Straight Talk: One IPF Woman’s Response to “You Are So Strong”

Ohhh, I’ve got a spark for discussion. I’m verklempt after reading a post from a 30-something woman who is living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

First, it breaks my heart because she’s too young to be living with such a cruel disease. If there is a compassionate God, why can’t s/he command angels to swoop down and heal the sick and downtrodden?! Since that’s not happening, that’s reason enough to kick the faith aspect out of the door in this context!

Most people who are diagnosed with IPF are middle-aged or senior citizens—not that ANYONE EVER deserves the diagnosis; I’m just saying it’s more common in older people. Second, I am amazed at how emotionally strong she seems to be—especially addressing when people say, “You are so strong.” She takes us on some of the highlights of her physical and well as emotional journey after her diagnosis, which is very insightful, something that those of us who don’t have a loved one with IPF should be aware of.

One thing that she stresses is that it’s not always best to appear strong when you don’t feel like it. But I’m not sure if she was referring to appearing emotionally or physically strong in that sense. Well… I guess she’s referring to both.

Certainly, if you are not feeling physically strong, you need to get your posse called in for help, because when you’re short of breath, it sucks—and it’s dangerous. I think our culture in the United States tends to carry over strict “WASP” tendencies (and all of that other dysfunctional crap that sends us into therapy!) – to keep a stiff upper lip and press on, which I don’t always agree with myself. Actually, unless you’re talking with complete strangers, I think it’s not only okay, we should always act like our authentic selves.

Let the snot drip and the tears flow WHENEVER YOU FEEL LIKE IT.

If not, would that mean that on occasion we need to appear strong – as in how many American men normally act?

This gal is a hell of a lot stronger than I think many people are who’re living with a fatal disease and I am truly inspired by her chutzpah! She tells it like it is but she also manages to “talk it out” so that caregivers and other IPF patients can gain wisdom from her strength without appearing preachy or angry.

But there’s one thing that I’d like to hear more about: the need to “say something positive.” Friends, family, caregivers, and the outside world who get drawn into our lives during a serious illness and or death of a loved one or work colleague, etc., tend to want to comfort those who are suffering. They want to bring food over, offer hugs, send cards, help us with errands—it’s what kind people with good intentions do. Whether we can accept their offers, (depending on where we are in our emotional journeys) I think they feel the need to try to inspire those in need, but at the same time, I think they actually ARE inspired by the inner emotional strength of someone who is living with a serious chronic illness.

Besides, just because you cry, does not mean you are not strong.

Alisha Stone

Alisha Stone

Alisha Stone has a BA in psychology and is dedicated to improving the lives of others living with chronic illnesses.

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