The Stress of Social Obligations and Chronic Illness

The Stress of Social Obligations and Chronic Illness
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As much as I desperately want to be involved in my friends’ social lives and participate in work events, charity fundraisers, and milestone celebrations such as weddings, stag and does, and baby showers, I find that lately, I have been feeling the stress of obligations. What is interesting in my reflection about this, though, is that technically, we aren’t obligated to do anything. We are all in control of our social calendars, and that means we can choose what we want to attend. This is true for everyone, and unfortunately, it must be especially true for those of us living with a chronic illness such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

I have been stuck lately in those feelings of obligation to friends, colleagues, and family. When I push myself to attend an event when maybe I shouldn’t, I can get into trouble physically. Since my IPF diagnosis, and considering that most of the time my body is chronically under-oxygenated, I cannot keep up with the social calendar I once had, although I desperately want to.

It is interesting because I think this sense of obligation is internal, meaning that no one expects me anywhere these days. Yet I feel as if I must push myself to do all of the things I would have done before IPF. If I am the only one putting this pressure on myself, is it fair to call it an obligation? If not, why do I feel so stressed to attend events that perhaps no one is expecting me to attend? I realize these are rhetorical questions, but I thought about it a lot over the weekend as I trekked a few hours from home for an event I promised to attend.

I remember feeling unwell the night before and thinking that the reason I was feeling unwell likely was that my body was telling me I needed rest. As a result, I probably should have skipped the event, which included spending multiple hours outdoors, although it was a gorgeous day with lots of walking around. As a result of going, I ended up in the hospital and experienced a setback that likely could have been avoided.

In response to questions about why I would push myself like this, I just kept saying: I felt obligated to go. This certainly is true of multiple events lately, not just this one. But the big question is: Why did I feel obligated to go? I know that the organizers of this event, like my friends and family, don’t expect me to attend things anymore, especially if I am having a hard time with my lungs.

Overall, it was a really interesting learning experience for me in the sense that I should have trusted my body on Friday night when I knew it was telling me I needed to rest. Once again, as I have felt as an IPF patient many times, I was caught between a mental desire to participate in something and the physical strain of my body needing rest.

As a result of this column, and after spending time reflecting on “obligations,” I think I am going to make a commitment to giving myself more grace in terms of feeling obligated to participate or attending something while living with a chronic illness. After all, I think I have come to the realization that we are the only ones putting pressure on ourselves, and the stress is unnecessary. To those of you reading this and struggling with social obligations, I challenge you to spend some time reflecting on whether or not you are the one causing yourself pressure, as I was. If you are, please give yourself some grace.

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Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis 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 Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

Thanks for stopping by my column! My name is Charlene Marshall and I was diagnosed officially with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) on April 7 2016 after 13 months of various tests, hospitalizations and misdiagnoses, such as bronchitis and asthma. Due to my age, the specialist disclosed that he was unsure how the IPF would manifest itself in terms of progression, and whether it would be fast or slow and what the course of my illness might look like. Not much has changed since then, meaning there is still a lot that remains unknown, which is largely due to my age and how “rare” it is for someone under 30 to receive a diagnosis of IPF. That being said, a lot has changed for me in the time since diagnosis and I am looking forward to sharing some of those changes with you through this online platform, and I invite you along for the ride! Throughout this column I intend to chronicle the experience of living with an invisible, yet fatal disease as a young adult and share some stories about how IPF has impacted every aspect of my life, both good and bad, thus far. I plan on highlighting the challenges (and where I can, the positives…) that come with living with IPF and the impact on social and intimate relationships, finances, family dynamics, facing mortality, infertility, travelling, medication side effects, career goals and so much more as it arises for me as a “new” patient. I hope others’ with similar experiences will reach out as no story trumps any other, nor should any go unheard. For now, let me leave you with some personal details about who I am, outside of my IPF diagnosis. I grew up in a small town in south-western Ontario and still live within Ontario, although in a much bigger city. My favorite sport is/was underwater hockey (yes, it is a thing: look it up on YouTube), I love working with people, I work full-time in the Social Work/Social Services field, I am an avid learner filled with heaps of curiosity for the world, which lead me to start my Masters Degree in 2014. I am in the last few months of my Masters Degree and am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Australia more than I’ve looked forward to anything before. Welcome to the shambles and chaos that is my life!
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Thanks for stopping by my column! My name is Charlene Marshall and I was diagnosed officially with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) on April 7 2016 after 13 months of various tests, hospitalizations and misdiagnoses, such as bronchitis and asthma. Due to my age, the specialist disclosed that he was unsure how the IPF would manifest itself in terms of progression, and whether it would be fast or slow and what the course of my illness might look like. Not much has changed since then, meaning there is still a lot that remains unknown, which is largely due to my age and how “rare” it is for someone under 30 to receive a diagnosis of IPF. That being said, a lot has changed for me in the time since diagnosis and I am looking forward to sharing some of those changes with you through this online platform, and I invite you along for the ride! Throughout this column I intend to chronicle the experience of living with an invisible, yet fatal disease as a young adult and share some stories about how IPF has impacted every aspect of my life, both good and bad, thus far. I plan on highlighting the challenges (and where I can, the positives…) that come with living with IPF and the impact on social and intimate relationships, finances, family dynamics, facing mortality, infertility, travelling, medication side effects, career goals and so much more as it arises for me as a “new” patient. I hope others’ with similar experiences will reach out as no story trumps any other, nor should any go unheard. For now, let me leave you with some personal details about who I am, outside of my IPF diagnosis. I grew up in a small town in south-western Ontario and still live within Ontario, although in a much bigger city. My favorite sport is/was underwater hockey (yes, it is a thing: look it up on YouTube), I love working with people, I work full-time in the Social Work/Social Services field, I am an avid learner filled with heaps of curiosity for the world, which lead me to start my Masters Degree in 2014. I am in the last few months of my Masters Degree and am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Australia more than I’ve looked forward to anything before. Welcome to the shambles and chaos that is my life!
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