“No one wants to hear all of the time that I’m always in pain…least of all myself.”
I was somewhat surprised when this thought passed through my mind this morning, as I was stepping out of the shower.
You see, yesterday–as well as the past days and past weeks–there is one conversation that has been repeated over and over, as I visit with family members and friends who I haven’t seen in years. It goes somewhat like this:
Them: How are you doing with your rheumatoid arthritis?
Me: I’m doing really well. What I mean to say is that I am coping really well. My disease continues to progress, but I’ve finally figured out how to live with it, and I think that I’m doing really well.
Them: That’s good. From the outside, you seem to be doing much better than the last time I saw you.
Me: Thank you. On the inside I’m actually doing a little worse…but like I said, I’ve learned how to live with it. I’ve had to make a lot of changes, but many of them have been for the better. I still live with a lot of pain all the time, but at least I’ve figured out how to once again be happy.
And as I’ve repeatedly gone through this conversation over the past couple of months, I’ve always told myself that it’s important to focus on the good while still mentioning the bad, when I talk about my rheumatoid arthritis. I used to think that I was doing this because it might be what “others” wanted to hear…but as I realized this morning, I’ve been responding as such because these are in fact the words that I want to hear.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about open and honest communication of the pain and disability with which I live, and I certainly don’t advocate for the denial of one’s feelings and emotions related to these issues (something which I experienced myself for all too long). But when it comes down to day-to-day thoughts and spoken words, I know the pain is always there. I know that it’s not going away, that it will only continue to fluctuate around the high end the pain scale, no matter what pain scale is being used.
But I also know that no matter how bad the pain might be, and no matter how permanent this pain might be, life is still good. Focusing on the good doesn’t take my pain away…but it does seem to make it a tad bit more bearable…and in the world of chronic pain, this counts for a lot.
So yes, I am in a lot of pain. All the time. But this is not what I want to tell myself on a continual basis, this is not what I want to hear like a broken record playing in my head. So I choose to tell myself that life is beautiful..and the trials and tribulations that it constantly presents makes life even more beautiful.
If you find yourself being overwhelmed by the pain, stop for a moment, and ask yourself: What is beautiful about my life? And when you come up with your answer, focus on it as much as possible. And while you’re focusing, don’t forget to smile!
And this, in a nutshell, is how I’ve learned to cope with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy.