These past six weeks have been difficult as I continue to recover from a horrible ordeal with both pneumonia and influenza. While I’ll never know how I came into contact with these viruses, I’ve become paranoid about touching surfaces such as grocery cart handles and doorknobs because of my fear of getting sick again. This flu season, I’ve written about the importance of staying healthy while living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
While I am slowly getting better, I have had pulmonary function tests, which revealed permanent damage to my lungs. Any loss of function is detrimental to a patient living with IPF, and some of my values have dropped significantly. I will try hard to regain that function through pulmonary rehab and I know that I have some control over how I handle this setback. In addition to contracting pneumonia and influenza, I contracted strep throat on the day I had a port-a-cath placed in my chest. My throat was incredibly sore when I woke up from the sedation because of the breathing tube and the swelling from the the strep throat.
The last few weeks have been some of the toughest since my IPF diagnosis. I’ll always remember my first acute exacerbation in May 2017. Equally, I won’t forget how hard it has been to recover from these recent illnesses. I’ve tried to keep my mind in a positive place and prevent the frustration, sadness, and pain from overwhelming me and leading me into a state of depression. As anyone living with a chronic illness knows, this is way easier said than done.
Thinking positively is an important part of your physical and mental health when battling a chronic illness such as IPF. I believe in finding a balance between a positive mindset and facing the reality of living with this disease. Sometimes, when it seems impossible to remain positive, I remind myself of strategies that can help.
Here are some of the ways I try to stay positive during my darkest moments with IPF:
- Positive self-talk: Humans are compassionate beings, and we speak kindly to others who are having a tough time. We encourage them and highlight their positive traits to show support. Have you ever tried talking to yourself in the way you might speak to a friend going through a tough time? It might be an unusual approach, but it’s one way to foster more positive self-talk because we should offer ourselves the same encouragement, praise, and compassion that we give to others.
- Self-care to boost confidence: Many people struggle with self-confidence, and I often wish I could alleviate their struggles. Self-care is essential to our coping abilities in stressful situations. To help maintain a positive mindset, I set aside time for self-care, which also boosts my confidence. For example, I may book myself an appointment to get my nails or hair done.
- Do something positive for others: I like to make a gesture or offer practical assistance to brighten another person’s day. Positivity and happiness are contagious, and the endorphins that come from helping others make us feel good as well.
- Refrain from self-sabotaging behaviors and thoughts: Most of us are guilty of this, but keeping a positive mindset to battle a chronic illness leaves no room for self-sabotage. Sometimes I’m quick to say, “I can’t do that,” whether I physically don’t feel up to it or my anxiety is telling me it’s impossible. However, I’ve learned that refraining from the negative self-talk and reframing the “I can’t” statements allow me to accomplish something. Instead, I try to think of tasks that I can complete. Reframing makes a big difference in my ability to think positively during difficult times.
What other things do you do to help you remain positive on your IPF/PF journey?
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.