I’m reaching a point where I’ve come to realize how small a role my rheumatoid arthritis plays in my life, which is quite a change from where I was a few years ago, when absolutely everything I viewed was seen through the lens of RA.
Now don’t get me wrong…the pain and disability are still present, each and every day and each and every minute. Beyond these constant reminders, there are the daily medications, the cracking joints, the morning limp, the crutches, and all the other items that accompany my journey with inflammatory arthritis.
And while I’m certainly not trying to downplay the severity of this disease with which I live…I guess that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, in a way, when it comes to my day-to-day living.
I may not be able to choose whether or not I have rheumatoid arthritis…but I can choose whether I want this chronic illness to be just one part of my life, or if I want my RA to consume my entire life.
I choose to let it be just one part of my life.
I once let it consume my life, those days that turned into months which turned into years, where every waking second was focused on the pain and on what I could no longer do. I remember those endless nights following discussion boards and blogs and medical information websites trying to learn more about every possible fact and figure, every potential complication and side effect, as I wondered (more like feared) what the future had in store for me. I remember the fear, the misery, the sadness, and the depression which filled my days.
Last night as I looked back on this aspect of my life with rheumatoid arthritis, I couldn’t help from noticing a drastic change in the way I think: soon after I received my diagnosis, I thought my life was over. I’ve since learned, however, that in a weird sort of way, it was only just beginning. Many of my current biggest strengths (patience, ability to stay calm during challenging times, appreciation, dropping many consumerist habits, etc.) I attribute directly to changes that I decided to make after chronic illness entered my life.
Some nights as I lay in bed, reflecting on the day I just had, I can’t help but chuckle at the omnipresent “RA” that is always floating around in my mind. Just as you might expect an RA-Guy-like bat signal to appear, there are those two letters which are seemingly simple, but which stand for so much. Like I said, it’s always there…and just like I not longer expect the pain and inflammation to leave, I also no longer expect that the corresponding thoughts and emotions will just magically disappear. These thoughts need not be abandoned and ignored and made the victim of denial, but they also need not be front and center, always demanding my full attention…if they’re just off to the side, where I can continually observe them and respond accordingly, I know I’ll be just fine.
In the months and years following my diagnosis, I used to assume that depression and misery were a foregone conclusion; after all, how could I possibly be happy while living with a condition that takes me from full mobility to complete paralysis in a matter of minutes, and which often presents pain that is so intense, that life can sometimes seem to come to a complete standstill?
I’ve since learned that even in those moments when it appears like I cannot do anything, I can still always do something…and when I realize that something could be designing in my head while I don’t have use of my body, or thinking about good memories from the past of hopes for the future, or if I just challenge myself to be in the moment and familiarize myself even more with the overwhelming pain, then I am reminded that I can indeed always do something that keeps my mind and body both alive and soaring.
I may not be able to choose whether or not I have rheumatoid arthritis…but I can choose whether I want a life full of happiness, or a life full of sadness.
I choose a life full of happiness.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!