I’m Slowing Down Like My Life Depends on It
I’ve always considered myself an “on” person, somebody who says yes to the boss or co-worker, friend or relative, thing or event asking for my attention and energy. I’m like a faucet running all the time, never slowing down to make time for myself.
Being on all the time fills my schedule to the brim, yet I have never felt like that pace sapped my energy. The faucet would flow and I would attend to most of what needed to be done, both professionally and personally, and wake up and repeat that cycle the next day. Then one spring day in 2016, I found myself in urgent care. Nearly two weeks later, I received a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension (PH).
PH affects the heart and lungs, and some of the symptoms I experience are shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and fatigue.
In the weeks after receiving my diagnosis, I didn’t think about how PH would affect my daily energy levels. Honestly, I spent more time concerned about my life expectancy and when I could return to work than I did about how much a chronic illness would force me to make some changes. I know how to navigate life with scoliosis and a stutter, but I didn’t have a plan about how I was going to move through the world with PH — and I didn’t want one. I didn’t want to have to make any change that was going to take me off course.
The faucet stayed on for roughly five years after my diagnosis. I continued making work and other obligations my priorities, rarely making time for exercise, even though I knew it would have been good for my health and my quality of life.
Over the last six weeks, I’ve noticed my stress levels have risen, my anxiety has spiked, and I am exhausted. Stress and anxiety raise my heart rate and contribute to chest pain and shortness of breath, which can lead to a PH-related flare-up.
Now, here we are, 20 months into a pandemic, and it has taken me this long to realize that I need to make my life and my health my priorities and begin slowing down.
It sounds silly, but giving yourself permission to stop and breathe and focus on yourself can be scary.
Fall seems like nature preparing for its own season of rest and renewal. For me, though, fall always meant gearing up, getting ready to go back to school, and tackling new subjects. While summer was about taking time off and basking in carefree, sun-drenched days, fall meant being “on,” setting goals, and getting as much as possible completed before the calendar year ended.
But this fall, while I won’t be able to turn the faucet completely off, I’m going to try to learn to regulate the pressure a little and control the flow, make time to catch up with friends, be more flexible when it comes to other social and professional obligations, and get lost in a good book at night.
My body is trying to tell me something. I need to start listening and take those moments to catch my breath. I need to slow down.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @mnaple.
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.