My 5 Favorite Things About Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis

5_things

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy spends a little bit of time each day on Facebook (albeit less time since he has started this blog). Anyone who is on Facebook knows the routine: status updates, photo sharing, writing on a friend’s wall, quizzes, more quizzes, (even more quizzes – they just never seem to end!), sending virtual hugs, smiles, chocolates, flowers, and glasses of wine, and last but not least – “5 things”.

For those readers who may not familiar with “5 things”, it’s exactly what it sounds like. There are seemingly thousands of lists out there, and you are supposed to fill in your five favorite things according to the title of the list. It can be favorite cereals, favorite movies, favorite books, favorite things to do on a Sunday, etc. The list just goes on an on…

But up until now, I’ve yet to find any such 5 things list that is related to rheumatoid arthritis.

“My 5 Least Favorite Things About Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Too obvious. Seriously, come on people – we could ALL fill out such a list and the chances are that 80% of our answers would be the same. (Or might I be wrong?)

So I struck out the least part and ended up with “My 5 Favorite Things About Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis”. Let’s give that a try – I’ll go first.

1. Positive Thinking

When all else fails (even the body) what are we left with, but positive thinking. For me, the thought of getting stuck in the negative part of life is just too scary. Sure, we all have moments of depression when living with a chronic illness like RA. I am beginning to see that even these moments of depression can be a positive things – it’s part of the natural grieving cycle that our body goes through as it processes pain and loss. So my goal is to no longer avoid moments of depression, but to instead learn to move in and out of them and not to get stuck there. No matter whether I’m having a good or bad day either physically or emotionally, I will now strive to be as positive (and realistic) as possible.

2. R-e-s-p-e-c-t

One of the things I have appreciated about living with RA is a new found sense of respect. First and foremost, I have learned to respect myself for the being that I am. (I have recently been listening to lots of meditation cds, and I love the continual emphasis on “being” versus “doing”.) I am also learning to respect my body. As many of us know, there is a fine line between working through the pain – in a good way, and working through the pain – in a bad way. The most important thing for me now it to listen to my body and the signals it is sending me – it’s doing so for a reason. Last but not least, I have learned to respect other people – friends, family, neighbors, and strangers alike. Just as my pain and struggle may not be visible to everyone around me, so too may be the case with other people.

3. Slowing Down

During my first few years of living with RA, I struggled quite a bit with the idea of not being able to do as much each day as I could do before my RA presented itself. Day in and day out it was the same reduced feeling of worth and measuring myself against others. Finally I got to a point where I flipped the entire things on its head, and I can’t say how much I am loving it. (As I’ve said before, the entire societal/cultural emphasis on overwork is unhealthy in so many ways, so is it not a beautiful thing that RA by force precludes us from continuing on that silly treadmill?) My body is slower. My days are slower. And for me, this has been one of the greatest gifts of living with RA.

4. Exploring Creativity

Every time I get a little deeper into exploring my creativity, I feel just a little more alive. For me, exploring my creative side has become a good way of getting to know both myself and the world around me just a little better. Plus, it has served as a welcome distraction from over-fixating on my RA. At times these creative moments have been prompted from outside forces: What is the easiest way to get dressed when both my ankles and my knees are not doing so well? What is the absolute minimum I need to put in my backpack when I leave the house? (My digital book reader and my ipod touch have been lifesavers in this regard.) At other times these creative moments have been prompted from inside forces: I’m going to start blogging and I’m going to love it. I’m going to spend more time exploring the world of art and music. We can never have too much creativity in our life.

5. Patience

Yesterday afternoon when I arrived at my physical therapy session, I was immediately told that I needed to plan on staying much longer than usual. (Scheduled for 60 minutes, my sessions have been averaging 90 minutes, and sometimes jump up to 120 minutes. Yesterday’s session was 120 minutes.) Patience. My wrists have slightly improved, my ankles and feet continue to worsen, my knees have jumped into the mix and are on par with my ankles, and feeling left out my elbows decided to join the party and are giving some tough competition to my ankles and knees. And have I mentioned my shoulders are making themselves heard as well – literally! All clear? So as everyone in the room was feeling slightly overwhelmed with the entire situation, I spent most of the time focusing on one thought: Patience. I want to get better overnight, but I know I must be patient and allow time for this flare to subside and for my body to heal.

So please share with the rest of us your 5 favorite things about living with rheumatoid arthritis/lupus/lyme disease/ms/fibromyalgia/chronic pain/fill-in-the-blank. Simple lists will suffice. (If you have not commented before and are hesitant to reveal your identity, go ahead and make up a name and email on the comment form – I don’t care – I just want to hear from you!)

