What Do You Choose?

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!

14 Comments
14 comments
  1. Gerry Fryer says:

    RA Guy,
    Your message is so consistent with mine from the episodic/chronic migraine side. Just like you, I went through a long personal journey that started with “why me” and went downhill from there, and eventually moved upward to acceptance.
    I’m now helping others on the dark side of migraine to get to a better place through information and coaching.
    I’ll link to your post with my latest blog entry and I would be honored if we could link our sites together. (Just not certain how to do that:))
    All the best,
    Gerry

  2. Barb Cotter says:

    I have had 3 friends and a sister in law pass away too young. When RA came on last winter it was a big focus in my life but I got to see my daughter graduate from high school, danced at her wedding, and will hopefully get to hold my grandchildren in the next few years. My friends didn’t get to see any of that. I have my life inconvenienced but I am not dead. I owe it to myself to have the best life I can have, RA be damned.

  3. Annette says:

    That sounds so familiar to me. After the shock and depression I went into the phase where I spent all my time reading blogs, articles studies and even textbooks.
    All that work was fueled by anxiety, but I am a lot more relaxed now. It’s there and it won’t go away. I can do more than I thought and I see so many examples of people like me online
    Annette

  4. Deb aka abcsofra says:

    This rings so true! And I also am finding a life full of purpose as well as one filled with happiness. I know that life is indeed too short and whether I have ra or not, I am still alive and isn’t that what really matters most of all. And shouldn’t I then take this life I have and make the absolute most of it…regardless of ra. Yes, it is like having a shadow. It will always be there but it doesn’t have to be the dominating factor in my life. Hope your US visit is going wonderful for you!

  5. Stephanie Curry says:

    This is so true for us all. You said it well! This is Our story! This is Our song!~~~~

  6. Christine Schwab says:

    I can’t wait to hear more! I feel attitude is everything. I wrote in my book that we may have RA but we don’t have to allow RA to own us. We can either be victims or advocates. Some people may not like this attitude but I feel like you, it is far better than the alternative. This is a terrible disease. Bit we do have a choice of how to deal with it.

  7. Lana says:

    I can relate to every word. I fully understand that my RA is here to stay but I have a choice as to whether I let it dominate my life.

  8. Heather says:

    Thanks for sharing this positive message! Even though we are all in pain we can still be happy :)

  9. Shan says:

    Living with Art has made the person I am today – strong, focused, motivated, life challenger and eternally searching. I wonder if I would have been this person without my friend and for, RA, along the way. xo

  10. Corinne Drover says:

    wow very well said…I have had RA over 10 years and there have been mornings that I think “I just can’t go on” but then I pull my self together and move ahead….this is a terrible disease but for the first 5 years it lived my life for me and now I let it live with me…there is a big difference….
    thanks for your blog….How old are you if you don’t mind me asking and how long have you had RA?

    Corinne

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