Using The Thought Process To Your Advantage

Yesterday I was reminded that even though my rheumatoid arthritis is in fact progressing, chances are that with the positive mindset and coping skills that I have developed over the past few years, it probably has not advanced as much as it might have otherwise done so.

I really liked this perspective. Usually, when we enter the unknown or the unquantifiable, I think we often have a tendency to adopt the worst-case scenario. The same thing often happens when we look at some of the more tangible aspects. Hence, “my RA is getting worse” instead of “my RA is not getting as bad was it could, it I weren’t making such a concerted effort to manage my efforts, get lots of rest, and follow-up with all of my medical appointments, no matter how tired or fatigued I might be at any point in time.”

During an office visit a few weeks ago, my rheumatologist started telling my partner what a great patient I was, thus invoking a certain amount of shyness and red cheeks on my part. My doctor mentioned how me surrounding myself with so many positive and supportive people via my blog and Facebook page, and how my continued efforts with Show Us Your Hands!, have given me a hopeful outlook on life–an outlook that is certainly not in the majority, when it comes to the chronic illness patients that he works with on a daily basis.

My rheumatologist then turned to me and said, “because the truth of the matter is that no matter how much I try to help you (and that was a specific you, not a general you), the one thing that is always going to help you the most is that mind of yours.”

This isn’t to say that both my doctor and I aren’t determined to find the medical option that provides me the most relief, and it wasn’t meant to imply that my disease is more psychological than physical. We also were not saying that my thoughts are going to magically fix what is going on with my body. His words were putting a voice to the one thought that has gotten me through (and continues to get me through) the absolute most challenging moments, which is: the mind is a powerful tool, and I *must* use it to my advantage.

So as I got absolutely thrashed last evening, with a flare that would be off of all my previous charts, I was pleasantly surprised with how I was not only totally aware of my thought process, but I actually managed to remain in control it…even as I continued to experience pain and emotions that were completely new to me.

As my body started to shut down, and as my entire world shrunk down to the six feet between the top of my head and the tip of my toes, my thought process went just like this:

I know exactly what is going on, and I know exactly what will happen over the next hour or two.

Everything is going to be okay. (Which quickly got rewritten to: Everything is okay.)

This is me. This is my body.

My mind tried to go back to some of its old tricks. An inside/outside voice started to tell me that my body was in too much pain and that I needed to find a way to escape my body.

I countered this immediately. I told myself that trying to run away from the pain would not help my situation any. I told myself that I would turn into, and embrace my pain…a pain completely unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

I found a point of equilibrium, a point where even though I had lost almost full use of my entire body, I was at peace.

And as if that wasn’t a big enough payoff, I then heard a voice telling me:

If you can embrace this level of pain, there will never be another level of pain that you will not be able to embrace.

This, I am pleased to share, is how I managed to emerge from my most challenging flare yet (oh, how many times have I said those words!?) feeling not weakened, but instead feeling more empowered than ever before.

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

16 Comments
16 comments
  1. Sarah Kocurek says:

    You truly are on of the strongest people I have seen. You are an inspiration to us all… Giving us hope that we, someday, might reach that level of control. I just passed my one year after being DX & still learning to cope. Your strength & encouragement means more than I can express. *gentle hugs*

  2. JennyG says:

    “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott / Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy :-)

  3. Gillian Pidler says:

    Hi RA Guy, I’m glad that you came out the other side intact. Just before Christmas I had the most horrific flare I’ve ever had, it came on so quickly & fiercely that I was horrified and terrified in one. I was left unable to move, I couldn’t even touch my own face, my elbows locked like a forklift truck, my knee blew up and my hands absolutely ballooned. There wasn’t a joint in my body (spine excepted thank God I don’t have spine involvement), that wasn’t seized up. My kids had never seen this happen to me before & hubby said that he’d never seen me that bad before either, I literally couldn’t move unaided. I think managed to frighten not just myself but my whole family. Luckily an emergency course of steroids put me right within a couple of days, but I was left with this intense fear of it happening again, in fact I hardly moved over the holidays due to this fear. Having read this blog post today, I now know that if it does happen this way again I will cope, I will ‘think’ my way through it and I will stay in control despite the lack of movement.

    This one line says it all for me “This is me. This is my body” Thanks RA Guy.

  4. Melissa Davenport says:

    I went to a counsellor and learned how some tricks under Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that teaches you to not let your brain make things worse than it already is. Was amazing and it really does work.

  5. Don says:

    Encouraging writing. I have been managing with rheumatoid arthritis for all most a year now. I am always aware that it could be a lot worse and also worried about how bad it could get. My main lesson has been to not take the wonderful things around me for granted. There have been some very inspired responses as well. Thank you.

  6. Carla says:

    I think that truer words have never been spoken and I know that it’s taken a long journey for you to not only speak them and share them, but to also believe them. That’s a huge step and I know that many of your RA friends will try to walk in those footprints. Stay strong. Stay positive.

  7. Kristie Eskelson Reid says:

    I found you right after my DX… I laughed and mused at your wonderful out look at the future we will all take sooner or latter….your AWESOME…. thank you for the moments of true joy i get from your post’s LOVE YA………

  8. Lene says:

    So much of coping is mental. You may not be in control of what happens with your body, but you can control how you react to it. I think one of the things that helps is having been through it often enough that you start recognizing a pattern. Patterns help, because then you can predict what will happen. When you’re very new at RA and have never experienced chronic pain and all the crap that comes with the disease, it can seem like the end of the world. Thankfully, humans are hardwired to notice patterns and over time, you do. Also over time you learn that it won’t kill you and that gives you strength. Still, you have to take that deliberate step to decide that you will cope and you will find a way. Thank you for sharing that mind of yours with us.

    PS Knowing that you’re capable of blushing has started evil plans percolating in my brain. ;)

  9. Jellifishgirl says:

    I am so glad to have found you and others that have ra. Good to know I’m not alone. One day I’ll tell you my story..

  10. chibiev says:

    I am currently in limbo trying to stay positive. I’ve had lower back and hip pain/stiffness for over a year now. After two unsuccessful physical therapy sessions and a lot of different drugs, I’m being sent to an RA specialist. I’m in my third week of waiting to get an appointment. I don’t know if I have RA yet, although my doctor does, but either way my symptoms are a lot like the ones described here. How did everyone get through the waiting before being diagnosed? How long did it take to get diagnosed?

  11. Irma says:

    I am so sorry to hear you are having an acute episode. Sadly I know what it means to hurt when all you’re doing is thinking about moving. Sometimes I wonder how I managed to work and raise my kids while in that fog of pain. I hope you feel better soon and the doctor is right. A positive attitude goes a long way.

  12. Tammy says:

    Thank you for being such an inspiration to me and anyone who reads your posts. I’ve been fighting this disease for 3 yrs now – going on 2 yrs for dx, on my third coctail of Rx trying to put this thing into remission, and just completing another round of steriods for a horrific flare in my right hip that almost left me down on my knees, literally. I found you a few months ago and I so appreciate everything you post, your insight and your outlook on life. It’s really a gift to all who follow you. Thank you!

  13. abcsofra says:

    You are an inspiration! Everytime I read your blog I get a new found sense of self…my ra self. Thank you for all you do, for all you have done and for all you continue to do on a daily basis. This world is so much better with you in it!

  14. Sabrina says:

    You are amazing!!!! I can’t take meds anymore because of other illness’s and I’ve been doing this for several months now. I needed a reminder this week to stay the path. THANK YOU!

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>