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

28 Comments
28 comments
  1. kertslittlebird says:

    Thanks for today’s post. it was hard to just pick five. It’s a little bit different than your list. More simple. And that is what I have learned from my Sjogrens/RA et al. Keeping it simple.
    My favorite things are:
    1. Sweat pants and crocs instead of panty hose and heels.
    2. Sounds of nature instead traffic, office machines and phones.
    3. Sunlight instead of overhead flourescent lights.
    4. Slower pace instead of the fast track.
    5. Sipping a cup of coffee instead of the “to go” cup.

  2. RA Guy says:

    Kertslittlebird – what a beautiful list, thanks you so much for sharing! Simple and right on the spot. (And as I am sitting in a coffee shop at the moment, I particularly like your #5.) These is so much to be found in a simple and slow world.

  3. Cathy says:

    1. My family. They are so amazing.
    2. Slowing Down. One day my sister was visiting and we were discussing the day. I shared with her how embarrassed I felt during the day that everyone had to walk super slow to hang out with me. She said, “I saw the day different. This was the first time I slowed down and just enjoyed every minute. My little boys could take time to look at the small things in life without me rushing them. I felt you gave us a gift today.”
    3. Healthy Foods. Over the last five years I have learned to eat healthier and discovered I even enjoy cooking!
    4. Learning about myself. I feel like RA really makes you take a hard look at who you are, what you believe and how you respond to situations. It has been a hard journey but I am glad RA forced me to do it.
    5. People. I have met the greatest people through my RA experiences. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

  4. Sadie K. says:

    So here’s an issue that’s absolutely been plaguing me over the last several months- it seems like you and several of your commenters no longer have the jobs they used to have, or have seriously altered their work conditions.

    I can’t do that! My job is about 60 hrs/week, sometimes more, and there are not any compromises that I can make without failing to do my job well. I’m unmarried, have a mortgage and bills, and with the insurance/medical care concerns, I can’t afford to quit my job. And I don’t want to- this is what I’m passionate about, and it would totally destroy me to leave this job. I plan to move on in the future, but right now it would be devastating.

    So what do you do when sweatpants and sleeping til 10am just isn’t an option? I mean, I know how to cope, but is the transition inevitable?

  5. Seeking Solace says:

    What a great post. I was having a bad day with a minor flare when I found your site via Twitter. Your post made me feel better. I will have to work on my list too.

  6. Erika says:

    I don’t have RA, I have Lupus and it has forced me to slow down as well. Here are my five favorite things.

    1) I will hopefully never have to worry about skin cancer because I have to wear sunscreen all the time (even inside). Yay for being extremely photosensitive.

    2) Lupus has helped me to find the positive in all the negative. I’m alive, my internal organs are working to the best of their abilities, I can talk, type, and smile. I can be me and I’m good enough for this world!

    3) I get to write a blog about my journey (because I have the time). One day I’ll be able to look back at all the progress I will have made. I will see my humble beginnings, the rough spots, and the moments filled with joy. It thrills me that a couple hundred people have read my blog. It fills me with hope knowing that maybe I helped to brighten their day.

    4) I’ve quit a lot of bad habits. I gave up coffee, I quit smoking, I rarely drink, I don’t consume sugar, and I try to avoid processed foods. Giving up all of those things has helped to make me the healthiest I can be. I feel I have increased energy, lower stress, and I know that my body is less taxed because of it.

    5) Lupus is part of me. Because I’m working on loving myself, every last bit, that means I love lupus too. Lupus is part of me, it impacts my life in many ways. I also feel it has brought out characteristics in me that I never thought I had. Like strength and hope. Lupus isn’t all of me, but it is definitely part of me and I love myself.

    P.S.- I love and look forward to reading your blog daily!!!

  7. RA Guy says:

    Thanks to everyone who has added their list…it really helps to give me and others a good idea of positive things to focus on as we continue to live with the challenge of chronic illness.

    Seeking Solace, sorry to hear about the flare – I hope you are doing better. I am happy that you found this blog and are able to connect with me, other bloggers, and other readers.

    Sadie K., I myself have yet to find a good answer to the financial challenges of living with RA, but I’m working on it. I will write more on this topic in the near future.

