Ideas for Finding Happiness and Gratitude Despite Pulmonary Fibrosis

Ideas for Finding Happiness and Gratitude Despite Pulmonary Fibrosis

younger than 30

Following a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), days filled with happiness and gratitude can rare. After my own IPF diagnosis in early 2016, I had many days of confusion, anger, and fear of what my life as a young adult would look like. I remember this vividly, and as a result, it causes my heart to ache for those newly diagnosed with this cruel disease.

The days and weeks following a diagnosis can be extremely challenging, as can coping with the inevitable progression of this disease. During tough moments, it is important to find, and be mindful of, ways to experience happiness and gratitude. As a young adult living with IPF, I know and understand firsthand that this is easier said than done.

This disease can be so cruel and unfair. Not only does it physically rob you of your ability to breathe, but it impacts many other aspects of your life as well, such as your emotional and social sphere. Sadly, if you are part of a pulmonary fibrosis community, whether it’s an online group, the PF News forums, or an in-person support group through your local treatment center, this disease has another way of reminding us how cruel it can be. If you are part of one of these communities, it is likely you’ve bonded with friends who have lost their battle to this disease, which is a painful reminder of how precious each day is.

With so many difficulties and struggles that patients with IPF/PF face, it is important to hold onto the things that bring you joy and to seek out creative options for finding happiness and gratitude amid the turmoil.

Following are some ideas to help patients and caregivers find, document, and reflect on the things that bring them happiness and gratitude despite living with IPF/PF:

  • Take time for yourself and “unplug”: I recently had my first experience with mindfulness practices, and part of that was a discussion about the importance of unplugging ourselves from the constant connection to electronics. I admit that I am part of a generation that is always attached to a device, whether it is a cellphone, laptop, or some other form of technology that connects and makes me constantly available to others. Since this discussion, I have been more intentional about putting my phone down and not always checking it. This has helped me focus on more tasks for me, while giving me time to do joy-inducing things that I have neglected. Taking time for you and enjoying self-care isn’t always easy, but it is important to indulge in the things that bring you happiness.
  • Mindfulness practices: The actual practice of mindfulness can bring people a lot of joy and gratitude, as it clears the mind from the constant clutter of the world around us. After being led in some mindfulness practices this past week, my mind felt a lot clearer, and I was able to put things into perspective a little easier. I also found that it slowed my racing mind down and enabled me to focus on what was important in my life: family, friends, work, and my emotional well-being. Even a few minutes of mindfulness each day can be transformative for finding happiness and gratitude amid the chaos of life with a chronic illness.
  • #100daysofhappy: This hashtag is being used all over social media to join people together in documenting 100 days of happiness in their lives. It is not a new phenomenon and is likely being used in different ways or with different hashtags, but the premise is the same: documenting something that makes you happy for 100 days in a row. They don’t have to be grand things; it can be as small as being thankful for the sun shining or for eating a good meal. Documenting this also gives people a way to reflect back on all the reasons in their lives to be happy. I am going to try this in a few weeks!
  • Keep a gratitude journal: There are templates of gratitude journals available to purchase, or you can just start writing what you are grateful for in a regular notebook. This is a practice many people do before they go to bed each night, documenting something small they are grateful for. I love the concept, but personally, I have not been able to keep up with an entry each night. That said, it is something I hope to try again in the next few months.

Do you have additional ideas to find happiness and gratitude in your life, despite living with IPF/PF? Please continue this discussion and share your ideas in our PF forums.

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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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6 comments

  1. Joyce Douglas says:

    Thank you Charlene for your hints and ideas of how to cope more with our illness of IPF. The idea of unplugging from our electronics is a very good one. One that I try to do and do feel it helps appreciate my life more when I contact others who are not on electronics and discuss not my illness, but more my time of being community involved. I used to write a gratitude journal but have got away from that. Possibly I should go back to doing that. When we write down in a journal what we appreciate about something then that something is remembered longer and we are appreciative about other things as well.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Joyce,

      It is wonderful to hear from you, thank you for reading my column and getting in touch with me. I’m so glad to hear the hints and ideas resonated with you, and I am already looking forward to ‘unplugging’ this weekend at my cottage and being surrounded by my family. Sadly, I don’t do this near enough but part of that is because people (ie. family, friends) panic if I don’t answer my phone for a prolonged period of time which I think is a habit I’ve created unfortunately. Glad you practice being away from electronics regularly, it certainly helps chatting with others beyond just our illness, doesn’t it? I think I am going to go back to writing in a gratitude journal as well, although I’ve been bad at maintaining this in the past. I’ll give it another try though!

      Take good care and thanks, as always, for connecting!
      Charlene.

  2. I am not certain where you’re getting your info, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time finding out more or working out more.
    Thank you for magnificent info I was in search of this
    info for my mission.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi there,

      Thanks so much for reading my column and for your kind words! My columns are all written based on my own experience of living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), so I am happy to hear that my writing is helpful for you 🙂
      Take care,
      Charlene.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Bridget,

      Thanks for writing and welcome to the PF News site! This site and our forums (www.pulmonaryfibrosisnews.com/forums) are filled with amazing people and very supportive patients, caregivers and professionals alike. Feel free to write any time and let us know if there is something in particular we should be writing about that would be helpful. Take good care, Charlene.

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