Patient Blogs | COPD
It's Time to Ask for Help and Support With My COPD
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Asking for help isn't an easy thing for me to do. I've always been independent and self-sustaining, but lately I've been finding myself needing help to do more things and have had to ask for that help. It may go completely against my nature, but COPD really restricts how much you can do alone. I have to let someone else cut my grass, carry heavy things for me, and so on. This is one of many ways that COPD changes your life.

I feel like I've lost a part of myself along with my independence. Perhaps this is one reason why some people living with COPD slip into depression. It can be hard to transition to a stage of your life where you’re more dependent on others than ever before. Having to learn to swallow your pride to accept help from others isn't so easy for some of us. But it becomes necessary when you live with COPD.

I get my independent nature from my grandfather. He never would ask for help either, but now he's 83 and also lives with COPD. He's much more advanced than I am and isn't able to do much without help. I look at him and I see my future -- and it frightens me. One thing I know about COPD is it doesn't get any better. There’s no cure; it only advances with time.

Knowing that can be pretty depressing. I need to find a good support group; it can be really beneficial to connect with others who also live with your condition. You can learn so much from them and they know exactly what you're going through.

It's taken me a long time to come to terms with COPD. To be honest, it frightens me, so I've spent the last 15 years trying to avoid the subject. I've been in the hospital gasping for oxygen, surrounded by air but none of it could comfort me. The experience traumatized me to the point that after my recovery I avoided even learning anything about COPD. I didn't research or ask questions because I just wanted to forget. I'll admit that I checked out. I abandoned my own health care for fear of what I might learn.

Oh, I take my meds and maintain my appointments, and I actually have a good relationship with my doctor, but I had little interest in learning more about this condition. But becoming an HIV advocate taught me to become a more active partner in my health care. It taught me that there's always hope and it's worth fighting for, and there's usually something we can do to help that hope breathe. One thing I've learned from living with HIV is how beneficial community can be, how comforting, educational, and even healing it can be to connect with others who share your condition.

I've lived with COPD on my own for nearly 15 years now, and I can tell you that alone is no way to live with COPD (at least not anymore). So I'm going to reach out for support and find a good group. I have help for things around the house -- or I take my time and do it myself -- but I need to connect with others who understand COPD and who understand what I'm going through and will go through in the future. I think I'll begin with a Facebook and Google search to see what I can find and talk to my doctor and see if there's anything local to look into. It's a start.



Photo Credit: Hunz Sujee / EyeEm via Getty Images

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Katie Willingham

Katie Willingham

Diagnosed since 2016

Katie Adsila Willingham is an HIV advocate from rural north Alabama who has been living with COPD for 15 years. After years focusing primarily on her HIV diagnosis, Willingham is embarking on a journey to better manage her COPD. She blogs for The Well Project's A Girl Like Me, is the Alabama state lead for the Positive Women's Network USA, and is a U=U ambassador with the Prevention Access Campaign.

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