Shortly after my twin boys turned one, I was diagnosed with a life-changing chronic illness called pulmonary hypertension.

mother in hospital pictureAs a then-28-year-old, first-time mom and military wife, living across the country from our family and friends, I had no idea what was going to happen next or that this disease was going to teach me more about my faith, myself and motherhood than I could have ever imagined.

It’s taught me that time is precious.

Time is precious. Not the cliche “oh time is precious, and they’re only little for so long” speech, but that time is genuinely something that most days I wish for more of.

I have spent countless hours, days and weeks in the hospital or at doctors’ appointments since I was diagnosed. I’ve lost a lot of days with my kids being sick: days that I just can’t get off the couch, days I’ve spent alone in the hospital, or hours and days I’ve spent driving to and from doctors appointments that are over three-and-a-half hours away.

Pulmonary hypertension is a nasty progressive disease. And yes, they are only little for so long. But I also understand now that I only have “so long” with them too.

They only get their mom for so long. And this stands true for parents without chronic illnesses too. Your kids are only little for so long. You are only around for so long. So those days that I’m gone because of something to do with this chronic illness is one less day that I have to spend time with my kids, and I realize in those moments that this disease has given new meaning to the phrase “time is precious”.

It’s taught me to give myself a break.

I’m a workaholic by nature. If you catch me sitting down, it’s usually after cleaning the house three times and double-checking that there isn’t anything else to do but watch TV. Besides physical breaks, I’m also pretty hard on myself mentally. I find myself criticizing my own actions: if I get a little too short-tempered with the boys, when I find myself snapping at my husband because I’m burnt out, or feeling useless because I didn’t get all my work done today.

Since being diagnosed with this chronic illness, I find that my spoons (see The Spoon Theory on living with chronic illnesses) are low some days, and at first, my workaholic nature just couldn’t cope with that reality. The reality was that I have a little less energy than I used to and that some days are just harder than others.

I quickly started to realize that I had to be tactful about what I needed to accomplish and that it’s okay to not be perfect. I don’t always have to be the best at my job, the best military wife, the best friend, or the best mom. My job is to just be me. This disease taught me the hard way that I need to give myself a break and that just being present is enough.

It’s taught me that it’s okay to rely on other people.

If you ask my husband or any of my closest friends, I’m the world’s most stubborn person. My favorite phrase is, “I’m okay, I got it.”

Before I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, I rarely asked for help. And to be completely transparent, I’m not even sure if I’m that great at it now.

For example: as a 115 lbs, 5’3″ woman, I cannot carry a week’s worth of groceries and both of my 35 lbs kids at the same time. But I will definitely try and probably won’t ask for help. *insert laughing emoji here*

our village that helps during chronic illnessHowever, in the last year and a half, I have been admitted to the hospital at least 6 times, and my husband is in the military. We’ve been stationed away from our families since before all this started and we have twin toddlers. Without really ever asking for help, we’ve had friends step up and be our village.

Being sick all the time has been very trying on our family, emotionally, mentally and physically so I know we could have never made it this far if we didn’t have people to rely on. We have friends who have taken care of the boys so my husband could go to work; cooked us meals when I’ve been sick; even sent us money or prayed for us when they couldn’t be there physically. Our village has been our rock since I was diagnosed and as much as I wish I didn’t have to, we have relied heavily on them these last couple of years.

Our friends have stepped up as our stand-in family, and this chronic illness has taught me that it’s okay to rely on other people sometimes. 

My chronic illness has taught me many things, but the things it has taught me about motherhood are so important. 

It has taught me to value my time; to give myself a break; to rely on the help even when I want to be strong and stubborn. It has made me appreciate each day and every person in our lives. And while I wouldn’t wish a chronic illness on anyone, I would encourage everyone to take the same lessons and apply it to your life.

Pulmonary hypertension is a progressive, chronic illness. It occurs when there is high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of your heart. The high pressure causes the arteries in the lungs to become stiff, damaged or narrowed, and causes the right side of the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body, which eventually can lead to right heart failure. Please visit the Pulmonary Hypertension Association to learn more.

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Gerry has southern roots and a southern accent to boot, hailing from North Carolina, she is a full-time stay-at-home-mom to twin boys and a part-time marketing guru during naptime and bedtime. Her husband is a Blackhawk Pilot for the Army Reserves, and they currently call Saint Petersburg, Florida home. She prides herself on being a storyteller by nature, and always looking at the mess that life throws at them with a laugh. She keeps her sanity by being a pulmonary hypertension patient advocate on social media (@_gllangan), posting about the honest highs and lows of this wild motherhood ride, and giving people a little insight into what life is like with twin toddlers. When she's not chasing her boys around, Gerry enjoys iced coffee at all times of the day and watching one of her many TV shows.