Finding Balance Between Optimism and Pessimism

Colleen Steele avatar

by Colleen Steele |

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There are times in life when I believe it is necessary to sit on the fence between optimism and pessimism. A pulmonary hypertension (PH) diagnosis and the battle that follows is one of those situations.

My husband, Brian, recently put a creative spin on this perspective when he participated in “30 Days of PH,” a special project we’re publishing in recognition of PH Awareness Month. Using a conversation between two “Peanuts” comic strip characters, he related their points of view to life with PH. Linus says, “Nothing goes on forever. All good things come to an end.” Charlie Brown asks optimistically, “When do the good things start?”

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with PH, it can feel like the end to all good things in life. With the knowledge that your serious health issues are here to stay, you might feel that life as you know it is over, and so are your dreams. These feelings are normal and part of the grieving process that many of us experience throughout the PH journey.

You might struggle to be optimistic when you receive your initial diagnosis, but in time, you will look forward to good things again. With help from your medical team, treatments, self-advocacy, and PH community support, hope will take form.

Hope is an optimistic force that many PHers believe is as powerful in fighting the disease as any medication you might take. You will rely on hope time and time again, just like Charlie Brown when he trusts that “this time,” Lucy will let him kick the football.

PH is the metaphorical football that you wish to kick so you can go tackle life. Sometimes it’s stable, and other times it knocks you flat on your back. Finding a healthy balance between optimism and pessimism is the trick to getting up, dusting yourself off, and getting back in the game.

PH knowledge is powerful pessimism. Learn the facts, review statistics, and study the treatment options — including the inevitable side effects. Know the enemy! Part of PH awareness is facing the hard truths and the less-than-optimistic realities. Trying to ignore them will leave you feeling more stunned and helpless every time it knocks you off your feet. But accepting that it might happen will help you develop defensive optimism (hope) that the PHighter in you will survive. Keep your eye on the ball (PH), but don’t forget to live your life and have fun, too.

The PH community does an outstanding job of helping one another maintain a healthy balance between optimism and pessimism. Read the “30 Days of PH” series for a quick dose of hope, but if you want the full PHamily effect, join the Pulmonary Hypertension News Forums.

There, you will receive PH knowledge, support, and hope, and even partake in laughter. For example, after reading my husband’s article, forum member Carol Volckmann delighted us by sharing a story with a similar theme. It goes something like this:

A young boy who is notoriously pessimistic is placed in a brightly colored room. It is filled with every toy a little boy might wish for. But he just sat there and didn’t touch anything. When asked why he wasn’t playing with the toys, he answered, “Something might break!”

A child known for his optimism is placed in a dark and empty room. It is filled with a huge pile of manure. Excited and laughing, the little boy rushes in and gets on top of the manure. He is asked why he is so happy, to which he responds, “With this much manure, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!”

There are variations of this story on social media, but you get the point. Carol continued with an admission, “I am still looking for that pony.” This is how many conversations take off in the PH forums, with relatable stories and friendly comments.

If you are hesitant about joining, I promise it isn’t all doom and gloom. We keep each other hopeful by sharing the good days when PH is successfully kicked out of the way. Harsh realities are discussed with honesty but balanced with compassion and understanding.

We “hope” you will join our PHamily in the forums, and remember, November is PH Awareness Month!


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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