How Taking The Opposite Approach Has Helped, In More Ways Than One

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

Sometime last week, I had one of those beautiful moments of realization. This time around, it had to do with the idea that quite often, the thoughts or reactions that are the complete *opposite* of those which often comes to mind first actually provide the best way to get through things. Now I’m no psychologist, but I’ve noticed in myself, at least, that there is a tendency to just stick with “the way I’ve been dealing with things,” instead of stepping outside of my zone of comfort, and trying to figure out if there’s actually a better way to cope. The answer to this never-ending question, I have learned, is almost always a definitive YES!

Welcoming the Pain

I’ve written on many occasions how after years of wanting, hoping, wishing, and praying that the pain would go away, I decided to adopt a completely different approach, and welcome the pain into my life. Originally it felt really weird to even consider such a thing, but the more I put it into practice, the more it made sense. And during the worst moments, when the pain even starts to affect my ability to think clearly, I still welcome it into my life. I tell myself that I’m going to familiarize myself with this pain even more, and that I’m going to learn something about it that I previously didn’t know. All of this means, in the end, that instead of moving towards the usual fight or flight type reactions, I stay calm…and figuring out how to stay calm, during these levels of pain and disability, is one of the biggest victories of all.

Living With RA Has Improved My Life

Quite often, when one is talking about disability and chronic disease, there is a tendency to assume that these conditions automatically lead to a lower quality of life. When this question it turned on its head–as I believe it should be, and as I have done myself in my Real Profiles of RA when I ask directly “How has living with RA helped to improve your life?”–I’ve learned that not only can the responses be quite varied, but that some people will tell me that it’s absolutely wrong of me to even ask such a question. Sure, my chronic illness has bought so much of what is often labeled as “bad” in my life, but the truth of the matter is that its also bought much more good. It’s taught me how to slow down and appreciate the finer, non-material aspects of life. It’s taught me how to face my challenges, and not shy away from them. It’s taught me respect, not only for others, but also towards myself. These are just a few of the life lessons my RA has taught me, and this this I will always be grateful.

My Can-Do List Will Always Be Longer Than My Can’t-Do List

I think many of us have seen the example of little kid #1 playing in a roomful of toys. Little kid #2 walks in, picks up an unused toy that is sitting in the corner, and walks out. All of a sudden, the only thing little kid #1 can thing about is the toy that is no longer in the room. It doesn’t matter that little kid #1 is still surrounded by toys; the only thing in the world that he wants is that toy that was taken away, and he’s not going to be happy until he gets is back. By telling this story I’m in no way trying to undermine the severity of the physical and emotional losses that we encounter when living with chronic pain and disability…but I am trying to make a point about the fact, that no matter how much is taken away, there is always still so much that remains. I know firsthand how easy it is to focus on the losses, and how hard it it to find something to take their place…but in the end, this is exactly what needs to be done. I recently uploaded Philip Glass’ complete collection of music onto my iPod. There are times when I can’t even walk, and I can’t even muster the strength to hold a book…but I can plug in my earphones, and I can explore a new world of music. No matter what happens, there is always something that I *can* do, even it it’s just thinking.

I Love My Life, Just The Way It Is

The other day, as I sat–semi-paralyzed–in the back of a taxi cab on my way to physical therapy, I told myself that this is my life, and I love it. As I struggled to climb the flight of stairs (non-elevator building…go figure) to my physical therapist’s office, I told myself that this is my life, and I love it. As she helped my take off my shoes and jeans, I told myself that this is my life, and I love it. And as electrical currents were applied to the muscles and tendons around my knee–muscles which are once again beginning to atrophy–I told myself that this is my life, and I love it. And I’ve noticed that I’ve started telling myself this over and over again, on a regular basis. I first wondered if that by doing this I was just trying to convince myself of something that really wasn’t true…but now I’ve come to see that I really do believe these statements, and that such thoughts are a true reflection of my life, would I really have it any other way? After all, what’s the alternative. To tell myself that I hate my life? Been there, done that, and all I can say is that such a thought is no longer the thing for me.

I will continue to welcome the pain. My chronic illness has improved my life. I will always be able to do many things. And no matter what, I will always love my life, just the way it is.

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