Staying Positive And Moving Forward

A few years ago, back before I even started blogging as Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy, I reached my lowest point in my battle against depression and suicidal thoughts. It was quite difficult to re-visit this period of my life, so much so that I only opened up about it recently, when I wrote a blog post a few months ago that was titled Don’t Lose Hope.

It wasn’t necessarily a feeling of shame that previously kept me from discussing this topic. Instead, it was just the fact that I still had many unhealed wounds; wounds that were received from such raw (and almost unimaginable) emotional and physical pain.

I’m glad I finally opened up about my previous struggles, though. Not only has it helped me reach a point where I feel more healed than damaged, but I’ve also received more private messages that you can imagine, from others who currently find themselves in the same spot where I was a few years ago. Many people have told me that they specifically decided not to commit suicide, after reading the blog post mentioned above. I know exactly what it’s like to be in the shoes of the person on the other side of the email, and reading words such as there always moves me to tears.

Yes, there is a lot of sadness in these tears that I shed, but there is also a lot of happiness. Happiness in the knowledge that by having shared some of my deepest struggles, I’ve been able to help others who currently feel like they’re losing the battle against depression.

An interesting thing happened, when I finally decided that I needed to reach out to others for help and share what was going on in my head. I made an appointment with a psychologist, and before my first session I tried to figure out what I was going to say. Of course, the main issues that I was dealing with were obvious…but I needed to figure out how to get across all of the ‘background’: I needed to explain what rheumatoid arthritis was, I needed to describe how I was struggling with so many side-effects from all of the medicines, and I needed to relate some of the problems that I had encountered when dealing with previous rheumatologists.

So there I was during my first session, going through my mental list of things that I needed to say. Rheumatoid arthritis. Check. Methotrexate. Check. Losing two days a week to my prescription hangover. Check. Problems with Dr. X. Check. Problems with Dr. Y. Check. And so on, and so on. And as I continued to talk, I started to notice that every piece of information that I communicated was being received with a gentle nod. Did this psychologist across the room really understand everything that I was talking about, or were these just kind signals of acknowledgment?

I received an answer to my question towards the end of the hour. As luck (or fate, or whatever you want to call it) would have it, my new psychologist was the primary caregiver of a person who was living with rheumatoid arthritis. Talk about a wealth of information: in addition to all of my emotional issues, we started discussing a wide range of different treatment options that I might try. (And much to my ‘surprise’, I also learned that we both had the exact same problems with Dr. X!) And this, in a little more detail, was how I was finally able to change directions, and start along a path that has helped me reach the point where I am at this moment.

I share this additional information because I continue to receive all different types of messages from readers of this blog, and in these emails I’ve noticed that there are two questions which are asked much more frequently than others:

  • How can you possibly be so positive while living with rheumatoid arthritis? I want to get to the point where you’re at, but I just don’t know how to.
  • How do you keep moving forward? I can’t do this anymore. I just want to give up.

And while my goal in writing this particular post is not to provide complete answers to these questions, I do–as the eternal optimist–want to point out what I see to be the positive aspects of these questions; questions which obviously communicate that the people writing them are facing significant challenges.

To people in the first group, I just want to reiterate that I haven’t always been in the positive place where I currently am, but that I too had this hope, this idea, that things could and should be better than I once found them to be. To even be able to grasp such a thought is a recognition of the power and of the strength that resides within you. This thought, and this recognition, will continue to point you in the right direction, and take you down the right path. Right now the specifics may not be clear (how am I going to get there, when am I going to get there), but you do have a clear goal in mind: the desire to live a more happy, fulfilling, and positive life with chronic pain and disability. It may take a while to really start noticing some of the positive results (it certainly did for me), but I have no doubt that you will in fact achieve your goal.

And to people in the second group, you might be wondering how I can possibly find anything positive in your question. It’s actually quite simple, though. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve *already* reached out for help…and this is a good thing! The exact minute when I realized that I needed help will always be one of the most important moments in my life. Even though I didn’t see it at the time, it was at this point when I decided to stop suffering, and finally start living. I don’t know how many other people you may have already reached out to for help, but that’s exactly what I suggest to continue to do. Choose which friends and family members you can speak to about what’s going on, and talk with them. Trust me, it helps a lot. I know, it’s hard in the beginning…but with each new person that you reach out to, it get’s easier…and things get better.  And don’t forget, working with a trained therapist or psychologist–like I did–can really make a world of a difference.

Sometimes it’s harder than usual to find that silver lining…but it’s always there. We just have to look for it.

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

4 Comments
4 comments
  1. Iris says:

    I can’t tell you what a relief it was to discover my new psychologist was living with a chronic illness herself – it makes a world of difference when you can just tell them what’s going on, and don’t have to explain all the stuff that people struggling with this already know.

  2. Deb aka abcsofra says:

    As always you say it straight and right on target. Getting help is a big step and knowing one needs it is actually the hardest part. And when seeking professional help, do be sure they have experience with chronic illness. These experts get it! They really do. And do get the proper pain management plan in place and this include real pain meds if the need be including narcotic ones. I wish someone out there would do a study on ra and determine which comes first…the pain and then the depression or the depression and then the pain. I am sooo hoping by now you like saying DUH….of course the pain comes first and then the depression. We know this, we get this and so why not the doctors treating us and in particular our rheumatologists. This is a very very sore topic of mine. I truly believe that ra pain is way undertreated and thus causes depression in many people. But getting a great therapist really and truly does help. And Ra guy you don’t want to get me started on Dr. X. We have all had them and usually a multitude of them….sadly.

  3. Shan says:

    I think my life with Art is much easier than most because I was diagnosed at 2 years of age. I’m now 35 and know no different. This is my life. This is my daily grind – always has been – and always will be. I think it would be much more difficult and much more heartbreaking for someone who knows what life is like without Art.

  4. Bonnie says:

    In my case, the depression came first – but it had been there since I was in my mid-teens. Although I now know why the depression set it, it’s been a rough row to hoe all along with more “stuff” coming out the older I get, but that’s a good thing – at long last. OA came next, then knee replacement #1, then RA, then Shingles, then knee replacement #2, more OA spreading itself out along with the RA. Today I got the cherry on top with the results of the newest x-rays – spine, neck and pelvis. OA in neck, degenerative disc disease in spine – and NOTHING in hips or pelvis! Is that amazing or what?!? Now I can say with all confidence there is not one thing wrong with my hips or pelvis! YAY! Yesterday I was a down as down can be – today, not so much. Why? I got out of the house for a change, even if it was to see the Rheumy. He is a nice guy, after all. :)

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