Am I sick because of who I am or am I who I am because I’m sick?
Kind of a tongue twister, isn’t it? With a nod to Popeye, “I am who I am who I am.” Recent research by Duke University would seem to indicate that there is some merit to it, though.
Jack Nicklaus was one of the greatest to ever play the game of golf. Even at the top of his game, he never stopped learning or practicing. His game was never perfect. Same with Bruce Lee, considered by many to be the greatest martial artist of all time. Never perfect. Famed choreographer Martha Graham said, “Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.” Martha Graham, perfectionist.
All of these people could be considered as having a Type A personality. Much like artists, they possessed a personality trait that demanded attention to detail, and often exhibited “intense creative energy”. They are driven, and are perfectionists. The researchers at Duke studied over 3,000 patients, and found that those with a Type A personality also tested positive for alpha-1-antitrypsin (A1AT) polymorphism.
It seems that many things are linked to this genetic disorder. The same study linked anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, ADD, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. So perhaps those obsessive-compulsive habits that you’ve developed aren’t all in your head.
Having alpha-1 means an increased risk of lung conditions, like emphysema. The resulting shortness of breath can make perfectionism a hard ideal. But there are things that you can do to help you get close.
If you smoke, quit. Do it today. Talk to your doctor, as there are programs and products that can help. Also, avoid situations and products that can introduce lung irritants, like pollen, paint fumes, or from certain cleaning products.
Eat well, and use it wisely. You should try to stay lean and fit, and this means plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, and exercise regularly. You may not jump right into marathon training, but a vigorous walk would be good. Not only will you be healthier, it will do wonders for your blood pressure.
Why should you worry about your blood pressure? We’re talking about lung and liver conditions, right?
Living with alpha-1 can cause worry, anxiety, fear, depression, and stress. There is a great deal of uncertainty, as a diagnosis is not a guarantee of showing symptoms, and symptoms are not a guarantee of having alpha-1. Further, while it is treatable there is no cure. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
While trying to live a healthy lifestyle will help you to relieve stress, having moral support could be the ticket to improving your quality of life. Letting your friends and loved ones know how you feel is a good first step. They are the ones closest to you and will best understand your quirks and moods. Joining a support group, like through the Alpha-1 Foundation, will put you into a network of like-minded and like-feeling individuals. If you’re just not sure, you can always speak to a professional counselor.
The important thing is to remember that you’re not crazy. You’re genetically wired to be perfect!