Life With Chronic Illness: Is It The End, Or Just The Beginning?

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

Earlier today, as I dropped my sister off at her office so that I could use her car to run some final errands before I return home to South America this coming weekend, I couldn’t help from being momentarily transported back to my last visit here to Columbia, Missouri, which took place a few years ago, back before I had even started writing this blog. And as I drove around, noting that temperatures today would reach the low 100’s as opposed to the low 20’s last time I was here, I couldn’t help from thinking about how my life is such a polar opposite–in so many good ways–from what it used to be.

During my previous visit, I had already been living with rheumatoid arthritis for many years, and while I considered myself to be “experienced” with the challenges that I had to face, I started to realize that my coping skills were not keeping up with the progression of my disease. When it came to my physical life, I had a hard time walking; when it came to my emotional life, I seemed to have no problems sprinting–faster than I could ever imagine–down a very precarious slope into a deep and dark depression. Feelings of the “end of life as I once knew it,” which sprouted immediately after receiving my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis years before, grew to the point where I actually started to think that they best way out was, indeed, to end my life.

Needless to say, once I reached this point, I was frightened beyond belief. (Luckily, I was also frightened enough to ask for help.)

And earlier today, as I looked back at this period of time in my life, a time that was so marked with different emotions associated with thinking that my life was nearing some “end,” I couldn’t help but smile now that I am able to see that, in so many ways, it was only just the beginning…

The beginning of embracing and accepting my pain, and not wishing that it would just magically go away.

The beginning of sharing, with my head held up high, the challenges that I face on a continual basis, and no longer hanging my head in silent shame.

The beginning of re-defining what “success” means, and realizing that it has nothing to do with what others think, and has absolutely everything to do with what I think. (And loving the feelings of success that nowadays often accompany seemingly “simple” tasks such as getting out of bed, taking a bath, getting dressed, preparing a meal, etc.)

The beginning of transforming my physical limitations not into reasons why I should berate, criticize, and attack myself…but instead into lessons on how I can be more kind, gentle, and supportive of myself.

The beginning of finally understanding that asking for help makes me strong, and not weak.

The beginning of reminding myself, every time I started to get angry that someone else didn’t understand my disease, that my energy and thoughts were better spent on myself trying to learn something new about my life with chronic illness, something which would allow me to cope even better with the pain and disability.

The beginning of a new awareness that I can happier that I could have ever previously imagined, despite the fact that I have to deal with pain and disability, each and every second of the day…and the genuine hope that continues to carry me forward, which results from knowing that this happiness is more real than anything I’ve ever known before.

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