Since you were just a little bitty thing, you were told not to be selfish. If you failed to share a toy, a game, or whatever, you got hollered at. Selfishness, coveting something, refusing to put others first, was portrayed as a bad thing, a sure way to incur the displeasure of those tall things called Mommy and Daddy. As you grew, as you became one of the tall things, you carried that lesson with you. For the most part, it served you well. It allowed you to be viewed as a generous being, someone who cared for others.
Okay. So is it always bad to be selfish? Let’s talk about that for a bit.
If you have flown on a commercial airplane in the last umpteen years, you have been politely asked to watch the nearest flight attendant demonstrate some stuff that is supposed to help you survive the unthinkable; serious trouble with the thin metal tube in which you are about to travel at ridiculous speeds and at altitudes where there is no air. If you did in fact watch the little performance, instead of fussing with your cell phone or your tablet or whatever electronic gizmo strikes your fancy, you would have learned some things.
It is, I suppose, handy to know how to fasten and unhook your seat belt, although it could be argued that if you really needed that information, you should not be flying alone. The location of the exits would be handy if something catastrophic happened involving the aircraft and the ground, which of course would never happen to you. The flotation capabilities of your seat cushion are routinely ignored, especially on flights over Nebraska.
There is one set of instructions, however, that nicely ties in with our little talk. That is the whole thing about the oxygen masks magically dropping from the ceiling should there be a drop-in air pressure. Since absence of air would make it difficult to breathe without outside help, they provide the little masks. Now, that part of the lecture highly recommends putting on one of the masks before assisting anyone else, such as a child, to don theirs.
What? What happened to selflessness, to chivalry, to the generosity that we have been hammered with seemingly forever? Well, be as generous as you want, but be aware that you are risking unconsciousness and death. So much for being selfless. So, that is a great example of putting yourself first, so that you can help others. It actually makes sense.
So, what in the world does all of this have to do with those of us with a history of lung disorders? Well, hang in there, because I am getting closer to making my point.
In the recent past, I have written articles for these sites about the communication that must happen between the patient and his or her caregiver, his or her family and friends. If you are a regular reader of these support sites, you will see a lot of unhappiness. It stems from frustration, from the sense of loss of our former quality of life, from fear, from panic. Too many times, it is the result of misunderstandings between the patient and those close to them. It is obvious that no one can truly empathize with the experiences of the lung disease patient, the breathlessness, the exhaustion, the seemingly ceaseless coughing. The symptoms, the dreaded supplemental oxygen hose, the weakness are too often things to be hidden from the world. That can only result in misunderstandings, in anger, in accusations, in confusion.
So, what is the answer to the confusion? How can we, as patients, work through the hurt feelings and downright stupidity that can destroy relationships? Well, logically, it is incumbent upon the patient to learn as much as they can about their disease. Always a good idea, so that they can know what to expect and the steps to take to combat the effects of the disease. Given that knowledge, the patient can better communicate with medical personnel, without the doctor or other professional having to reinvent the wheel every time the patient appears before them.
Given the gumption, the determination, the SELFISHNESS to learn all that they can about their lung disorder, the patient is then in the position to exercise their right to educate the family and friends about the disease and its effects on them. This is, logically, an exercise in selfishness! The patient must put themselves first, they must place their situation ahead of the other concerns of their caregiver and others in order to get someone to listen! Whining is not really necessary, but a certain amount of stubbornness, of determination, of selfishness is! The patient must demand that others listen, that they gain some understanding of the challenges involved.
There will be resistance. There will be those on both sides of the equation, both patient and others, who simply do not want to know. The patient must be selfish enough to gain the necessary information about their disease, and to impart that information to those close to them. Otherwise, the misunderstandings will only continue, the anger and disappointment will go on, and the hurt feelings will still be there. The patient cannot expect the others, the family and friends, to read their minds! It may seem self-centered, it may seem selfish, but it is the only way that the others can possibly understand.
So, learn what you can. Demonstrate the selfishness to share that knowledge. Quit hiding your symptoms! It may involve putting yourself first for a change, but with luck and persistence, it should bring everyone closer.