Aah … spring has finally sprung!
The weather is finally trying to cooperate by giving us a few comfortable, mild days, and folks are starting to come out of their shells to enjoy it. Yesterday was the first day in over a year that I actually had a chance to fire up one of my smokers and enjoy the being outdoors with my dog. Although it rained later in the day, it didn’t stop me from accomplishing what I had set out to do the previous day: smoke some meats!
The house was empty except for my dog and me. I was cooking, listening to jazz, and finally relaxing with no disturbances. This time of year seems to be particularly stressful for me. I would say that anxiety plays a huge part in my emotional imbalance as a direct response of sarcoidosis.
When doctors diagnosed me a few years ago, they mainly focused on the physical aspects related to the disorder. What was never expressed or explained to me was the possibility of mental and emotional concerns I should be aware of. I never really gave it much thought, but that changed quickly one summer morning.
Hiding in plain sight
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is real, make no mistake about it. For the past two years, I haven’t had a summer in which I enjoyed the beautiful weather or socialized with friends and family. I wasn’t able to enjoy the sunshine and cool evening breezes, cocktails on my front porch, or my new BBQ smoker. Those summers, I’d been hospitalized from May to September. When the weather changes and I feel summer’s welcome, I grow anxious and out of sorts. The pulmonary sarcoidosis I live with and the thoughts of the past two summers cause a lot of uncomfortable feelings that turn into life interruptions.
A person can experience PTSD from a number of events. Most people equate PTSD symptoms with traumatic events related to violence, the death of a loved one, or a sudden or significant loss. Rarely does anyone consider a disease or life with a chronic illness as a contributor. Both can be triggers related to traumatic stress.
So, on this particular day, I was beginning to really enjoy the weather and relax. Suddenly, I felt my mood change. I could feel myself becoming cautious, and it seemed as if my entire mood had begun to slow down. I could feel myself becoming more aware of my breathing, and I drew slow and deliberate breaths even though I wasn’t in any type of distress.
For whatever reason, I started thinking about my past hospital stays and what had caused them. My sarcoidosis had caused both of my lungs to collapse, a condition called spontaneous pneumothorax. My left lung collpased two summers ago, and my right lung collapsed last summer. I didn’t immediately think that warm weather might cause me to feel this way. But after I started to calm myself down, I realized that it could have triggered these suppressed emotions.
The more I tried to calm myself, the more stress I felt. For some reason, I couldn’t shake the thought of what sarcoidosis had done to my lungs, and the what-ifs kept playing out in my head, over and over. I thought about my hospital stays. My longest was 52 consecutive days in seven different rooms. While I was in the hospital, time away from my family had a considerable effect on my emotional state. Every day, the doctors pushed my release date back, and at times, I felt I would never leave, even though I felt much better with each new day.
I stood in my yard repeating to myself, “That was then, look at you now!” I started feeling different — not stressed but anxious. I started feeling lonely, as if I might not recover from what I was feeling emotionally. I read some articles and watched a few videos on the effects of PTSD, and feelings of abandonment were among the emotions people experience at random times. That’s the part that really scared me: These feelings are random.
I realized that something wasn’t right and concluded that I needed to fix it.
My resolution starts with me, and I must be the one to initiate the change that is needed. Sarcoidosis has altered my life, but it doesn’t change my living. I’m responsible for that, and I have to be proactive. Change starts with me, and it started that day.
Note: Sarcoidosis 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 Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.