Pacifism

No WarTo 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!

6 Comments
6 comments
  1. Lana says:

    With experince, our perceptions change. I am going through the “alien” invading my body phase. Not pleasant to say the least. Glad to see that you come so far in your in journey. Here’s to more lessons in the RA road.

  2. Helen says:

    Thanks, RA Guy.

    Your post has helped me think this through some more, too. I really do feel like RA is just a part of me like anything else, and I need to take care of it instead of fighting it, just like I take care of other parts of my body.

    Of course it’s different with acute illnesses like cancer, but those of us with chronic, lifelong illness really do need to find a way to live harmoniously with them. That doesn’t mean we don’t treat them and try to feel better. It just means we conceptualize treatment differently.

    I’m glad you’re feeling this way.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I absolutely agree. I view my pain and fatigue as my body asking for help. I give it what it needs – rest, kindness, and comfort. Despite the risks and side effects, I view my Humira not as something toxic, but as something soothing and healing. While I don’t necessarily feel better physically, it’s a much more peaceful way to live. Everyone gets there in their own time.

  4. Wren says:

    I admire all of your for regarding — or trying to, at least — your RA as a part of you. I’m trying to do that, but even after all these years, I’m still struggling with even calling my particular dose of RA “mine.” To me, it’s always been a foreign invader. And because of that, while I do what I can to treat the disease and take care of myself because of (or in spite of) it, I still resent it as an unwanted and not-at-all-benevolent occupier. I have to live with it, but I must also do all I can to subvert it and, ultimately, drive it away.

    Thanks, everyone, for getting me thinking again. Perhaps I’ll get to the point, one of these days, when I can tolerate the RA in my body rather than feel as if I’m constantly beset by a vicious invader.

  5. Lynda says:

    After 29 years since my initial diagnosis, I’ve come to have to accept that not only is it more helpful to accept and minimize than to fight against the disease… but that acceptance itself is cyclical. Right about the time I have a really calm outlook and think ‘finally, I’ve gotten here!’ then something tosses me out of that calm, and its time to fight a bit more, or mutter ‘why me’ some more.

    So, then there is the need to accept the ethereal nature of acceptance..hah. Ah well, something to muse on when you’re too stiff to get out of bed.

  6. Phil says:

    I still wish it would just leave me, but like you , when I fight it I am fighting me. I lay down and do my deep breathing exercises to relax my whole body and then imagine my painful areas as pebbles or piles of leaves that are clogging up a stream and that my energy flow with each breath,just like rising water, can wash the pebbles and leaves out of the way and widen my stream of energy. Sounds silly but sometimes it works to get me through a tough day.
    Hang in there.
    Rooting for you on this end.
    Three cheers for the RA guys positive vibes.
    Phil

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