“Patience and fortitude conquer all things.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yesterday marked the completion of one full week in which Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy can say that he, and not his rheumatoid arthritis, was back in charge.
After being dragged around for months by my pain and inflammation, it was nice to get off this ride. If this were the rheumatoid arthritis roller coaster, I would once again be back in the station.
As I look back on the past few months, however, I begin to realize that I was actually more in charge than I thought I was – even though at the time it did not always feel like this was the case.
I did have a few moments of slight pain and inflammation this past week. The most prominent episode was actually the result of over-stressing my toe joints in one particular posture we did in Pilates class on Friday. The other episodes could be counted in terms of minutes, and not hours or days (or even months!).
I actually appreciated this low level of RA activity, though. To me, it served as a reminder that although my RA is less active to almost inactive, it is still there.
The best part of having written in this blog every day is that I can actually go back whenever I want and read what happened on any particular day…another “reminder” that I am sure will continue to benefit me in the future.
While it’s definitely been nice not having to face the same old struggle in recent days, I think it’s best to not forgot what I actually went through. I think I will be better prepared for the next flare if I don’t fall back into a cycle of denial, as I have done before.
So as I enjoy the present and think about the future, I look to the past – and try to highlight those things which helped me the most when it came to getting through the most difficult moments of the past few months. Two thoughts come to mind: patience and fortitude.
“The quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.” *
In My 5 Favorite Things About Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis, I listed patience as one of my five things. Every day I continue to learn more about the importance of patience, when it comes to living with a chronic illness.
All too often I found myself thinking that if I tried something new one day in hopes of improving my rheumatoid arthritis, that I should see results by the following day. When that change did not come, it sometimes felt like things were taking way too long.
As I look back and realize that it took over two months of making my health care and recovery my number one priority, I begin to realize that things did indeed get better quite quickly – after all, this latest bad spell started in November of last year. I know, when I was in the midst of my struggle I wanted improvement to come much more quickly – but by being patient and not losing hope, I finally achieved what I had hoped for.
I also continue to learn the importance of patience when it comes to my relationship with others. I realize now different people need different lengths of time in order to react to and accept my illness. I also realize that their shows of support many not always come in the manner that I had expected them to…but when they do come and I recognize them as such, they are probably even better that what I have imagined.
My patience has allowed me to see the beauty of individuality, which is something that we all have.
“Mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.” *
Up until now, I have not written about my most personal encounter with fortitude. On Sunday, May 3, 2009 (the date remains etched in my mind) I experienced my most difficult moment to date with rheumatoid arthritis.
I lay in bed that afternoon. I had tried to get up and move around during the morning, but this proved to be beyond what I was able to do. Things continued to worsen, as the day progressed.
Some time around mid-afternoon, I reached a point where I realized that I could not move my arms and legs. I frantically sent messages to my mind, in hopes of provoking some movement – any movement. Nothing happened. Needless to say, I was scared beyond all belief. During that half hour or so, I actually believed that my limbs would never move again.
Should I call out for help? Or should I just keep on trying? Thoughts raced through my head. Then I found myself talking to my rheumatoid arthritis – I don’t know if these words actually passed through my lips or were just in my mind. Either way, their effect were immediate and profound.
“You can have my body, but you can’t have my mind.”
And with that, the barrier that my intense pain and inflammation had erected between myself and my mind dissolved in a heartbeat. Almost if by magic, my hands and my feet moved. I gently rotated my ankles and wrists for the next half hour, scared that if I stopped I would once again be unable to move them.
Deep down, I still feel slightly traumatized by this experience. But I find comfort in the knowledge that when I encountered this overwhelming challenge, I managed to find a way to push my inner strength one step forward.
I browse through the emotional baggage that I picked up during this past half year. There is a lot of dead weight, so I throw that out. There are some things I hold onto, though. Some things remind me that I still live with rheumatoid arthritis, even though it’s much less active. Other things are there in reserve, waiting to be pulled out next time I have to set out on the road to recovery. Lastly, there are a couple of other items that I could not toss out, even if I wanted to. These are scars, acting as a testament to what I have been through.
And with this, I have a new found sense of inner peace. Everything is going to be okay.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!