  8. José says:

    RA Guy,
    Great idea for a post… I’ll just share with you my favorite… What I have learned about myself. I was always so proud of what I could do. I was an above average athlete and could play several sports much better than average. I was also proud of my school/work accomplishments. I was always good at taking people’s ideas and improving on them. I am a Logistics Manager. It is my job to make things happen. I am good at keeping 18 balls in the and never seem to drop one. I tell you all this to not to brag but to give you perspective. Which is what I learned from my RA. I am still working 50-60+ hours per week. I have learned that all that I could do before was nothing. Now, I do my job through the mind-numbing fatigue and distracting pain. Things I never would have guessed myself capable of doing. It is much more impressive (to me) knowing what I now know. My co-workers know about my condition only because I have told them I feared that it would and still could affect my ability to perform, so I told them. Things could still get worse but I have not missed a day due to RA nor dropped a ball… Though I am unable to play sports like I used to :( ….
    Keep fighting the good fight…
    José

  9. Liz says:

    My RA top 5 favorite things list
    1. Living one day at a time, because I really don’t know what tomorrow will be.
    2. Tomorrow is another day- so if today sucks, tomorrow doesn’t have to.
    3. Accepting myself as I am – it doesn’t mean I don’t continue to work hard, but I accept I cannot be super woman anymore.
    4. Amazing support from my family. I’ve always thought my teenaged son was great, but he has stepped it up a notch. Wow.
    5. Sharing with others with RA online. Okay, I haven’t shared much myself other than a comment here and there, but I love that people like you and Single Gal consistently voice what is in my mind.

  10. Just Christine says:

    RA Guy, I love your blog!
    Here are my Five Things:

    1. Learning to value myself for WHO I AM, not for WHAT I DO – a work in progress…
    2. Teaching me empathy for others who are in pain or have a disability.
    3. Forcing me to reevaluate and focus on what is important in my life.
    4. Having time to talk to my husband, grown children, and grandchildren anytime of day.
    5. Making me stop to appreciate all that my husband does for me every day…

  11. witchlinblue says:

    1. I’ve learned to walk away from stress trigger events without fearing that I’m offending someone. I even ask those situations to leave my home, I never use to be able to do that but I do now and I have less unmanageable days now.
    2. Seems like a common one and it surprised me to see it in your list and others; Slow-down. Wow, I embrace it so much, I have the chances now to ‘stop and smell the roses’ types of moments. I appreciate every day with a new battle, room to rest, room to ponder, room to learn what otherwise would have missed me. Most of those in my life know this about me and accept it though there are a few die hards that never quite get it.
    3. The feeling of gratitude and humbleness that I didn’t quite get when I was well. I’ve gone on quite a journey of self-discovery spiritually and mindfully and it has been and will be enlightening.
    4. My cat, Bobby. I live alone in a new city (well four years), my son moved out last year but only across the street. He and my cat are my family but my cat is always there. Room to room he follows me, both of us home bound and dependent on each other. He talks to me, I talk to him back. He has his habits and I have mine and we co-exist on a level of understanding and I so appreciate that when I’m in a lot of pain and I’m battling or even on good days when we bask in the sun together occasionally giving each other a glance of appreciation.
    5. The internet. I’m not sure how I would cope without it. I’ve depended on it many times for various reasons. Looking up side effects of meds, looking for other options, opinions, ideas, people who care, people who need someone to care, to see the world from a office chair, to download any audio book I want so I don’t have to hold a book, I mean everything. Today my goal was to figure out if anyone has fixed their own ring splints without breaking them. I found my answer. And I found this list and other peoples lists and it makes me feel so very not alone so I’m thankful for the internet.

    Thanks RA_Guy for the great post, very thought provoking !!!

  12. witchlinblue says:

    @ Sadie K. The comment you made about being able to work or not, if I could just address it a little bit. I can tell you a little, but each person with RA is different, that is if it’s RA that you have. Some have frequent remissions, some have none, some react positively to new or old drugs, some can’t handle those drugs or have severe side effects and are waiting on new drugs, some work because their disease is being ‘managed’ usually buy powerful drugs. Some are sometimes ‘managed’ by drugs and sometimes the drugs don’t work well enough and some are just praying for a new option. Some go into remission and it never comes back. I’m at the worse end of the scale for a lot of reasons but I know many who live fairly normal looking lives financially but most of them depend on a spouse or family for the bad times. I’m in Canada so I’m on disability from the government and have been since ’92 which was the last time I was able to work. I use to work like any other hard working person, I have 5 years of college and university, I use to compete in sports and I travelled the world. A doctor or specialist has never told me to start preparing for a poor future, I just figured it out as I went along. Most of it was a shock to me, especially learning to cope on a below poverty level income bringing up a child on my own. So if you are waiting on a doctor to tell you this might happen, forget it, ask them point blank how things look to them, and don’t take their word for it either, look for clues in your health, lifestyle, medications, ie: some meds you can’t take long term without serious complications like prednisone (sp). Find out for yourself if that is in the future and if you think it is at all likely then have a backup plan. I wish I had and those who have one and are in a bad way are thankful they did and had the foresight to have done so. Im not telling you what to think because every chronic illness situation is different, just don’t wear blinders and ask questions from every source. Good luck and I hope it all turns out really well for you. :)

  13. Linda C says:

    I will have to think seriously about my five things to be grateful for with OA and RA. I think they would be similar to yours and everyone elses.

