Working Life, COPD and depression: "We are sick, but we are not useless."
Published 24 Sep 2019 • By Louise Bollecker
Pascale, 60, lives in southern France and has COPD. She suffers from depression because of her job, and perhaps her illness as well. She explains how working again saved her and helps her feel better every day.
What were your first symptoms of COPD?
I think I've had it for at least 20 years. I coughed a lot, had a lot of mucus, and I would lose my breath. At that time, my family doctor told me that I had asthma. In 2010, I decided to stop smoking, my body no longer wanted cigarettes and I was becoming more and more out of breath. I quit smoking in February 2010. 6 months after I quit, I was still not seeing any improvement in my breathing, so my doctor sent me to the pulmonologist. It was there where I learned that I had stage III COPD with emphysema.
How did you react to the diagnosis?
I cried, but I thought I was not going to let it take control of my life.
What impact has COPD had on your professional life?
In the company where I was at the time of my diagnosis, colleagues were kind, but the disease was invisible. It was not like people could see my condition. This was difficult for me to recognize because I felt the impacts of this disease every day. Therefore, I stopped working in 2014 because I became depressed because of the work I was doing. I don't know if it was directly related to the disease. I talked to my doctor about what was going on, but I never took any medication for it.
Today, what treatments are you taking for COPD?
How did you find the energy to get back to work?
I have recovered the energy to work because it is what makes me live... the fact of seeing people or serving of something... I've had a fixed-term contract for 8 months as a telecounsellor in a social security organization, 35 hours a week. I can't benefit from a part-time job and I didn't ask for one. I was too happy to have found a job at 59!
My colleagues appreciate me, and this time, they do "see" my illness and are understanding and take care of me. I have energy because I see people every day, take the bus, talk to people, and tell everyone around me how bad tobacco is for everyone. Work saved me.
What advice would you give to someone diagnosed with COPD and still of working age?
We have to do something with our lives. We are not useless. We are sick, but there are worse things on this earth. You have to see the positive side and not let yourself get depressed!
Many thanks to Pascale for sharing her story!
And you... when you became diagnosed with COPD, were you able to continue working?
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