What Is “Health”?

“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.” -Buddha

healthHypothetically speaking, if Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy had a do-over on life which included the option to choose whether or not RA was a part of his life, what would he choose?

I would choose to not change a thing.

This is a strong statement, I know. Excruciating pain. Fear and anxiety. Fatigue. Why would I knowingly invite these and other things into my life, if I had an opportunity to get rid of them once and for all? Chances are that if I do not experience these physical and emotional symptoms as a result of my rheumatoid arthritis, I would experience them because of something else.

Bad diet. Stress. Lack of physical exercise. Overworking. Inflexibility. All of these items were a major part of my life before my rheumatoid arthritis became active. It took a long time to change my habits and thought patterns in order to support a more healthy style of living, but in the end I was able to make the changes.

Living with rheumatoid arthritis equals a more healthy style of living?

It sounds funny, but for me at least, this is very true. I recently wrote some words on “getting better” – at the same time, I often wonder what it means to “be healthy”.

I think it’s quite easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I am unhealthy. After all, I live with a chronic illness that causes chronic pain and debilitating inflammation. I take a handful of pills every day. I attend physical therapy session at least twice a week. I have mornings where my hands and wrists hurt so much that bending them back into shape is an ordeal. And at the moment, the soles of my feet hurt so much that they continue to wake me up during the night.

All in all, we’ve got one really unhealthy guy on our hands, no?

The funny thing, is, that I feel healthier than I have in a long time…in fact, the healthiest that I have felt in my whole life.

I continue to explore modifications to my diet. This has not only allowed me to identify some probably dietary triggers, but it has also left me feeling more nourished and more fully of energy.

I continue to get closer to my ideal weight of 185 lbs. For years (the past decade, actually) this seemed to be way out of range, especially when I was nearing 265 lbs just a little under two years ago. Right now, I am just a couple of pounds away from reaching 200 lbs. Not only do I feel better, but moving around with my crutches is easier…and just know that dropping the extra weight is also helping my knees and feet.

Even though I may not always be able to exercise to the degree that I am used to, I have gotten into the habit during the past couple of years of exercising each day. Before I started living with rheumatoid arthritis, exercise was the absolute last thing on my mind. It was my initial years of living with RA that motivated me to start taking yoga classes.

I continue to work on minimizing stress in my life…and when I can’t minimize the actual stress, I work on minimizing my reaction to it. Later this morning I am going to a group guided mediation session that I have started participating in once a week. I am continually striving to find ways to accentuate the positive side of life. Had I continued down the path that I was on a few years ago, chances are that I would not have learned any of these lessons so early in life.

So yes, I feel healthy…and I don’t think it’s just a matter of me deceiving myself.

“Healthy” has a lot of definitions…for some people is means never having to see the doctor, never having to take a pill, never experiencing any pain (come to think of it, is this actually possible, to not experience ANY pain?).

For me, “healthy” means feeling good about myself. Thanks to my rheumatoid arthritis, I have indeed reached a point where I feel good about myself – body, mind, and soul.

What does “healthy” mean to you?

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

3 Comments
3 comments
  1. Seeking Solace says:

    Excellent post! Like you, I was stressed, overworked, eating crap and just not taking care of myself until the RA showed up. Even in the early stages, I had a hard time letting go of some habits.

    Now that I am popping pills like candy and have pain, fatigue, inflammation, stiffness, and depression/anxiety that comes with RA, I am taking better care of myself. I am mindful of getting enough sleep, eating well (I am a vegetarian) and making the most of exercise when I can.

    Sure, the disease sucks, but in some ways, it is a blessing in disguise.

  2. Laurie says:

    Looking back, I have also made some changes for the better since I have had RA. The last 4 years I lost about 40 lbs (and found about 20 this spring thanks to my friend prednisone) just by not eating fast food, increasing my water intake..I can only drink water in the car or when out to eat, I don’t buy sugary snacks and cookies (of course it has helped that my boys have grown up and moved out), and I really find my self thinking more when I shop. I am not totally vegetarian, but moving in that direction. I have ordered an exercise bike so I can pedal and watch my dvr’d shows, and now that fall is going to be here in the next month or so I am going to start walking again. Next step is to decrease my stress…my job is in turmoil, we are on our 3rd manager in as many years. I decided I can’t do anything about that except go in to work, do my job well and go home, leaving it behind me. I used to have marathon whining sessions with my coworker/friends. It does no good. I also have my ex living in my extra bedroom. he got very ill a year ago with Guillan_Barre, and is way more disabled than me, but that has been a source of stress also. Unfortunately, he isn’t ill enogh to be in a rehab center, but can’t live alone. So we have been dealing with selling his house,etc so he can get in a small apartment with home health coming in to help him. Sadly, with the economy the way it is it has been a long process.
    I’m sorry this sounds all whiney, but I did get good news this week, my oldest son proposed to his girlfriend so we have something good to look forward to! And oh, yeah, I had my last rituxan dose for this year today and still haven’t puked!

  3. Christie says:

    Another excellent post RA Guy. Thanks! Being a newbie to all this RA stuff I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being “healthy”. Not in the context of wishing I didn’t have RA… although trust me I can most certainly get on my pity-pot concerning my circumstances (or I should say my lack of acceptance of my circumstances). Lately my thoughts about being healthy have had to do with learning to take care of myself, and I’ve realized that for me my “self” is all encompassing… body, mind, and soul. Taking care of my whole self is something I haven’t really ever consistently done before. Consequently I’m now very much in the learning process of this all encompassing care-taking of self, and to be quite honest, most days I have no idea what that entails! I feel like a fish out of water… I have a body that can no longer adapt to my surroundings, and a mind that’s reeling with panic at the inability to understand these new and unfamiliar circumstances. But with each passing day of this new RA journey I’m learning more and more about my “self” and what I need to do to be healthy… on every level.
    Thanks RA Guy for all the inspiration and guidance you provide as I make my way along this new and very unfamiliar path.

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