Remembering that It’s OK to Not Be OK
Since my pulmonary hypertension (PH) diagnosis, others have told me repeatedly how strong I am. But on some days, I don’t feel as strong as they think I am.
Even the strong grow weak and weary. But that doesn’t mean I’m not strong as I battle my PH. I have my days, just like anyone else.
Society tells us to be strong all the time. But I’m here to inform you that it’s OK to not be OK! It has taken me years to acknowledge that, and even now I continue to work on it.
When my daughter was a young child, I remember telling her, “Smile and the world smiles with you.” But we quickly learned that this was not always the case. I should have taught her, “Cry and you cry alone.”
Dealing with a chronic illness like PH is tough. There are no rainbow sprinkles. I have days when I break. Yes, me. As a matter of fact, I often cry.
Talking about these feelings and allowing my body to feel these emotions rather than holding it all in helps. Keeping feelings in and stopping myself from crying when I need to can wreak havoc on my mental health.
Mental health is often relegated to the back burner as we go about our daily lives. Nevertheless, I think mental health is more in the spotlight now than it previously was. It used to be a somewhat taboo subject, something most people didn’t want to discuss. Because I work in nursing, I know that many patients and their families felt uncomfortable when topics related to mental health came up. More often than not, they would change the subject. So, let’s talk about it.
Last year, I started seeing a therapist to help me find new ways to balance my life, along with coping mechanisms that work for me. She was shocked to learn that I was diagnosed with PH in 2005 and additional chronic illnesses in the following years. Now, she reminds me during each visit that I am dealing with more than most people, in addition to the normal stresses of daily life. Anyone would have difficulty balancing all of this.
It is normal for people to feel sad. Sometimes life just sucks, and there is no other way to put it. Additionally, it is common to feel sad, frustrated, or anxious when you or a loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
While I continue to have bouts with my emotions, I attempt to move forward and focus on the positives as I realize that remaining in these difficult emotional states can be harmful.
People living with chronic illnesses often have a higher chance of developing depression. According to the Cleveland Clinic, an estimated one-third of individuals who live with a serious medical condition have some symptoms of depression.
Depression is more than just feeling sad or anxious; it is an illness that needs to be treated. The National Institute of Mental Health shares some common symptoms of depression. I tend to struggle with anxiety more often than with depression. But I realize that I do experience some of the symptoms of depression at times. Thankfully, it isn’t a constant battle for me.
Dr. Noah Greenspan discusses this topic in one of his podcasts. I think that you might find it useful to listen to. What coping mechanisms have you found helpful? Feel free to share in the comments below.
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.