To date, RA Guy has gone through four distinct stages during his journey with rheumatoid arthritis. I wonder how many stages I’ve yet to experience?
My first period lasted a few years, and corresponds to the time when I was already living with rheumatoid arthritis but didn’t know it. There were various periods where my knees stopped working well, and I had to resort to using canes and crutches in order to get around. I knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know what was wrong. I really had nothing to react to during this time other than my own confusion.
My second period lasted a couple of years as well, and started right after I was diagnosed with RA. Now that I knew what was wrong, I had something to react to…and believe me, I reacted against the presence of rheumatoid arthritis in my body – strongly. So much so that I began to envision it as a type of alien that has invaded my body, and started to fight to expel it from my body. The problem was, that this seemed to make things only worse.
My third period lasted up until only recently. During this time, I became a little more accepting of the fact that I had rheumatoid arthritis. Still, I thought that I needed to do everything possible in order to attack it, in hope that it would go away. Though not as severe as my previous period, the underlying sentiment was still one of me against my RA.
And now, I find myself in my fourth period. Over the past few months, as I have grown to accept my rheumatoid arthritis as in integral part of my being, I have discovered that I am less comfortable with the war metaphor. If my RA is a part of myself, then what does it mean to attack my RA? Having believed for years that accepting my RA was the same thing as giving up hope, I now know that this is not the case. I can accept my RA and everything it bring into my life, but I can still work as much as possible to try to minimize these effects. This is where I find myself at the moment.
I’ve been having these thoughts for the past few weeks but had been unable to put them down on paper. This morning I found that someone else had already done so. How happy I was to read Pens and Needles’ “A pyschological resistance to the war metaphor.” This post includes an excerpt from Andrew Sullivan in which he talks about living with the HIV virus: “I mean a psychological resistance to the war metaphor, an ownership of your own cells, and the spiritual calm that accepts our physical embeddedness…”
I too currently find myself thinking these same thoughts, and am happy to hear that others find themselves at the same point in the journey with chronic illness. I don’t really feel like “attacking my RA”. Instead, I feel like I need to do everything I can do to take care of my body – a body comprised of many parts, one of them being rheumatoid arthritis.
Thank you Helen, for posting this today – it really helped me finalize the transition between my previous and current stage.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!