But I wish I was. Rheumatoid Arthritis and the quest for remission, in my opinion, is like trying to locate the holy grail or it is like an exclusive country club. I have read all the information about remission and I have digested it like I would a religious script. Research indicates that each of us with RA has a chance at remission. I think I got there and missed it. I figure – When we are there, we will know we are there. It is like the Supreme Court trying to define porn. Justice Stewart, in 1964, said: “I will know it when I see it.”
No more than 15 minutes of stiffness in the morning and no swollen joints for at least three months – that is remission. Okay, well I will know it when I see it. It is too good to be true but I plan on getting there or at least close to that. I am still dealing with that Eustachian Tube Dysfunction issue from last month because of my weak immune system and I am hoping that I can avoid having to get an ear tube put in. Let’s not talk about my luck and that decongestants and nasal spray are the only treatment. I think I have more sinus infections than my entire family put together.
They say that early treatment and combination treatment increase the chances of rheumatoid arthritis remission. Remission is also possible in those who have had the disease for a long time. Early treatment within two years of the onset of symptoms puts a person at a 50 percent chance of achieving remission. Mild disease activity and negative blood markers such as the rheumatoid factor increase your chances. It has also been reported that RA patients have moderate disease activity compared to ten years ago because of the use of TNF inhibitors such as Humira and Enbrel.
Apparently, I fall into that category of potential for remission but I am not in remission. I suppose I will know it when I see it. There is question that I have been thrown a lot of curve balls in recent months. In addition, winter has also been harsh and the fluctuations in the weather, they are an arthritis sufferer’s worst nightmare.
My life is changed drastically in the past few months and while I am scared, I am happy. I am starting a new job and my marital status has changed to “separated.” I don’t know where that puts me but I am hoping for remission. My master’s degree will be complete come summer and with my new job, the sky’s the limit. My marriage – I don’t know but time will tell.
Right now, I know that I have achieved a lot and I know that I have come a long way from being a newly diagnosed RA patient. When I was first diagnosed, I was scared of my diagnosis and the future. Now, I am optimistic and hopeful. I advocate for arthritis and for fibromyalgia and who wants a negative advocate? I am hopeful and optimistic about remission and my plan is to get there or close enough.
I am a different person than I was before my brother became ill and passed away. I am a much different person than I was at the onset of my RA and fibro diagnoses and I am a different person than I was before RA and Fibro. I have learned to love myself despite my flaws and despite my conditions. I have learned that I need to stop being this perfectionist because there is no such thing. I am human and I laugh, cry, and bleed like everyone else.
I am not superwoman and I am tired of trying to be superwoman. I am also tired of those who expect me to be superwoman. Trying to be super means my body is stressed and my chances of remission are greatly reduced and I want remission more than anything. As a result, I have done away with factors and people in my life that don’t understand how much stress that I am in. I am sad that my health suffered as a result but I am optimistic and hopeful for a second chance at remission. My RA is a lot better than it was a couple years ago so I know that there is potential.
When I e-mailed Karen to ask if she would provide me a copy of her book to read and review, I did not realize that, first, I would not be able to put it down, and two – that she and I, while our stories are not similar, share similar struggles and burdens in a life with rheumatoid arthritis. Her story is about love, travel, disaster, and personal success and happiness while living with RA. Karen has tried to live a good life while trying to hide the secret burden of RA.
Karen has model looks. She is a native Australian who has traveled the world, worked as a nanny to a rock star’s children, and has met many celebrities. She works as a teacher at the United Nations International School and is married to a British man. If you look at Karen’s life from this angle, you would think she has had one heck of a great life. Read her memoir, Enemy Within, and you will disagree.
