Choosing Friends Who Support Healthy Habits as an IPF Patient
Like with all chronic illnesses, patients living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) have a lot to contend with. Although IPF is a progressive and life-threatening lung disease, the physical challenges it presents, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and cough, are often not the most difficult aspect. At least, they haven’t been during my five years as an IPF patient.
Learning how to efficiently use supplemental oxygen has been difficult for me. The other day, I was discussing with fellow patients over Zoom the challenges supplemental oxygen can present during even the most basic tasks, such as showering. Unless you’re living with oxygen, it’s difficult to comprehend how hard it is to be tethered to a cannula as your literal lifeline.
The chronic, dry cough common to most IPF patients has also presented its own set of challenges in the last 18 months. People have shied away from me amid the pandemic, unsure if my cough is the result of COVID-19.
The physical aspects of this disease are one thing, but sometimes the way others treat me takes an even greater emotional toll.
The social implications of IPF are particularly challenging. I occasionally have to miss out on gatherings, especially if someone is ill or I’m too tired. Other times, activities are too physically demanding.
For those with lung disease, it’s crucial to your mental health to surround yourself with supportive friends who want to see you thrive, despite your limitations. As someone who is always working on personal growth, I appreciate the friends who encourage my crazy ideas. Personally, I’ve found it really difficult to be around friends who aren’t in a good mental place themselves.
It may sound harsh to want my friends to support me even when they’re struggling. That isn’t my intention; I will always prioritize supporting my close friends when I have the capacity to do so. However, chronic illness patients often have so much to deal with that it can be hard to take on others’ challenges, too.
When a friend is struggling with their own mental health difficulties, they may not be as supportive as you want them to be, which can feel discouraging. This is especially true when you’re facing a disease-related obstacle. For example, many patients struggle with diet, and proper nutrition is important in managing IPF. Eating well isn’t always easy, but it can be made easier with friends’ support and accountability.
Recently, I have adjusted my diet to include more vegetables and less red meat because I’ve read it may possibly reduce IPF symptoms. But it’s been hard. I haven’t felt supported by some people in my life who don’t prioritize diet and exercise, because they aren’t in a positive mental place. That’s been hard to accept, and I’ve needed to turn elsewhere for support as a result.
IPF patients are forced to prioritize this debilitating lung disease, and it’s hard to find the energy or mental capacity to focus on other aspects of our lives. When we begin a new protocol, such as a diet or exercise regimen, in hopes of better managing our disease, it’s really helpful to have the support of our friends.
This has been a tough lesson for me to learn, but from one patient to another, surround yourself with friends who are able to support you. It’s hard enough to manage every aspect of this disease. Dealing with anything but supportive friendships may be too much. Select your tribe carefully.
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.