My anxiety about the future manifests in curious ways

After recognizing my feelings, I have a mantra to get through them

Anna Jeter avatar

by Anna Jeter |

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A few years ago, I shared an image on social media of my growing library. I love thrifting books just as much as I love reading them. It’s been a joy to invest in my collection of secondhand books in adulthood.

A friend and fellow chronic illness warrior commented on the post with an insight. They shared the idea that the collection might indicate some sort of belief in a permanent future. Owning a library of books that I can’t read in the immediate future was a way for me to invest in the idea of an intangible “someday.”

I think about this sentiment often. My ability to believe in the concept of my future self is heavily dependent on the stability of my health at any given time. Sometimes, when I’m considering buying a new piece of furniture or other substantial investment, I struggle to take the leap unless I’m in optimal health. Even then, I’m not always certain about it. It’s easy to believe I’ll be OK in a week, but what about in a month or a year? If things are about to go downhill for me, what’s the point?

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This dilemma works its way into the strangest spaces of my life. I’ve recently started knitting again, which was a small hobby of mine in childhood. But when I considered purchasing an expensive set of knitting needles, I hesitated. I had a few appointments coming up and felt like I shouldn’t hit the checkout button until I was assured that all was well.

This mindset, of course, is irrational. But I don’t want to jinx my future health by buying something to enjoy for years to come. I’m worried the universe will say, “Ha! You thought you’d have time to enjoy these? Think again!”

This tension was present when I was living with pulmonary hypertension for nearly two decades, before I received a heart-lung transplant in 2018. In those earlier years, decisions about the future were always intertwined with my health and often made at the last minute. Deciding whether to go to college was heavily influenced by the course of my disease progression. Even decisions like weekend plans depended on how I was feeling. I never really believed something would happen until it actually did.

Living with severe illness makes future-oriented thinking difficult. It can feel as if few aspects of my life and my body are reliable, which makes planning hard. But aside from pausing plans with friends or not knowing how I’ll feel in a couple months, the part that causes me the most grief is that I’m unable to picture myself in future iterations of my life.

I do my best to cope with these doubts and anxieties. One of my biggest fears is receiving news that I’m ailing from something fatal that can’t be treated or reversed. In response, I meditate on the idea that even if I face health changes, solutions can often be found, along with opportunities for recovery. Even if I do have setbacks, it doesn’t mean I won’t return to having functional health. That’s an important mantra for me as I attempt to visualize myself months or years down the road.

I also try to live each day for what it is. If I want to buy knitting needles or books, why not do it? Despite how it sometimes feels, I know that making these decisions has no impact on what tomorrow will bring. If nothing changes tomorrow, then I’ll have time to enjoy those things.

When I look at my books or my collection of art supplies, I can sense the accumulation of the nearly six years that have passed since my transplant. August will be a milestone that would’ve seemed inconceivable to me. It reminds me that anything is possible. I work hard to lean into that truth.

In case you’re wondering, I did end up buying those knitting needles. Now, as I prepare for a post-transplant checkup next month, I’ll work hard to visualize myself reading and knitting and living my life for many years to 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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


sylvia hudson avatar

sylvia hudson

Thank you for your article.I been putting off getting new kitchen cabinets but thinking what if tests I just had turn out to be horrible and I've spent all this money. I finally said go ahead and get cabinets. If the tests turn out horrible, I at least enjoyed the cabinets.

Irin Smith avatar

Irin Smith

Anna, I'm at a loss for words. I just feel a lot of pride for you that you made it and you thought so hard. And along the way you enjoyed some life. I watch my son who's 54 who has had PAH since COVID infection and or vaccines. Vaxines came first. There are times that I feel like you do and did. And he certainly feels that way. I'm almost 72 and I used to get excited over neat things to do with the house or patios. For him he's severely depressed and he works from home still. But he's suffering. He feels terrible everyday physically and mentally. And then I think of you since the age of four having difficult times and it makes me feel selfish.
I wish he would read some of these articles. He feels so alone and like there is no future. I hope this isn't making you feel down I just felt I wanted to say something to you.


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