Karen was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 17 and now at age 46, the toll of RA is evident in many of her joints, including her hip which she had replaced at age 28, and her bent fingers. At one point, she was in a wheelchair for nearly two years and almost died of pneumonia due to having a poor immune system. Her kind, loving, and patient mother took great care of her during those really tough periods and her amazing family and friends stood by her side helping her to carry on. She was in two abusive relationships (one physical and one emotional) and tried to make those work because she felt that no one could love her because of RA. Moreover, she kept her disease hidden from everyone in her life except her family and a few close friends.
After leaving her native Australia and settling in New York, she had, in the summer of 2001, run out of RA medications brought from her home country. She had no choice but to visit a rheumatologist in New York City. She was prescribed Remicade and within 24 hours, her symptoms were eased for the first time in nearly 20 years. It did not take long for an arthritis advocate to be born, especially after Karen found out that biologic drugs like Remicade were not available in her native home. The following year, Karen went home to Australia and contacted media outlets to share her story. Time Magazine in Australia interviewed her. She also wrote letters to the Prime Minister and other government officials to spread the word and to urge them to make biologic drugs available to Australians suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. Her efforts came to the attention of the Arthritis Foundation of Australia who thanked her for raising public awareness. Two years later biologic drugs were available to Australians.
For the first time in nearly twenty years, Karen was optimistic because her disease wasn’t hindering her and this allowed her to continue to advocate through the Arthritis Foundation. She also has an educational website about RA titled Karen and Arthritis and she hosts an informal online support group for those living with arthritis.
Reading Karen’s book, I didn’t see her as someone with RA as I don’t see myself. However, I see her and I see myself as two persons living with optimism despite RA. I think it has taken both of us a long time to come to that realization. It took Karen a lot longer because she didn’t have the treatment opportunities that I have had living in the United States. Thirty years ago, a diagnosis of RA was crippling. Karen’s book is a great testament about living a resilient and optimistic life despite chronic illness. Her life’s journey is a story of growth and a story about the power of hope. It is a must read for the newly diagnosed RA patient, a great read for those of us who are experienced RA patients.
Karen’s journey has not been an easy one but it has been a learning experience. She has learned a lot about love and people along the way. She has learned a lot about herself and has learned to love herself along the way. She and her husband, Matt, were trying to have a child and Karen’s inability to conceive took a toll on her and her marriage. Only then did she realize what she needed to do to change and really accept RA in her life. No one’s RA, or chronic illness journey is a pleasant one but it is a learning experience that teaches us to seek out our own inner strengths and to have identities despite chronic illness. Enemy Within is Karen’s journey and I invite you to read it.
One of the main reasons I couldn’t put the book down was because I saw Karen growing up through this diagnosis and despite her ups and downs, she found her way. My diagnosis and road to acceptance was similar and I also have come along way from being someone who was afraid to be disabled. I thank God everyday for that growth, and while, I don’t plan on writing a book, I am grateful that there are people out there like Karen Ager who are willing to stand up and talk about their journeys of struggle and growth.
Thank you Karen for this amazing book, for allowing the rest of us to laugh at your dad’s crazy antics, and for sharing some very intimate parts of your life.
If you have not yet heard of CSN Stores, you are missing out. They are an online shopping mall of over 200 stores. I have done review posts for them before and I have ordered their products. I am a fan of their top notch customer service and I have been happy with every product I have received them to date.
What have I been eying lately at CSN stores? Perhaps a swing set! Spring is almost here and the kids will be out playing so now is a good time to consider investing in a swing set. This is a perfect time to find the perfect swing set for your little ones and CSN stores offers a great selection.
You can find some amazingly great deals like this Flexible Flyer Swing N Glide III Gym Set for $149.99.
Or the Flexible Flyer Play-A-Round FUN Swing Set that goes for $199.
At CSN Stores, you will find a variety of swing sets in different sizes and different designs. I am sure that you will find one that suits your family. I am also pretty sure that once you become a CSN Stores customer, you will not shop any other online retailer. Visit CSN Stores today to see all the great products they have.
