Close Friends Can Provide Valuable Insight When We’re Anxious

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by Charlene Marshall |

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Friendships can change when chronic illnesses like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) enter the picture. Some might struggle to understand a friend’s illness, needs, and limitations. And the friend with the illness might change too, depending on how they cope.

However, I believe true friendships can withstand these challenges, and even help someone to overcome them.

I recently returned from visiting such a friend and her family on Canada’s East Coast. While we spent time being tourists, my favorite moments were just spending quality time together and talking in our pajamas over coffee.

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Choosing Friends Who Support Healthy Habits as an IPF Patient

One evening, I felt unwell and was trying to decide if I should go to the hospital. My friend is a nurse, and she confirmed that my vitals, oxygen levels, and heart and respiratory rates were normal. She said she would be willing to take me to the hospital, but she sensed how anxious I was becoming and told me that my state of mind likely wasn’t helping how I was feeling.

That caught me off guard because I never saw myself as an anxious person. But I have noticed that my anxiety has worsened since my IPF diagnosis in 2016.

For example, I always worry about what time it is so that I won’t miss taking my medications. If I’m not wearing my watch, or if there’s not a clock nearby, I often feel worried or unsettled. I am acutely aware of how my body feels, and if I feel a little off, I tend to fixate on what might be going on with me, even to the point of researching my symptoms, connecting with other patients, or calling my transplant team, My mind won’t settle down until I get an answer.

I also often feel anxious about how my disease will affect my social life. I worry about being invited to events, that people might not want to include me if I’m unable to do certain things, or canceling at the last minute because I am short of breath or suffering from fatigue.

My friend told me that given how much I’ve been through with my illness, my anxiety is understandable.

I hadn’t thought much about a difference between illness-related anxiety and generalized anxiety, but I think my friend might be right. I can see now that my IPF has contributed to my anxiety, and I realize now that others who aren’t chronically ill likely don’t experience these feelings.

My friend’s advice has meant so much to me. It has been so important to me to be able to see my anxiety for what it is, and only a conversation with a true friend could have helped me understand this better. I appreciate so much that she was paying close attention to me, could see that I was hurting, and was able to offer a suggestion to help me.

What she gave me was the mark of a true friend. I value these types of friendships more than ever.

Have you had similar experiences with anxiety following an IPF diagnosis? Please share in the comments below. 

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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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

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