  14. Mikel says:

    @ Sadie K. – I too am single (divorced), have a mortgage, work 40 hours a week and have RA. But I’ll have to say that working is one of my five favourite things.

    The second is enjoying each day. I ended up divorced due to RA and the hell I was going through to get to this stage. But one thing that came out of that, was the fact I have a son. He now spends half the time with me and while he’s only 6, he still opens jars for me every now and again.

    Third – Trying new things because you never know when you’ll have to stop. I’ve on Prednesolne daily and Methatrexate weekly, and this combo has not only allowed me to get bac k to work, but I now sing in a rock band too. :) I pay for that one ever time we perform, a few hours of fun in the night followed by two days of hell. But boy it’s worth it.

    Four – Not going to the gym. Ok, I’ll bigger now than I was before, but I’m happy with myself. I cycle and swim every now and again, but if anyone calls me “fat lad” or “big fella” I pull the steriod card. :)

    Five – Realising I’ve worked out that life is good. Sitting in the park, not rushing to get somewhere, allowing yourself to take your time and see the littlethings. I’m more alive now than I ever was before. Just poorer.

    After reading Michael J Fox’s autobiography “Lucky Man” I found I had developed an understanding and respect for him dealing with a cronic illness – now I have RA, I can say “I know what he means”

  15. Lorraine ( england) says:

    I am really sorry but i cant find 5fav things about R A , i am still struggling to come to terms with it , struggling to come to terms with the pain , the sleepless nights , the discomfort , the anoying way i drop things and constantly bang my hands , fingers , especially when they r so sore …Although i found it very uplifting to read all ur 5 things , it will take me sometime to find mine .. Sorry to be so negative when u lot are so upbeat , i dont really have a very supportive family .. they cant see pain can they so they just ignore my “crys” of pain , its so great to be able to read other ppls stories and no i am not the only one .. Maybe soon i will b writing my 10 fav thengs lol

  16. Kat says:

    Great idea. My top five:

    1. I am incredibly sensitive to mobility problems faced by those with problems worse than mine–I notice people in wheelchairs struggling to get through a doorway, the homeless people with scarred feet struggling to make it before the light turns green. I see these things because I face daily struggles myself, but I feel much more compassion for others and feel lucky to still have the (well, to still have some) use of both legs.

    2. The way other people react to my flares is a surprising window into their souls. I am constantly impressed by how some people have the gift of foresight and will make sure I have somewhere to sit down when we go out, or read how I feel based on how I stand. On the flip side, the people that won’t listen to what’s actually going on surprise me with their callousness. But had I not had the flare, I’d have no idea.

    3. I know that my accomplishments at the gym are a bit more stupendous than those of the guys doing all the grunting.

    4. I really know my way around a Health Savings Account.

    5. Because of RA, I was forced, at an early age, to discover the joys of swimming instaead of, god forbid, soccer. Swimming was the one sport I could really excel in and now I have that skill for life.

  17. Gillian Pidler says:

    Hi RA Guy & all. I’ve had RA for 17 years and these are my 5 favourite things that living with it has bought me.

    1. Time, time to go slowly, to see the beauty in small things, time to really listen to what others have to say, time to read about others experiences & lives, time to spend with my family & time to really look after me & do the things I enjoy.

    2. Friends, I’ve met many friends through having RA, some incredibly amazing people who have taught me so much & not just about RA but about life.

    3. Knowledge, I’ve learnt so much from living with this diesese & in turn am able to help others who are learning to live with it, and I also feel much more able to help myself.

    4. Appreciation, of those who love me & help me out, my family & friends, appreciation of the medical field & all that they do to help us in our diesese process and of course appreciation for the less pain days.

    5. Ability, the ability to enjoy the things I still can, the ability to help others learning to live with RA, the ability to know my limits.

  18. purplescooter says:

    1. Handicap pass. Hey, I’ve got a limp and sometimes walking is rough. Prime parking is a perk.
    2. Tennis shoes at work. The other suckers have to wear high heels & dress shoes.
    3. My antique cane. Who knew I’d have to use my great-grandfather’s cane in my 20s? I named the cane Oluf, after my great-grandfather. Thankfully I don’t have to use Oluf all the time.
    4. No fear. I was an extreme worrier before RA came into my life. Now, four years into this thing, I have no fear. I say bring it on.
    5. No more hangovers. I chose not to drink after I was dx. I figure I have enough crap going into my body, no need to add alcohol on top of it. I do miss cold beer on a hot summer day but I don’t miss the headache in the morning!