The title of this post is a John Lennon quote and it has described my life for a quite sometime. I am always making plans and my plans always change. I manage to swerve when life throws me curves and I dodge curveballs but it does mean that I don’t get hit once in awhile. I just know that even my best laid plans can fail and I have to learn to accept that and deal with the cards I have been dealt with.
That was Then
A little over four years ago, I had been planning on taking my law school entrance exam so that I could go to law school. I had also just started a new job after moving back to my hometown and getting married. After making arrangements to take the preparation course, I found out I was pregnant so I decided that law school would be put on hold until the baby was at least two years old. I also decided that after the baby was about six months, I could take my law school entrance exam and then look into law schools that I would be able to start in a year or so. I had it all planned out.
A few days after the birth of my son, I awoke up to the inability to walk. My entire body felt swelled and at the time, I assumed it was some kind of post-postpartum infection that antibiotics would cure. The day that my doctor uttered the words, “rheumatoid arthritis,” I knew that my plans changed and this time the change wasn’t good. My diagnosis left me to wonder who I was now that RA had invaded my life, a life that involved running many different directions. That was three years ago. A few months later, fibromyalgia came into my life and I wondered at that point how much worse it would get.
I don’t know when my awakening came but at some point, I realized that I had to accept these new changes in my life and start making lifestyle changes to deal with many new challenges. To me, this was a loss and I recognized that regardless of how stressed and depressed I was feeling, I had to move forward. RA and fibro – they brought shock and anger to my busy life and they sent me to a screeching halt. Once I accepted that they were here to stay, I found away to live with them. I had to accept them, I had to be positive and I had to make new plans.
My new plans involved making more time myself and my kids, changing my educational pursuits, and taking on a different type of advocacy work to help me to feel like I was making a difference. I stopped worrying about all the time I used to make for others and learning to prioritize my home and my kids. I decided law school was out of the question and instead focused on my master’s in legal studies. I also, rather than doing volunteer work that required my physical attendance, started advocating online for arthritis and fibromyalgia. What I learned as my life changed was that my plans didn’t have to change, the timing and the path did.
This is Now
This past November, my entire family was thrown a big nasty curveball and it was something we could have never anticipated. A month later we lost my 31 year old brother to a rare form of stomach cancer caused by asbestos exposure. We had no answers, just questions and many that remain unanswered months later. My brother’s illness and death is something that I have not really come to terms with yet in particular because of the cancer that killed him. I have had many people contacting me to talk about my family’s story or to guest blog about asbestos related cancers and I am not there yet. I have also thought about advocating for families dealing with what my family went through and I am not there yet either. I am not sure if I will ever be. Grieving is a process that takes many months and even years to deal with. It took me nearly 15 years to stop missing my dad and only to lose my brother when I finally stopped grieving for Dad. Sometimes, I look at my brother’s picture and I see his sweet smile and it makes me feel safe when I feel most insecure. I was his big sis and when we were growing up, I protected him, and I wanted to protect him when he was sick and dying, and I hated that I couldn’t. All I can do now is to hold on to his memory and live my life as he would want me to. He was the kind of person who was content with what life handed him and in his memory, I can learn to be content with life hands me.
Shortly after my brother’s passing, I was thrown another curveball that I had to deal with it regardless of how weak I was feeling. This curveball was one that was long overdue and it sent me to a screeching halt while my brother’s death was still new. I also moved to a new place and was offered a new job. All this change in my life all at once and I don’t know how to respond. I asked a couple important people in my life for advice and they both told to take it has a blessing. Both told me that while I may not realize it now, everything is falling into place and that is going to get better for me. I hope so especially since I gave my notice to my current job today. This new job is more in line with my career goals and objectives and it is a very welcome change. I am not complaining but I am being a party pooper while everyone is congratulating me. I think I am mostly worried about RA and fibro being a damper. Otherwise, I am very happy for this opportunity and if I did not have a nasty sinus headache, I would be much happier.
