Soon after I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a few years ago, my world seemed to split into two spheres. Everything that I used to enjoy doing slowly seemed to fade away.
What used to be the present was now the past, and day by day “my life” became more and more distant. At a certain point, it became “my old life”. (Otherwise known as “my life before rheumatoid arthritis”.)
This was replaced by “my new life”. And what was “my new life”, you might ask? It was a world full of pain, disability, and depression. (This was definitely a case where newer did not mean better.) The more I struggled with my rheumatoid arthritis, the more my limitations seemed to grow and the less happy I became. It was a life in which my disease controlled everything. I was merely going along for the very unpleasant journey.
There was a solution, though — or so I thought. “If only I could do what I used to be able to do.” Then, everything would be better.
After a few years of constantly repeating the previous thought, I realized that something was not working. So, I came up with what I thought was a surefire solution: “I will go back to doing what I used to enjoy doing, as soon as my pain goes away.” (If you’ve already recognized the mistake in this sentence, give yourself an extra point!)
And after a few years of repeating version 2.0 of my mantra, I realized something new: the pain wasn’t going away. Like it or not, it was here to stay.
And I was suddenly confronted with an important decision. I could continue yearning for the life that I used to have…or, I could actually work on bringing it back. Sure, it wasn’t going to be exactly the same, as I would have to make some slight modifications here and there, but in its own certain way it would be new-and-improved.
I don’t remember precisely when, but sometime in the past two or three weeks I thought to myself “I have my life back”. As I had predicted, it’s not exactly my old life. It’s even better, though. It’s everything that I used to enjoy doing, combined with the new sense of self that has matured to include all aspects of my current life — even the rheumatoid arthritis.
It’s a world where I now know what a good “just push through it” is and a bad “just push through it” is. (Just one more of the continual contradictions that living with RA has bought into my life.) At the moment I can’t necessarily explain it in any more detail…it’s just something that feel.
During the past few days, I (finally) put my digital srl camera into manual mode, and climbed onto the roof of the oldest church in town to take photos. I took my longest walk in over a year. I listened to live music one night, and another night I went to a party to celebrate the coldest night of the year. I spent more time in the kitchen cooking. I went to a breakfast with my former yoga classmates…and the list goes on.
At the same time, I continued to deal with the symptoms of my rheumatoid arthritis. Just last night, my wrists flared all night long, waking me up at 2am and keeping my up until 5am. I got used to putting on my ankle braces every day. I worked really hard on trying to establish a more regular eating schedule, in order to assist my stomach as it adjusts to the increased doses of my medicines…and the list goes on.
My life is no longer something hiding in the past or waiting in the future. Once again, it’s in the present…and I am loving it, rheumatoid arthritis and all.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!