Living Alone With a Chronic Illness

Eleanor Bird avatar

by Eleanor Bird |

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Three years ago when I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension at age 22, I never would have predicted I’d one day want to live alone. At the time, I was terrified and became reliant on my family for support and comfort. 

A lot has changed since then, and I’m grateful to be at a place both physically and mentally that makes it feasible for me to live alone.

A month ago, I moved into a studio flat in London. I’ve lived with roommates and partners before, but never alone. It felt like a big step. Living alone probably feels daunting for anyone the first time, but having a serious illness certainly makes it more complicated.

I must consider a number of things. Firstly, what if something happens with my health? Luckily, my family lives relatively close, and friends live around the corner. But I know my parents are anxious about this. 

Another thing to worry about is loneliness. While anyone living alone can have this problem, someone with serious health issues might feel more strongly about it. Being unable to vocalize the little symptoms and worries each day can make one feel they are carrying a heavy burden alone. I try to combat this by regularly checking in with people I know are only a phone call away.

The biggest challenge for me is being solely accountable for the lifestyle choices I make. If I’m having a down day, no one is there to make sure I eat well and get outside for some exercise. It’s completely up to me.

On the flip side, it feels great to be in complete control over my routine and habits. I have had to become disciplined and make a genuine effort to cook healthy, nutritious meals. It helps that I can make sure the kitchen is stocked only with low-sodium, PH-appropriate foods!

With all these challenges, one might wonder why I didn’t just continue to live with family. What was the big draw of moving back to the city, particularly in the middle of the pandemic?

The answer is that for me, it’s thrilling to be able to be independent, and I want to make the most of it. Secondly, it’s important for me to live in the present moment.

Of course, I could live at home, save money, and hope to one day buy a house of my own, but is that really what I want? If having a serious health problem taught me anything, it’s that I should make the life I want a reality — now!

The pandemic has been a scary and confusing experience for everyone, particularly those living with underlying conditions. It is extra important for us to be cautious. However, it is also important for those of us living with life-limiting conditions to avoid putting our lives on hold.

Many talk about 2020 being a write-off. For me, it is vital that we find a way to live exciting and fulfilling lives while being safe. And this city is where I feel most alive. 


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Charvie avatar


Hi Eleanor, I was diagnosed with PAH last year (age 22) too. And as I've gone through 4 surgeries this past year I've come to the realisation that I'll live with PAH for a very long time. I want to move out too, but my family vehemently protests the whole idea. Thank you for the blog, it was very real and relatable. I hope I can take the step too :)

Mike Duffy avatar

Mike Duffy

I’m so grateful I came across this news letter. Very inspiring to say the least. I was diagnosed with advanced PAH in Nov 2021 and working through accepting this. I’m also living alone with family and friends nearby. The last thing I want it’s to cause them more worry. I’m in a large 4 BR house and the yard to boot. A small place sounds appealing. Actually, a nice motor home would be the best. Thank you


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