Shifting Priorities Is Key to Being Comfortable in My Chronically Ill Body

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by Eleanor Bird |

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For the first few years after I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) in 2017, I always felt an ongoing battle between the desire to go out and have fun and the need to look after myself. I was constantly walking the line between pushing myself just enough and pushing myself too far.

I was frequently reminded of the importance of taking it easy and listening to my body, such as when I’d get a cold or tonsillitis and couldn’t shake it off for weeks. But I never enjoyed the process of looking after myself and resting up; it was just something I needed to do.

Whenever I turned down a social engagement because I didn’t feel up to it, I would sit there and resent my illness and hope that the next time, I’d be able to join in. I hadn’t yet learned the importance of self-care with PH.

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But now, at the age of 26, and after living with my condition for several years, I’m slowly learning to enjoy giving my body what it needs.

For years, I thought the key was finding balance, which for me translated to doing as much as I could get away with and resting up when I had to. But now I feel as though my priorities have genuinely shifted. Looking after my body isn’t something I have to do, it’s something I love to do. And deciding to stay in instead of going out is an opportunity to nourish myself — a key change in mindset geared toward self-care with PH.

In many ways, my chronic illness has freed me from the intense pressure that many young people feel to have a jam-packed social life, party, travel, and have a million friends.

After my diagnosis, when I didn’t feel like partying all the time and as a result felt isolated from certain friend groups, I experienced a lot of grief. Now, I’m grateful to have a small circle of friends that truly understand my illness and my need to take it easy.

I’m lucky to be free from the guilt that many people experience when they say no to an invitation or require a “duvet day.” I have learned not to consider myself lazy or antisocial, instead framing these decisions more positively as a proactive form of self-care.

Obviously, you don’t need to be seriously ill to break out of these thought patterns, but having a heavy sense of perspective and a real understanding of the necessity of looking after your body definitely helps.

I feel as though I am finally at peace with the fact that my body has different needs than most people my age do, and I enjoy fulfilling those needs. I am grateful that I’ve learned the true joy of rest.

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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.

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