I am scared. I am nervous and I am worried about this change but I am leaning to God to help me get through all these things so that I can just look at them as stepping stones on this journey I call my life. I know change involves a lot of control over my responses rather than control over those situations since I can’t really have that. I worry about how much has been thrust into my life all at once but I have also noticed that change is generally thrown at me in this fashion. I think it is God’s way of saying, “You get to take it all in at once because I know that you are capable.” I consider that a compliment.
I assume that the two most recent events in my life are positive and if not, I must choose a positive attitude. Embracing change forces us to get to work on whatever has come our way and resisting it only creates further problems. The irony of making a choose to embrace change, whether good or bad, means that we are changed as a result, and all these other little things after my brother’s death, they are hills compared to the change that his loss brought to my life. His loss and dealing with it is like climbing Mount Everest.
All of this change is challenging my inner security in particular because I am making this change alone and I am not ready to talk about why. I do have others in my life that I can lean on through this including my mother, my older sister, and my friends. I am not alone and I know that because I recently found that out. For a long time, and even with RA and fibro, I let others lean on me, and until I needed my friends and family to lean on, I didn’t realize how much support I had all along. So, thanks John Lennon for the reminder, “Life Happens to You While You Are Busy Making Other Plans,” and it certainly has. I also changed the header of my blog to reflect my life and the changes that I have recently come across. It is my way of saying, “bring it on.”
I am preparing a book review for Karen Ager’s book, Enemy Within. It should be up Friday. It is Karen’s autobiography about life with rheumatoid arthritis and it is a rather extraordinary story. You will like it, I promise.
This guest post comes from Martha Deland discussing an important issue that affects many of us who deal with chronic pain conditions and do desk work. Thanks Martha for this educational post.
Back and Hand Support for Computer Working Mommies
Guest Blogger Martha Deland
There’s nothing in the world as beautiful, as magical, as emotional as seeing a double line on a home pregnancy test. If you’ve dreamed of being pregnant, like I did for several years, the news is absolutely overwhelming. I had an unbelievable healthy pregnancy. I never quite felt as energetic and full of life as I did when I was carrying my little bundle of joy. I didn’t suffer from headaches or nausea or any of the typical pregnancy symptoms one experiences. I had occasional back pain and a lot of that was due to my posture at work. I am a writer therefore I spend quite a lot of hours of the day at my computer. I bought myself a posture chair to give me the adequate back support I needed. That seemed to help. I also thought that it was due to weight gain because of the pregnancy.
I had a C-section and recuperated immediately. About 15 days later I was already jogging. It was just miraculous. But then I started experiencing something completely different from what I was accustomed to due to my kind of work. I started feeling numbness in my wrists and in my arms. The feeling was as if my hands had fallen asleep and followed by a tickling sensation. It was like ants were walking all over my hands, arms and wrists. Sometimes it felt like my fingers had frostbite because they were so insensitive. It started slowly. Cramping, burning sensation and then it would intensity to the point that I couldn’t even use a can opener. Objects would fall out of my hands and even holding my daughter’s bottle was a challenge. I started researching and all the signs led to one possible diagnosis: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I was afraid because I thought the situation would only get worse and my ability to care for my child and work as a writer would diminish.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve located at our wrists, has pressure. We feel sensation in our thumbs, index, middle and half of the ring finger because of the median nerve. Fluid retention which is normal in pregnancy, increases the pressure and compresses the median nerve. Dealing with a newborn, Carpal Tunnel, and my work as a writer was a great challenge for me. I had first time mommy block, my hands were blocked and I had writer’s block. They all caused frustration. So I had to find answers quickly to deal with everything that surrounded me because it was like a domino effect. The first thing I did was treat Carpal Tunnel. I went to the doctor and he suggested some easy tips and exercises to improve my back support and the numbness in my hands. The ergonomic seat I had purchased during my pregnancy would help with my posture, now I needed something for my wrists. I started wearing wrist and hand braces while I worked on the computer. I took occasional 15 minute breaks and used that time to stretch my hands back. I would use my right hand to stretch my fingers backwards on my left hand the most I could stand. And I’d do the same with the other hand. I’d also stretch out my back and rotate my neck from side to side. This definitely took off a lot of pressure on my shoulders.
