Confessions Of An Optimist

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy is very grateful for all of the messages of support that he continually receives. Yesterday, one of my longtime readers Carla wrote the following comment here on my blog:

sunAs you know, I’ve been following your blog for a while (almost since I was first diagnosed more than 2 years ago). You seem to have made such great progress in your life, and although the disease hasn’t seemed to relent, you’ve seemed to fill your life back up with good things and a great outlook. I’ve been very pleased to watch this transformation.

My email inbox is also full of similar messages. (If I have not responded to your email, please know that I do read each and every email that is sent to me, and eventually I do get around to replying to each one personally.) About a week ago, I received the following message:

sunI just wanted to say thank you for having your website. I have felt sooooooo lonely since I started going through my first RA flare. I have been crying so much because I don’t know how to get anyone to understand this and now I see that I am not alone. There are many others who are my age and younger going through what I’m going through and it helps to know that it’s not just me. So thank you, you’ve helped me find some hope!

I can’t say how much these two messages, and the many other similar ones that I have received over the past year and a half, have helped me. Anyone who lives with an illness like Rheumatoid Arthritis knows why it is called “chronic” – it just never goes away, no matter how much we might want it to.

So I am in no way trying to undermine the importance of the 99% of the messages that I receive that are optimistic and supportive, but I find myself in a situation where I need to respond to the other 1% of the messages that I receive. I try to ignore them and move on, but the truth of the matter is that they do bother me.

What type of messages are these that I receive, you might be asking? They are messages that tell me that I have no idea what it is like to live with “real” pain and “real” rheumatoid arthritis. Some of them even refer to my rheumatoid arthritis as a “claim”. (As if all along I’ve been making this up?) Or even worse yet, the classic “your RA is not as bad as my RA”.

So I have a confession to make. Yes, I really do live with rheumatoid arthritis…and no, I have not always been the optimist that I am at the moment. For all too long, the dark shadow of my chronic illness and pain hung over my head, and pushed me further and further down. I have reached lows in my life that I would never ever want any other person to ever have to experience. I thought that I would never be able to leave this place, no matter how many outpourings of support and helpful hands that were offered by people around me.

But I proved myself wrong. My optimism does not mean that I no longer live with what can be at times unbearable pain…it just means that I have figured out how to get through it. Sometimes getting through it means giving in, being angry, being sad, and wondering what the hell it means to live a life like this, day after day. My secret is that I allow myself to experience these emotions without getting stuck in this place. Even if I don’t know why, I just continue to be positive and try to focus on the good. Trust me, it works.

I once again find myself coming back to one of these dark spots. Just today, my rheumatoid arthritis grabbed on hard…and no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake free from it. I didn’t really get moving until around 5 pm (yes, that’s pm!) in the afternoon. During the afternoon, I didn’t even have the energy to change the music on my iPod. (Luckily, I was listening to music that I hadn’t listened to in a long time.)

Do I love days like today? Honestly, I don’t. But my evening has been okay. I even went to the grocery store a few hours later to do some shopping. And I am grateful that today was a holiday (Day of the Dead), so my obligatory day in bed did not have any effect on my work commitments.

So I’m not always happy, cheerful, and in a good mood. But when I’m not, I constantly try to remind myself what it means to be happy, cheerful, and in a good mood…and this counts for a lot.

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