  19. Rob says:

    RA and rheumatoid vasculitis have recently put me on long term disability and I can no longer work so now my 5 fav things of RA are different.
    1. Getting to be a more present father to my 3 kids. I can drive them to school, see events I used to not see cause of work, help with their homework and work on my patience with them.
    2. Being able to spend time with friends and give more time to friendships.
    3. Spend more time with my dad.
    4. Coffee on the porch with my wife.
    5. More time to look into alternative therapies – accupuncture, supplements, etc.

  20. Linda Robinson says:

    1. seeing the love in the ees of family when they know i’m having pain.
    2. having people ask you how you are and knowing they are genuinely wanting to know, not just repeating a socially-expected question.
    3. not having to deal with the discomfort of high-heeled shoes, because they just are not do-able anymore.
    4. knowing that my RA makes my family and friends realize that sick people don’t always “look sick.” This translates into a whole group of people who are now more understanding and aware of others in the world.
    5. Have to save #5 for my loving husband of 24 years, who, for 2 years has been my hands, arms and legs when mine didn’t work.

  21. kamila{NEWENGLAND} says:

    i just was dx with lupus/R.A.AND ITZ BEEN HARD …STILL WORKING BUT DONT KNOW WHEN AM GOING TO HAVE TO STOP..I CALL OUT MORE THAN WORKING.. BECAUSE EVERYDAY IS A FIGHT TO GET UP… IT FEEL LIKE A 10POUND BAG OF COINS I CARRY AROUND WITH ME BURNING STING FEELING . I HAVE A 4YR OLD DAUGHTER NO FAMILY OR FRIEND TO HELP ME ..SLEEP MOST OF THE TIME UNLESS ITZ TO DO FOR MY DAUGHTER I FEEL LIKE I CANT DO THIS… …SO HAVE TO WORK HARD ON MY FAV 5

  22. Whimbrel says:

    My 5 favorite things about lupus:

    1. Finding strength I did not know I had
    2. Being grateful for every day that I am given because life
    (with pain or not) is a gift
    3. Being forced to be less self-sufficient- I can’t always do
    things by myself and have learned to be willing to accept help
    when I need it
    4. Becoming incredibly medically savvy (how many 18 year olds
    have even heard of tumor necrosis factor alpha)
    5. Getting closer to God and knowing he is there, no matter
    what

  23. Mindy says:

    I love your blog. Here is my list of MY 5 FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT LIVING WITH RA! 1) I’m able to “be in the moment” and enjoy everyday.2) I use to work in a nursing home. I know what it feels like to have to get up when you’re stiff and sore.3) I’ve gotten to talk with and share some of my experiences with others. 4) I have gained a lot of weight but I get to just blame it on the Prednisone. 5)I’ve had RA for 29 years. Growing up I wasn’t aloud to do gym in school. Back then, that was a blessing in disguise. LOL

  24. allensgirl says:

    i have to say to Lorriane, I understand where you are coming from. I can’t find a darn thing that I like about RA/Lupus/thyroiditis/spinal stenosis/sjogrens etc.I had to have my teeth removed because of Sjogrens,no good saliva in my mouth so decay happens. I’ve been dealing with all this for over fifteen years.One thing after another,and just when I think I might catch a brake,my cervical spine becomes unstable.3 spine surgeries,cervical/and lower lumbar 2 times.I wish I could say I’ve become a better person,but thats not true.I’m a shadow of my former self.I do appreciate you all(I am from the South)and am trying hard to find one good thing about being sick.

  25. JWC says:

    I came across this blog accidently looking up something for RA. Thank you, RA Guy!!! Your attitude is wonderful and also respected by everyone that has responded.
    I agree, you have to find the good in having no choice but to slow down, but sometimes it is a hard pill to swallow, lol.
    It makes each and every one of us stronger in a sense if we don’t let depression take down our spirit. This is a hard task at times but if you let depression seep in….it’s easy to give up.
    I love some of the positive “mental health side effects” it has given us….I will post my five favorite soon. I’m going to think about it a bit. I was diagnosed over 9.5 years ago and have recently lost my job without any health insurance. I was in a “remission” for over 2.5 years before I lost my insurance due to a bio med, Enbrel, but can no longer afford it without the insurance.
    I will stay positive and can also tell you, I have noticed the small things I was missing out on in my life. It is good sometimes to have to STOP and re-evaluate what is important.
    God Bless

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