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.
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.
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!