I’ve Made a Mental Note to Take Care of My Mental Health

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by Colleen Steele |

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As a co-moderator for the Pulmonary Hypertension News Forums, I’ve encouraged and taken part in many hot topics over the past three years. During that time, I’ve noticed one topic resurfaces often, and it always triggers great responses.

Mental health and wellness spur a conversation that pulmonary hypertension (PH) patients and their caregivers often feel more comfortable having with one another than with someone outside the PH community.

Why is that? Perhaps our perception of society’s expectations causes anxiety, stress, and depression. When we subconsciously begin viewing these imagined external expectations as law while trying to battle a serious illness, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

Something as minor as an unmade bed, a skipped shower, a take-out meal instead of home-cooked, or some other little to-do not completed can turn a physically bad day into one that’s emotionally difficult, too.

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My son was diagnosed with PH at 8 and received a heart and double-lung transplant six years later. As his caregiver, I can relate to feeling pressured to do more than I can handle in a day.

Some of the questions I sometimes ask myself to shake off the anxiety: Whose expectations am I trying to meet? My own or someone else’s? Who will notice my lack of achievement other than myself? Why can’t I do a little now and a little later? Who says I have to do things a certain way?

I recently read something that made my questions feel validated.

A 2020 post by social media blogger Kate Scott became viral when she responded to a question on Quora, a question-and-answer website.

The question was, “Has a therapist ever told you something completely unexpected?” Kate’s answer was, “Run the dishwasher twice.”

She explained that during a session, her therapist asked her what she struggles with. Kate was embarrassed that she had nothing profound to say other than the simple truth. “Honestly? The dishes. It’s stupid, I know, but the more I look at them the more I CAN’T do them because I’ll have to scrub them before I put them in the dishwasher, because the dishwasher sucks, and I just can’t stand to scrub the dishes.”

She expected even her therapist would judge her for this, but ‌instead he nodded in understanding and calmly suggested, “Run the dishwasher twice.”

He pointed out there is no rule stating she can’t run her dishwasher more than once.

She returned home and stopped following arbitrary rules, which ironically helped her ‌accomplish things again.

Only when she was in a healthier place did she rinse off her dishes and place them back in the dishwasher properly, therefore eliminating the need for a second run.

Kate’s conclusion is powerful. “But ‌at a time when living was a struggle instead of a blessing, I learned an incredibly important lesson: There are no rules. Run the dishwasher twice.”

I highly recommend reading Kate’s full post. It’s worth the read! Then ask yourself, “What arbitrary rules can I break to make tough days feel less overwhelming?”

I’m heeding this advice by tackling some big tasks I have been putting off because I had persuaded myself they had to be completed quickly. Reminding myself I can accomplish great things in small steps has helped me put a big dent in a previously untouched pile of to-dos.

That being said, I hope PH patients consider their physical challenges and peacefully accept that there is no rule that resting is not allowed. In your case, especially, it’s often necessary, and the only person who needs convincing is you. If anyone tells you otherwise, suggest that they make and follow their own rules and leave you to your own devices.

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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