With IPF, I’ve Had to Become Content With Spending Time Alone

Columnist Charlene Marshall shares the activities she turns to in her downtime

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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Life is full of important reflections. As a child and teenager, I moved at lightning speed, never wanting to miss out on an opportunity. Since I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in 2016, I’ve been forced to slow down, as my declining lungs no longer allow me to operate at the same speed.

Slowing down has been one of the unexpected positives of this cruel lung disease.

In the past few years, I’ve spent more time reading. Sometimes my choice of content is books, while other times it’s websites, social media posts, or blogs. For the latter, I tend to gravitate toward quotes and other feel-good reads.

A friend recently sent me a newsletter by investor, entrepreneur, and creator Sahil Bloom, who examines survey data about how we spend our time. The data, reflected in graphs, show how much time Americans spend alone and with family, friends, partners, children, and co-workers over the course of their lives.

Time spent alone is the only graph that consistently trends upward with age. Bloom’s key takeaways from this data are to learn to embrace solitude and to flex your boredom muscle regularly.

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Make Time for You During Your Journey

This certainly resonates with me, as many of us with IPF are forced to spend time alone. I can’t always keep up with my peers physically, so I may not be invited to social events or opt not to attend. Other times, the risk of exposure to illness is too high, preventing me from being with others.

Suffice to say, I’ve spent much more time on my own since my IPF diagnosis and I’m learning to be content with it, as Bloom advises.

With that said, I know many people struggle with spending time alone. They may experience deep loneliness or boredom and not know how to fill their time. I feel I have the best of both worlds: I’m lucky to have friends and family who keep me company when I need them, but I’m also OK on my own.

I can’t do some of the activities I enjoyed before IPF, as I no longer have the same physical stamina or strength. However, I can still keep my mind and body busy at home. Following are some activities I prioritize when I’m on my own.


Curling up with a book, a warm blanket, and a coffee (or tea) on the couch during winter calms me. I enjoy the physical contentment it brings, as my body isn’t working too hard and can rest to the best of its ability.

I’m also selective about which books I read. I’m sure data can support this, but I believe there’s a correlation between the information we take in and our mood. With a chronic illness like IPF, it’s easy to jeopardize our mental health, so I try to read feel-good stories or books about topics I’d like to learn more about.


I’ve always enjoyed being creative — especially now that it keeps my mind and hands engaged in something that isn’t physically exhausting. I also enjoy the opportunity to create something for others or add handmade decor to my home.

Right now, I’m working hard on some Christmas gifts in my craft room. It’s a mess!


I have to be careful with cleaning because it takes a lot out of me physically. When I get the urge to clean, I select one room or space in my house and tackle it at a comfortable pace. Sometimes this simply means organizing or rearranging, but tidying a space can be good for our mental health, too.

Playing with my dog

Although my golden retriever is almost 8, she’s still playful. I have to be careful with how we play, but usually I get down on the floor and try to play tug of war with her. I’m not able to do this for long, as it’s physically taxing, but it inevitably makes me laugh, and both of us always feel better afterward.

As an IPF patient, what do you do when spending time alone? Please share in the comments.

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.


Sybil avatar


I team up with a couple of friends for a mini Film Club. we used to go to each thers houses but now with the limitations I have moving about carrying oxygen etc they come here. We choose a film on line and have tea and cake and it is very enjoyable and distracts one from thinking too many bad thoughts! Last week we watched a film with Helen Mirren in it about a Klimt picture the family from Viena owned which was stolen by the Nazis during the war and her battle to get it back. She was successful and now it hangs in a museum in Viena. it was a very good watch. Tomorrow we meet again so I hope we find another good one. I have read a lot of your contributions and find them stimulating so I do hope you find something interesting to do and write about.
Best wishes Sybil Whimster

Kristine Miller-Pinti avatar

Kristine Miller-Pinti

I have had a single lung transplant, but still spend a fair amount of time alone because of decreased energy and concerns of infection. I also love to read - mostly mysteries and historical fiction books ( just finished one about the women code breakers in the US during WW2). I also do sudoku, crossword puzzles and online map quizzes to learn all the countries of the world. My "spring cleaning" takes months instead of a couple days. I meet with some old co-workers for lunch occasionally, also. I am also planning a couple small road trips to visit some family in the coming year. I have also started to play the piano again. If you took a musical instrument in the past it would be worth looking into playing it again (unless it was a horn). Keep looking for options - crafts are great, but unfortunately I am not crafty. Good luck with searching for new ways to spend and enjoy your alone time.

Kathleen Ryan avatar

Kathleen Ryan

Char, this post is so on point, I struggle with the limited options I have for social interaction. I've always been a reader, and I was a former English teacher. One of my goals since diagnosis is to reread many of my favorite books. As you, I love crafting and hope to get back to needlework again. My son understands how I am lonely at times, and he's always there to watch a movie with me, take me to lunch or just talk. I'm very fortunate . My dog is never far, and I think how funny I would sound to others talking to him all day.
The hardest challenge is not depending too much on my son, because I never want to become a burden.

mary andrews avatar

mary andrews

Know just what you mean, it can be frustrating not being able to do all you did before.
If I try to do too much I certainly pay for it the next day so its a question of pacing yourself isn't it?
I was diagnosed in 2016 with advice 3 - 5 years life expectancy , so I am not complaining too much about still being around even though slower!
Keep on keeping on my dear - who knows they could come up with a cure on day soon.
lots of love to you


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