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Overcoming obstacles with a long-term condition: Luca’s story

Man talking with his therapist

Coming to terms with a long-term condition can be challenging, particularly with managing symptoms and making changes to your day-to-day life. It can have a detrimental effect on your mental health, causing anxiety and depression. Luca who has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) talks to us on how the service helped him re-focus his life and adopt a new mindset on the illness and build his confidence.

What led you to be referred to CLW Talking Therapies?

I had a difficult time in the summer; I was emotionally eating at home on my own, feeling sorry for myself and depressed and had no social life. Sleep wasn’t good, I was falling asleep early, waking up in the middle of the night, staying up, watching television, eating and then falling asleep again.

The COPD team referred me because I was having problems dealing with the oxygen I needed to take. I didn’t accept that I needed it, so they got a bit concerned. I caught a chest infection that took six weeks to clear up, and I thought ‘this is my life, struggling to go to the next room.’ I was aware that I needed to take the oxygen but emotionally I wasn’t accepting of it, I feared I would become reliant.

What long-term condition are you living with?

My main issue is COPD, lung emphysema. It’s a chronic condition and it’s not going to get better. I was diagnosed in 2010 and have been on oxygen therapy since July last year.  I also have a cervical problem that is beginning to affect the tips of my fingers, which is annoying as I was a guitarist. I can’t play sports and it takes time for me to get dressed. I lost a lot of self-confidence as my health has deteriorated because of the chest infection. I have to use the oxygen whenever I move.

What did your therapy focus on?

My therapist helped me to re-focus my life, rather than fearing death. I realised there’s no point in focusing on things that I can’t control; it will just drive me mad. We looked at what was going on for me emotionally but also at my values and where I wanted to go. I went to weight management which was important because putting on weight affects my breathing. The therapy rebooted me and I had a renaissance; I was attending talks, a philosophy class, walking every day, doing cooking classes and sleeping better now.

Did you have any difficulties or challenges?

Using the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach, my therapist was able to make me find tools I previously had. I didn’t always do the homework, but once the ball started rolling we were doing things on the whiteboard.  My therapist used it a lot to explore my thoughts and feelings about my illness.

How do you plan on keeping up your progress?

I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. Exercise is good for my health, I meet people now, I talk philosophy, I cook every day and I’m mindful of what I put in my body.

Do you have any advice for others who are struggling?

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. There is no harm in admitting that we cannot do it all on our own. Whenever I asked for help I’ve received it.

If you are experiencing some of the issues mentioned…

You must be referred to our Talking Therapies if you’d like to access the service. Please fill out the form available here or call 020 3317 4200.

Learn more about Talking Therapies and how it can help you here.

This story was originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive inspirational stories of recovery straight to your inbox, four times a year!