By Kiara Tatum
February is American Heart Month, and it’s almost Valentine’s Day. I don’t have a sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, but this year I do have someone in mind that I would like to show my love. That would be me, myself, and I. I’m always hoping that each year I will find someone to love me for me despite my illness, but I haven’t found that one yet. Which doesn’t surprise me because how can I love someone when I can’t even love myself with PH. So this year, I’m going to love myself. Sounds easy enough; however, with PH, I don’t always love this life. How can I love myself when I don’t like my circumstances? How can I love myself when I have to take medication throughout the day? How can I love myself when I have to drag around supplemental oxygen? How can I love myself when I have to change my medication pump every 3 days? How can I love myself when I…? So sometimes life can be hard and I just don’t want this life and I can’t love the person that is going through this journey. But this year, I’m making it my goal to learn to love myself more. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but each and every day.
To help I refer to the love experts… romantic movies. The formula usually is boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back. Within this scenario, there is always some conflict why the boy and girl can’t be together. Sometimes the girl doesn’t even know the boy exists, or the boy is only a best friend to the girl, and the girl dreams of someone else that she is supposed to be in love with. Well in this PH journey, the boy is actually yourself, and when you were diagnosed with PH you lost yourself, maybe you lost friends, your job, control, and your lifestyle. PH is the conflict standing in your way to loving yourself. So we have to find a way to get yourself back and that is the journey of love we are going on with ourselves. The journey to win yourselves back and fall in love with yourself. Here are 5 simple ways to love yourself.
- Get to know yourself. The best way to do this is to start journaling. You are more honest with yourself when you know no one else is listening. Using guided statements, quotes or questions such as what’s on my mind?; what’s missing?; what keeps me fulfilled?; what are my favorite things?; what is my life like now?; what makes me happy, smile, laugh?; who am I now?; list how you a wonderful person, list things you love, have a conversation with your 99 year old self, etc. You can find more examples of guided journaling statements and questions online, CreateWriteNow or in journaling or books.
- Spend time with yourself. It’s great to just have alone time. I like to listen to music and dance, go for a short walk, watch a good movie on Netflix or On Demand, do something creative, or just think. It’s great to know what makes you smile, laugh, and happy.
- Create a personal visual board. This is a collage of images or words from magazines, books, photos, or from any other materials that resonate with you. Cut those images and words out and paste on a big poster board. When finished, look at the board and see what it reveals about your personality and preferences.
- Do something different. If you are always doing the same thing, you might lose interest in yourself. So try a unique or a different activity: take a yoga class, try a new hobby, etc. You will start to reconnect with yourself and discover more strengths.
- Redefine your life. You have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, and it caused you to lose your past lifestyle. You may not be able to work or attend college classes, but that doesn’t mean you’re not productive, not successful, or not valuable. You have to redefine those words for yourself according to what your life looks like now. You have to show yourself some compassion and not criticize yourself for your life not looking like it once did since your PH diagnosis.
I met me and knew me, but then I lost that old me when I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension. By getting to know me and spending time with me the way I am now, it’s helped me to fall more and more in love with me and build my self-esteem. That girl I stare at in the mirror is more than just a girl with Pulmonary Hypertension and a congenital heart disease. Sure she has thin hair from the medication, and dark spots all over her belly from injection sites and tape marks. Lips are dry and a bluish color, and she has to wear a nasal cannula that connects to oxygen concentrator. That won’t change. But she’s more beautiful than ever before because she’s got beauty that can’t be seen but shines from within. She’s got strength, hope, faith and love. She’s got strength that can climb the highest mountains. She’s got hope that soars with the birds, she’s got faith that can conquer any battle on the field, and she’s got a love that dwells deep in her heart for herself and others. She always has a smile and a positive presence despite the hardships of her life. That’s who I love and I’m falling in love with me.