I have also changed my sleeping habits.I sleep with wrist braces because the neutral positioning of the wrist allows the carpal tunnel to widen and takes pressure off of it. I also take Yoga to find serenity in my thoughts and peace within. This helps me find balance to take care of all I have in my life. My beautiful family and my writing. Even though I don’t suffer from numbness as often as I did after I gave birth, sometimes I still get a tinkling sensation in my hands. I recommend for all who are experiencing these symptoms to get help before the pain intensifies. It may not be necessary to take medication or get operated. Perhaps with just a little time investment and proper posture this disease can go away.
If you would like to guest blog on a topic relevant to this blog, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent events in my life how taught me how important it is to love and care for myself. For a long time, I didn’t know what that meant and in recent months, while trying to find a way to be truly happy, I realized that the possibilities were infinite. Probably the way that most of already take care of us includes eating healthy, exercising, and treating ourselves so that is the first part of loving yourself. For a long time, I let life’s stresses get in the way, and I wasn’t doing these simple things.
Probably the most important way to love yourself is to work towards self-love and positive self esteem. That involves a lot of self-talk when you say things that encourage feeling and being better. It is so important to speak to yourself in a kind manner. Many of us have inner critics and that is the voice inside of us that beats us up by saying things like “now that was stupid,” or “I can never do anything right!” It is the same as anyone else verbally and emotionally abusing you and if you are willing to abuse yourself, you are willing to let others do it as well. We need to replace those negative messages with more positive ones such as, “I will do better next time,” or “this is a learning experience.” Overtime, our awareness increases and we learn to self-talk in a more positive way. The only thing we can do is notice the things we are doing right so that our inner critic is reminded of those things when the negative energy starts. It is okay to acknowledge to yourself when you have done well and even reward yourself.
Another way is to love yourself is through positive affirmation. Look at all things you are capable of and focus on those. Tell yourself daily that you are “happy and successful” or that you are “beautiful and delightful to be around” or that you are “powerful and confident.” If you believe that you possess these qualities, then you do. At first this seems silly but in time, you will grow into and become these qualities. And you probably had them all long; you just had not yet realized it.
So go ahead and love yourself. Be good and kind to yourself. Treat yourself well and you will find that the more you love yourself, the more love you can give to others in your life. Loving yourself is a benefit to yourself and those around you.
My journey towards loving myself has been long and often times awkward. I had to learn to think differently and how to behave differently. I am learning how to take care of myself first so that I have more to offer to those I love. What I have also learned is that if I don’t take care of myself, I don’t have the strength to live up to my responsibilities. I have learned how important self-love is and that it starts with self-care. Loving myself means that I am willing to value myself as human being with dignity and that I respect my all my strengths and all my limitations.
Living with RA and Fibro and having a whole bunch of responsibilities means that I need plenty of rest, a healthy diet, and to limit stress. When I neglect one of these important things, I become exhausted and depressed. If I want to respect myself and my own feelings, I have to acknowledge and actually feel them.
Loving myself is one of the best gifts I can give to myself. It is a blessing that I never knew I had and it has helped me to heal through some of the more recent hard times in my life. I have found that I have spent so much time seeking approval from others before I sought my own approval. I don’t want to be that person anymore because that person was hurting. I don’t think I ever really learned that I had to love myself first and until recent events in my life, I didn’t realize how important it was. I think that I am stronger and that I am better because I do love myself. While this is still a work in progress, I am learning to be happier as a result.
This morning I woke up to a peaceful home, went to the bathroom, washed and dried my face, looked into the mirror and laughed. For the first time in a long time, I am happy and all it took was walking away from something that I should have walked away from a long time ago. I believe it was Herman Cain that said: Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. For a long time, I thought that I had to do something to be happy but happiness doesn’t work that. Happiness comes from within us and it has nothing to do with any external force.
