How to Help Yourself and Let Others Help You When Life Gets Tough

For a patient with a life-threatening illness, there is nothing more difficult than asking others to help you with a task that you were once able to do independently. Having to do this highlights the fact that as a chronic illness progresses, including pulmonary fibrosis (PF), a patient’s physical abilities often regress.

The regression can be gradual or rapid, but regardless of how quickly things change, it can bring on some pretty intense emotional turmoil. When things get tough emotionally or physically, it’s easy to feel like life has become overwhelmingly difficult. It’s important to be mindful of ways to help counter these thoughts and identify ways to help yourself feel better. It is also important to think of ways that others can help you when PF-related issues become overwhelming or tough to handle.

Here are some tips to help you through difficult periods:

Don’t feel guilty for being selfish and stating what you need.
This is arguably one of the hardest things to do as a patient. There are many things a chronic illness patient may feel guilty about, including asking others for help, saying no when help is requested or not attending social functions. The fact is, you cannot do what you physically could before your diagnosis. Tell others how they can help you, and those who love you will want to. Just be careful not to take advantage of one person’s help, as this might burn them out, and spread your needs out across your network so the responsibility can be shared.

MORE: Four tried-and-true tips for dealing with a chronic illness

Let go of not being able to be there for others right now.
Naturally if you ask for help, you are going to want to return the favor by helping others. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible when you are living with a life-threatening illness. Wanting to be there for others emotionally and physically is a special part of friendship, and not being able to reciprocate is quite difficult. However, it’s important to let go of the fact you can’t be there for others and put yourself first.

Let others know that just because you appear well, doesn’t mean you are.
Many chronic illnesses are invisible, which means friends and family can’t know how you are doing unless you are honest with them. It’s easy to get upset with others who assume you’re feeling well, but they don’t know any different. Help them by sharing how you’re feeling on the inside, regardless of how you look on the outside.

Process emotions as they come and let others know about them.
Identifying someone with whom you can be completely vulnerable with during this journey is very important. Many emotions, thoughts and fears flood patients on a regular basis as they are learning to cope with a life-threatening illness, and working through them with others is necessary. Intense emotions can happen at the most inconvenient times, but it’s important not to subdue them. Quietly excuse yourself and find somewhere with a bit more privacy and allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling.

MORE: Three professionals to talk to before traveling with pulmonary fibrosis

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 another 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.

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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