Old Vs. New

Old Me New Me

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day. -Dalai Lama

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has been thinking a lot about the “old me” and the “new me”. By the old me, I guess I mean the person who I was before rheumatoid arthritis. Along these same lines, the new me would mean the person who I have become while living with rheumatoid arthritis.

During these past few months, memories of my old self would occasionally pass through my mind. These images that I used to have of myself felt more and more distant with each passing day. And to be honest, I can’t even really remember what it was like to not live with chronic pain and debilitating information. This was back at a time when I, like many others, did not know what “rheumatoid arthritis” meant.

The odd thing about these recent flashbacks was that whenever they happened, I found myself focusing on my new self – and I really liked what I saw. This was a good feeling to have – even as I was encountering increased periods of mobility loss in my hands and feet. I could spend lots of time sulking about the passing of individual who I used to be, but in the long run doing so would not help me much.

The truth of the matter is that – with or without rheumatoid arthritis – I would still be a very different person in the present than I was in the past.

Before I started writing this post, I wanted to come up with a graphic representation of the old me versus the new me.

For the old me, I wanted to convey a sense of completeness, particularly when it came to my physical being. Though “complete”, there was also a blurry edge – things were not as in focus as they are in the present.

For the new me, it was important to represent a person – who though was not as “complete” as before – is actually much more balanced and focused. Sure, there are parts of my physical body that don’t work nearly as well as I would like them to, but I do think that this has allowed me to concentrate on and appreciate more the parts that do work.

And as I finalized this image (shown above), I was quite startled by the results. There is one me that strongly stands out between the two – and that is the new me. Sure, a lot of the old me remains in the new me, but there has been quite a bit of change. I really do like who the new me has become.

I appreciate the beauty of cutting my own food and lifting it to my mouth, all on my own. I know the peace that comes with once again being able to get dressed, without having to ask for help. I understand the sense of accomplishment that results from being able to walk across the room, without a cane or crutches.

All of these items represent wonderful additions to my new life. Had it not been for my rheumatoid arthritis, I would have never been able to recognize the beauty in these “little” things.

Even though I have had a great handful of days during this past week, I have no doubt that rheumatoid arthritis will continue to take away different aspects of my current self. I know that these losses will not come easy…they have not been easy in the past and I don’t expect them to be easy in the future.

As long as I accept the new person who I currently am, while not forgetting the person who I used to be, I know everything will be okay.

By the way…I also look forward to one day meeting the person who I have yet to become.

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

11 Comments
11 comments
  1. Millicent says:

    The Serenity Prayer is perfect for this post:

    “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference.”

    We all must learn to accept—not easy to do, but it makes a world of difference. I’m so happy that you are feeling better!!

  2. Robert says:

    “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” -John F Kennedy

  3. Helen says:

    Awesome post. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and searching for ways to think about the differences between the old me and the new me. RA is such a part of my life that it usually just feels like “me”, but with my HCM I’m now learning what it’s like to try to navigate life with a newer diagnosis.

    I love the idea of creating a visual. I think it would help me better understand what’s different in my life now, and what has stayed the same. Maybe I’ll try it. :)

  4. Lana says:

    Great post! I can relate to that thinking. I have both RA and Fibromayalgia and I hate asking for help but I know i have to. I used to be the go to person now I am the person who needs everyone’s help. It is a depressing feeling. I try to maintain a positive attitude. For one, I look at the world through brighter eyes than I ever did. I appreciate everything that life has given me more than ever. I have changed because of my diagnoses, but I think I am a better person than I ever was before. And I agree with you, that with or without RA, we would have changed, but my diagnoses were a wake up call for me. I used to believe I could conquer the world and I didn’t need anyone’s help. Still, I have changed in so many ways – mostly good, and I will have to change so more, but isn’t that just part of getting older?

  5. Diane says:

    Good attitude. With each life changing event…..marriage, illness, death, children, jobs, RA!!!! With each change…you have to redefine your life. You can do this in a positive way or become bitter and angry. The more I accept and try to find peace in my life….the happier and more healthy I am!

  6. Patty says:

    Yes. And the best part of meaningful is that you have a way to connect the two. 40 years since my official RA dx, and 26 years combined w/Fibromyalgia [secondary], I have spent the past 18 years online and continue to maintain friendships that way.

    Dalai Lama’s words give me comfort, but I simply have room left for the pain.

  7. Alisa says:

    Everything you have said is so true, & definitely a stage I had gone through years ago. I know that I have become a stronger person because I will not allow this disease/condition or whatever anyone wants to call it, get the better of me (once I’ve gotten over the tears/anger/frustration :P ).

    Hope you’re not in too much pain today. Keep well.

  8. Mirah Riben says:

    At 64, having had RA for most of my adult life…the old and new me are far more about age than disease or disfigurement.

    I look at pictures of me at 30 and 40 and then look in the mirror and wonder where I went! The only thing I say about RA in all this is that it perhaps ages us a bit faster, but all people experience these feelings and yes, the serenity prayer is key. So too is always looking forward because we can never go back!

    I also have to say that just the fact that you chose to blog about the whole issue of RA makes it central to your life and your identity, and keeps you focused on the disease and every aspect of nuance of it. I’d prefer not to pay it that much attention or give it that much power.

    I am who am. I am a mother, a grandmother, an author and an activist. I have friends. Was married for 18 years and have had lovers before and since. I live life. I am not RA and RA is not me.

    I am kept in sharp focus by the fact that at this point in time and at this time of my life – everyone around me young and old – has some kind of autoimmune disease, or other ailment or issue or struggle. …You can either chose to let it identify you or not.

  9. RA Guy says:

    Mirah, thank you for your comment!

    You write that by choosing to write my blog, I am making my rheumatoid arthritis central to my life and to my identity. You also go on to suggest that I dwell on every aspect and nuance of my illness.

    I could not disagree with you more.

    Writing this blog has been one of THE key components of my recovery over the past few months. When I talk about the challenges I encounter with my disease – either here on my blog or while sitting on a chair in my psychologist’s office – I am processing and working through my emotions. I am not getting stuck. In fact, quite the opposite is happening – I am moving forward.

    Rheumatoid arthritis IS a part of my life and my identity, whether I like it or not. For me, it is not a question of how often I do or do not choose to talk about it. What I consider to be important is HOW I choose to talk about it.

    I have been encouraged by private messages that I continue to receive from other people living with rheumatoid arthritis, who tell me that they are helped by reading my blog. Other people tell me that they have suffered in silence for far too long, and that they are encouraged to hear those of us who share our stories publicly. People also thank me for doing my little part in helping to raising awareness of RA – in a manner that their family and friends can easily understand.

    I encourage everyone who wants to share his or her experience of living with rheumatoid arthritis to do so. But at the same time, I understand that – as individuals – we each have our way of coping with all of the ups and downs that are a part of life.

    Thank you for your continued readership, for your messages on DailyStrength, and for your private emails!

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