What would this mean? Will these medication side effects ever go away? Will I be stuck feeling this way for the rest of my life? Is it even worth it to take these medications when they cause other side effects?”
Not only is our patience tested when waiting around for medication side effects to subside, test results, procedures, surgeries, and doctor’s visits, but also our patience is tested every day by our own bodies. We need to learn to have patience with external things that we don’t have much control over, as well as the internal struggles like the ones with our bodies.
Having patience with our own bodies is one of the hardest things to “be patient” about. Unfortunately, many of us are used to having a higher number of bad days. We become impatient with ourselves and with our own bodies when we are unable to do something that we may have been able to do a few days before. We practice patience when waiting for our oxygen levels to increase but easily can get scared when it takes longer than usual to get up to a “normal” saturation. Waiting to feel better is the most difficult wait of all.
Patience with my own body is the hardest part of managing my illness. When waiting around for test results, for doctors to read reports, or for medication to work, we can gain some sense of control by checking in and calling our doctors, asking about side effects, and getting direct answers to ease our minds. We can get some type of time frame about when reports will be finalized and work our way through the anxiety that comes with the waiting game.
But, when it comes to the state of our physical health and our own bodies, it’s hard to be patient with ourselves because it’s a reminder that we don’t have much control over our bodies. This is the hardest reality to come to terms with.
“Being patient” is a lot easier said than done for someone living with a chronic illness. Patience is complicated by feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety, and fear. It’s only normal for these emotions to take the spotlight in our minds when waiting around. I constantly remind myself to stay as present as possible and redirect my thoughts when I catch them drifting to the worst-case scenarios.
When you’re trying to be patient and are experiencing challenging emotions, just remind yourself that the only thing you have control over is the moment you’re in. Having patience looks different for everyone living with pulmonary hypertension and other chronic illnesses. It makes it a bit easier when we remain as mindful and present as possible amid the anticipation of what’s to come.
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.