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Courage is absolutely critical. Courage is needed sometimes daily, sometimes every hour of every day when one is struggling with pulmonary hypertension. For example, courage is required in the following areas:

It takes courage to ‘feel what you feel.’ Each day the illness can bring challenges, and at times it seems the best strategy is to ignore one’s feelings and just hope they go away. It takes courage to admit that you feel scared, overwhelmed with fear at times, angry, powerless, helpless, sad, depressed, or anxious. If we admit the feeling to ourselves, and then maybe to others, then it means we have to deal with the feeling. Perhaps the feeling is there because our symptoms are increasing and it feels like we are losing control. Perhaps we are grieving our ability to be the partner, friend or family member we want to be. By taking the courage to honor ones feelings, we are choosing to heal ourselves from some of the immense emotional challenges of the illness.

Courage is needed too when we need to respect our limitations. It appears easier sometimes to pretend to others that we can cope with everyday challenges and demands, but we know our body pays for it. Courage helps us to say no, to let others know about our physical and emotional limitations. It helps us deal with the reality of a condition that will impact us for the rest of our lives.

We need courage to admit the unpredictable nature of pulmonary hypertension. The illness at times can feel like it has taken over our lives; it takes courage to let go and surrender to those times when the illness is demanding we rest.

Courage also guides us to take full responsibility for our struggle, not waiting for others to attend to us, but rather exercise self-care daily. That way, others don’t feel responsible to do for us what we could be doing for ourselves. In essence it is a reminder that we are the only person who can heal ourselves emotionally.

Courage is also our valued friend when we need to take risks. Perhaps the risk is to go to a self-help meeting knowing it will help us, but that we will have to face our fear of opening up. Another risk may be being honest to those that enquire about us. Smaller risks can be pursuing a new activity or daily journal writing for instance.

Courage is always by our side when we choose to grow. One of the fundamental tenets of living as a human being is the need to grow, adapt to our circumstances no matter how hard, and to become aware of our choices even in the toughest moments. Every time we shift and expand, courage is like oil on the tracks of our life making the way a little smoother, helping us to expand our horizons even when we are compelled by our desire to hide and isolate…

We draw on every ounce of our courage when our illness is progressing dramatically. It takes immense courage too to be honest when we are on the decline and we are moving towards the end of our lives. Emotional preparation for death is key for ourselves, and our loved ones. The more courage we can muster the more we will be able to face the end of our life with some semblance of peace in our heart.

One way to build courage is to recognize when we have flexed our ‘courage muscles.’ Each time we honor courage in our heart, and the action it helped us achieve, it grows a little more. Courage is like an investment that grows, and that helps ease our lives, and is there when we need to draw on it for any immense challenges we will face in the future.