Looking In The Mirror

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

Those who have chronic diseases did not choose to become heroes, life chose them. -Chuck Gallozzi, motivational writer

MirrorRheumatoid Arthritis Guy once again find himself in a downswing. The funny thing is, I actually feel sort of good – much better than I did during previous downswings.

I don’t necessarily want to say the dealing with the ups and downs of living with rheumatoid arthritis becomes any easier…the pain is so intense, that not even my memories can accurately record how bad it can get. Each time my pain returns, I still continue to be surprised at how much it can hurt. Is is only during these worst moments that I can totally relate to similar episodes that I have passed through before.

Throughout the day, is feels like two huge boulders are grinding down on each wrist. The tendons (?) on the outer side of my hands get so tight, that my little fingers start pointing out in the weirdest directions. My wrist joints get so inflamed, that the swelling is visible and the joints stick out.

The only aspect of this episode that worries me somewhat is that I am still on a Prednisone taper. I hadn’t expected this level of symptoms to return until I finished my current corticosteroid treatment, but hey – what can I say? If there is one thing that I have learned about living with rheumatoid arthritis it is that it always keeps me on my feet. (That would be literal, of course…because when it affects my ankles and feet as much as it is currently affecting my wrists and hands, the last thing I do is stay on my feet.)

I find myself at an interesting stage. Even though I still do get occasional waves of intense fear, overall I feel okay. I’m trying to do my best when it comes to taking care of myself, and I am constantly looking for ways in which I can take care of myself even more. Instead of concentrating on my symptoms – as limiting and painful as the can be at times – I find myself focusing in on the positive aspects of my life. Previously I wrote that my list of things that I can do will always be long than my list of things that I cannot do. Recently, I have been reminding myself of this on a daily basis.

In the past, period like the one in which I currently find myself were marked by one frame of thought: “Get through this!”. Of course, I still am motivated by moving forward and getting past the worst periods…but I also find myself okay with where I am at the moment. This is my life. I can adapt accordingly in order to make sure I get enough rest and do not bring additional harm to myself…but in the end, life goes on.

I don’t want to sit on the sidelines and be a spectator. I would much rather be a part of the game.

Living with an illness that is both chronic and crippling raises many challenges. One of the more obvious ones is the sense of self-image. I look at myself in the mirror, at my thinning hair, at my slight limp in my left ankle, and at my crutches. Five years ago I would have never imagined that any one of these aspects would have been a component of my self-identity…but now they are ALL a part of who I am. Just like this is my life, this is also the person who I have grown to become.

I used to react strongly against aspects of my illness which I thought were not a part of who I was. Just as I continue to learn that life – and living with rheumatoid arthritis – is a process, I also continue to learn that my illness is an integral part of a the person who I am. The odd thing is that by accepting this, my disability actually becomes a less identifying factor of my self-image. It’s funny the way things work sometimes, no?

Some days I choose to highlight one aspect of my self over another aspect – this is constantly changing, and it one of the beautiful things about life. I’ve grown to accept the impact that rheumatoid arthritis has had on my body up until the moment, and I hope to remain as open and accepting when it comes to the impact that rheumatoid arthritis will have on my body in the future.

Whatever happens to my hands, to my wrists, to my knees, to my ankles, to my toes, and to any other joint, one thing will be certain – I will still be me.

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