Take care of your mental health, especially if you have pulmonary hypertension

As the co-moderator of the Pulmonary Hypertension News Forum, I have inspired and participated in many hot topics over the past three years. During that time, I’ve noticed that a theme comes up often and always gets great responses.

Mental health and well-being inspires a conversation that patients with pulmonary hypertension (PH) and their caregivers often prefer to have with each other rather than with someone outside the PH community.

Why is that? Perhaps our perception of society’s expectations causes anxiety, stress, and depression. When we unconsciously start treating these imagined external expectations as law while trying to combat a serious illness, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

Something as small as an unmade bed, a skipped shower, a takeout instead of home-cooked, or some other small task left uncompleted can turn a physically bad day into an emotionally difficult day.

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My son was diagnosed with PH at the age of 8 and had a heart and double lung transplant six years later. As his supervisor, I feel pressured to do more than I can handle in a day.

Some of the questions I sometimes ask myself to shake off fear: Whose expectations am I trying to meet? My own or someone else’s? Who but myself will notice my lack of accomplishment? Why can’t I do a little now and a little later? Who says I have to do things a certain way?

I recently read something that made my questions feel validated.

A 2020 post by social media blogger Kate Scott went viral when she responded to a question on Quora, a question-and-answer website.

The question was, “Has a therapist ever said something completely unexpected to you?” Kate’s response was, “Run the dishwasher twice.”

She explained that during one session her therapist asked her what she was struggling with. Kate was embarrassed that she had nothing profound to say other than the simple truth. “Honestly? The dishes. It’s stupid I know but the more I look at them the more I CAN’T do them because I have to scrub them before I put them in the dishwasher because the dishwasher sucks and I do just can’t stand scrubbing the dishes.”

She expected even her therapist to judge her for it, but instead he nodded understandingly and calmly suggested, “Run the dishwasher twice.”

He pointed out that there’s no rule that says she can’t run her dishwasher more than once.

She returned home and no longer conformed to arbitrary rules, which ironically helped her achieve things again.

Only when she was in a healthier place would she rinse her dishes and put them back in the dishwasher properly, eliminating the need for a second run.

Kate’s conclusion is compelling. “But at a time when life was a struggle instead of a blessing, I learned an incredibly important lesson: There are no rules. Run the dishwasher twice.”

I highly recommend reading Kate’s full post. It’s worth reading! Then ask yourself, “What arbitrary rules can I break to make tough days feel less overwhelming?”

I’m taking this advice by tackling some big tasks that I’ve put off because I’ve convinced myself they needed to be done quickly. Reminding myself that I can accomplish big things with small steps has helped me put a big dent in a previously untouched pile of to-dos.

That being said, I hope PH patients will consider their physical challenges and peacefully accept that there is no rule against rest. In your case in particular, it is often necessary, and the only person who needs convincing is you. If someone tells you otherwise, suggest that they make and follow their own rules and leave it to your own devices.

Note: News about pulmonary hypertension is solely 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 consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with questions about any medical condition. Never disregard or delay in seeking professional medical advice because you have read something on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of News about pulmonary hypertension or its parent company, BioNews, and is intended to stimulate discussion of issues related to pulmonary hypertension.

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