With PH, It’s Important to Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t
“Auntie B, come catch me!”
My nephew yelled this, already off to a quick head start. Luckily, my sister was there to chase after him and take my place. I started thinking about how badly I wish I could run after him and play tag. How could I explain to a 4-year-old that I can’t run after him? How could I tell him that a simple game and running would make me dizzy and sick?
Moments like this make me hate PH and the fact that I’m on oxygen. It’s still hard for me to believe that I am unable to run without seeing black spots in front of my eyes from dizziness. My nephew turned back around and said, “Come on, just try.” All I could say were the words I hate the most, “I can’t.”
It doesn’t help my mental health when I find myself wishing things were different in these moments. I easily become angry toward my body when I think about all the things I could once do. It’s almost impossible not to think about the things I enjoyed before. My hobbies shaped who I was and gave me a sense of purpose.
Being a student athlete was a large part of my identity. I played ice hockey for my high school and state team and was traveling almost every single weekend for tournaments. Hockey was my outlet for anxiety and any anger and frustration I felt. I tried my hardest to push through any chest discomfort, breathlessness, and exhaustion because I wasn’t ready to give up playing. My symptoms eventually got to a point where they couldn’t be ignored.
When I was given oxygen, my world felt like it was turned upside down. I knew there was no going back to sports in the same way I once did. For months, I focused much of my attention on what I couldn’t do. I was frustrated with myself, had frequent outbursts of anger, became jealous of others, felt more depressed than I ever had, and wanted to be away from those who were able to live their lives so carelessly.
When I talked about how depressed and frustrated I felt, my therapist suggested I “write it all out.” I found that I truly enjoyed writing. It was a great outlet for my feelings and a way for me to express what I was holding on to for so long. Getting everything down on paper felt like a sigh of relief. I found a creative side to me that I always had but was too busy to recognize. Not only was writing an outlet for me, but it soon was able to help others who read my columns.
I rediscovered different interests that didn’t have anything to do with my physical activity level. I realized that I really love baking. Now I’m finding new recipes on Pinterest to actually try versus before, when I would just save the Pins and never make them. I’ve also found more time in my life to read. I’ve always loved reading but used to only have time for the books that teachers assigned.
Feeling like I had to find myself all over again once seemed like an impossible task. Little did I know that it wasn’t so much about finding myself again; it was more about focusing on the hobbies and activities that I could do comfortably, instead of dwelling in my depression and anger over what I couldn’t. I was surprised to realize that the hobbies I enjoy now have been a part of my life all along.
If you are feeling stuck while trying to find things you enjoy, remember the worst way to start is by focusing on the things you “can’t” do. Think about hobbies you have always enjoyed, or wanted to enjoy but maybe didn’t have the time. You don’t need to start over again; you just need to look into what has always been there.
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.