Sometimes Understanding (And A Little Hope And Happiness) Is All We Need!

The mind is a powerful tool. It can either guide us forward on the path to happiness, no matter how “bad” things might be, or it can–especially when depressed–lull us into a false sense of comfort (which in reality is actually not comfortable at all, but instead is completely miserable). While many people know me as a super-positive superhero who successfully copes with the challenges of rheumatoid arthritis on a daily basis, I’ve never hidden the fact that just a few short years ago, I myself was stuck in a very dark place that was full of depression and suicidal thoughts.

I was miserable. I was isolated. I was angry. I was depressed. I was emotions that don’t even have a name. The pain and disability had taken control of my life, and my mind and body were just unhappy passengers on an endless ride.

No matter how confused I was and no matter how lost I felt, though, I am fortunate that there was a part of me, deep down inside, that always yearned for something better, even–especially–during these darkest times. I had absolutely no idea what it meant to combine “happy” and “chronic illness” in a sentence, much less what it meant to combine them in my actual life. Might it be possible to do so, I’d ask myself with trepidation? I mean, when I would venture into so many informational sites, blogs, and forums of discussion that I found on the Internet, there was often an overwhelming sense of doom and gloom. Stories of setback were commented on almost enthusiastically, whereas stories of acceptance and triumph–or even the desire to try to figure out how to do so–were either ignored or told to go away. (I know, having been on the receiving end of such comments.)

Luckily, I’ve always had the personality where whenever I’m told that something cannot be done, I immediately go about finding a way to make it happen…which means that many of the comments that I received years ago (and continue to receive to this day) rather than discouraging me, have had the complete opposite effect. I haven’t done this alone…thanks to my blog and to my Facebook page, I am now surrounded by thousands of other people who have the same mindset. Some welcome me from places of happiness that they’ve been occupying for years, despite their pain and disability, while others readily admit that they’ve not yet come as far as I have, but that they hope to get here sometime soon. In the end, what matters the most is not the specific location where we find ourselves at the moment, but the fact that we are all moving in the right direction, towards continued and increased hope and happiness.

Yesterday I received an email from a lady who told me about her “happy RA search” that she started a while back, as she looked for support groups that would be positive, funny, and that would make her have hope. According to her, she found nothing…that is, until she found my blog and Facebook page. She went on to thank me profusely, in a way that certainly made my day, if not my week.

So I in turn would like to thank everyone who follows Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy; to everyone who knows from personal experience that while the challenges that we face on a daily basis at a minimum are substantial and at the maximum sometimes tend to border on the “impossible,” also knows deeps down inside that each one of us has the ability to overcome them. They also know that as a group, that by sharing our stories, our lives, and our challenges, that were are not only helping ourselves, but that we are also helping others.

As Nic wrote on my Facebook page yesterday, “[When] living with a chronic illness sometimes understanding is all you need. Thanks for understanding.”

To everyone who understands the challenges that we face–whether you live with chronic illness or know someone who does–and who also knows that hope and happiness, and not doom and gloom, are the only way forward, thank you so much. Sometimes understand is all that we need.

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

8 Comments
8 comments
  1. Jules Shapiro says:

    Thank you for this inspiring post, and the reminder that we CAN find hope and happiness in this life of chronic illness. The gifts are really out there if we look for them. You are truly defining Chronically Awesome here. I am glad I read this at the crack of dawn, it was a perfect way to start the day.

  2. Carla says:

    As with many of your followers, yours was one of the first blogs I found after my diagnosis. The feeling of not being alone and knowing that there are others out there who have walked this path and who do, yes, understand is extremely powerful. Thank you for being that voice in the wilderness for so many of us.

  3. Linda P. says:

    When I was first diagnosed, I needed to face the worse-case scenario first, and so the gloom-and-doom or angry blogs were a major part of my RA reading repertoire. Once I faced what could happen and was happening–with discovering Toni’s book through your blog being a major factor in my coping–I was ready to be more hopeful. I’ve slowly gravitated away from a steady diet of gloom and doom and toward a more balanced outlook. A neighbor is dealing with a new diagnosis, in that swirl of pain, exhaustion, misery, and worry that I remember so well. I try to let her know that she’s not alone, as you and other bloggers did by being there for me to find. I can’t thank you enough.

  4. RA Guy says:

    Linda, you make a very good point, which is that we all go through the shock/depression/doom and gloom period after receiving a diagnosis of chronic illness…but like you also point out, it’s *absolutely* necessary to find a way out and move forward. It’s not easy, but it is possible. That’s really nice that you can be there for your neighbor.

  5. karen faust says:

    I was diagnosed with RA 8 months ago. I’ve experienced the full gamit of emotions as well as the physical limitations, pain, and isolation. I’m so glad I found your site, you have a realistic and lovely sence of humor. It is lovely to find shared and informative information and I have printed some of it to post on my fridge for my family and friends so they can have a clearer understanding of this difficult and “invisible” disease. THANK YOU THANK YOU! I look forward to many more of your posts. Kindest regards to you Karen (Australia)

  6. Kathi jones says:

    What is Toni’s book? Thank you for your help and honesty about your journey to acceptance and positivity. In the beginning I did better. This last year,, with one flare after another, and shingles and kidney infections, weight gain and all the worries that go with extra steroids it is hard to be positive. I miss dancing, and long walks to nowhere. My great toe is injured. I do work in an ICU, which is hard when nothing hurts, but living to work, isn’t much fun. In closing your advice will possibly be more helpful than meds, thanks again.

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