I’m Learning Healthier Coping Mechanisms

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by Eleanor Bird |

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Physical and mental health are closely linked. Many people who struggle with long-term conditions like pulmonary hypertension (PH) also struggle with things like anxiety.

Both PH and anxiety can affect heart rate, creating a vicious cycle of rapid heart rate due to PH, which triggers anxiety, which in turn makes the heart beat even faster.

If you’re an overthinker like me, it’s easy to see every tiny symptom or bad day as disease progression. It can be exhausting to constantly talk yourself down from the worst-case scenario. 

It’s isolating to deal with serious health problems at an age in which all your friends are out partying. When I was diagnosed at 22, I went slightly into denial, refusing to process what was happening. I also refused to grieve.

I was determined for my life to remain unchanged, and I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms. I refused to talk about it. Only a couple of my friends knew, and I would become uncomfortable if they ever brought it up. Most of the people I spent time with had no idea what I was going through. I told myself it was just nice to be able to get away from everything related to PH and to pretend everything was fine, but in reality, it made me feel more alone.

Another unhealthy coping mechanism I developed was using romantic relationships as a crutch. I used long-term relationships to make me feel secure. I felt that if I had a boyfriend, my life and my future would somehow be normal. I clung to relationships because they gave me hope for a future that contained all the things I wanted most from life. But what I failed to realize was that no man could save me from my illness. 

When my relationship fell apart, I realized how dependent I had become. My significant other had been the only person I would voice my health fears to. Suddenly, I was more alone than ever. I went into panic mode and became a serial dater. I would go on dates, tell them up front about my health condition, and dare them to leave. (Most did. But in fairness, I might not be able to blame that entirely on PH.) I was in pain and I was scared. And I didn’t want to look fear in the face. Going out for weekday wines with people I had just met online seemed like a good distraction.

Only when my unhealthy attitude started to hurt those around me was I forced to have a wake-up call. I am happy to say I have found much healthier coping mechanisms. It turns out that talking about it helps — a lot! Through Instagram, I have found an amazing community of people all over the world struggling with chronic illness. I have been so inspired by the openness and bravery of the people I have come across that I have gone from refusing to talk about my health problems even with close friends to having a YouTube channel dedicated to raising awareness about all things PH. I’m proud of how far I’ve come.


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.


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