Happiness is something every one of us wants. While we seek money or success, we are actually looking for happiness. The problem is that we assume that these things make us happy but these things make happiness unreachable. I know that for a long time I found myself unhappy but I also tried to be happy; the problem was that I was looking for happiness in the all the wrong places. There is no question that my brother’s death forced me into reality check mode.
What I have learned since my brother’s death is that happiness is our own responsibility. My happiness is my call and I can’t blame others for my being unhappy nor can I work to make others happy. While things change and go bad, I get to decide how I respond to them. I also get to decide whether I want to be happy. After my brother passed away, I realized that I was very unhappy and his death wasn’t the reason so I did some soul searching and I made some conclusions on what was missing from my life and why it was that I wasn’t happy. I know that there were aspects of my life that I couldn’t change but I was still trying to change knowing all to well that I didn’t have that control. However, while I couldn’t control the situation, I still could walk away from it.
In recent weeks, I found out how easily I can find happiness and the first of those things that I need to stop comparing myself to others. We can either feel proud of who we are or we can be jealous of others. However, jealousy does not bring happiness so to be happy I had to stop comparing myself to others.
The most important thing I learned from my brother’s death was to count my blessings. There are so many things we should be grateful for but we often forget what those are. To realize how blessed you are will make you truly happy so don’t take simple things and the people in your life for granted.
Part of my soul searching experience led me to listen to my inner voice. I asked myself how I could make my life more meaningful. What did true happiness mean to me? I knew that my advocacy work made me happy but I still wasn’t listening to my heart. Giving and helping makes us happy and I was already doing that but what I wasn’t doing was making time more time for those I loved including my kids, my mother, my siblings and my dearest friends. George Sand said that “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” Love is so important to happiness and that involves building better relationships and that was a promise that I made to myself when I found out my brother was terminal. The other part of love and meaningful relationships is knowing when romantic love has failed and that was another area I had to figure out.
I also made a choice to notice nature and to see how beautiful it was. This gave me the chance to see how peaceful nature was so I made a choice to watch the sun shines and watch birds chirp (apparently, they do not really head south for the winter) and through that beauty and peacefulness, I found happiness. I also leaned on God more than I ever had in the past and expressed my fears, my hopes and my dreams. I found my way back to God after my diagnoses of Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis. When my brother was dying, God helped me to find strength when I could not find it on my own. After my brother’s death and the realization that my life had to change, I found peace and answers in prayer.
I prayed and I meditated and I found ways to calm my mind and to look deeper for my inner happiness. I have started to know myself better and learned to understand what makes me tick. I have learned to appreciate the value that others bring to my life and I have learned that a simple thank you can make all the difference in the world. I smile more and that helps to brighten my day and to brighten someone’s day. I have learned to listen more than I speak and I am happy because I not only understand myself but I also understand others. I have learned to stop judging and looking the positive aspects of every person. I think we often see the weaknesses that others have because we do not take the time to see their strengths.
All the things I have learned have not just come from me but I found them by talking to others and discussing my fears and my frustrations. Throughout this journey, I have learned to focus on what I can control including my own actions and behaviors. I have for along time put up when ill treatment from others for variety of reasons but none of those reasons were about me. I may not get to control how others treat me but I get to control my response and that response was to stop being a doormat. I have learned to forgive myself for bad choices and I have also learned to forgive others. Forgiving others eases our tensions, not theirs. It cleanses our hearts and our souls. Moreover, forgiving doesn’t mean that we forget because then we go back to being a doormats and I don’t want to be a doormat again.
I also accept that I have flaws and that I am not perfect. In fact, my biggest flaw is my inability to accept failure and move on from a bad experience but I am working on that. Since I cannot change me, I accept me because I am unique and for that, I am grateful. Trying to find happiness always comes with problems and you can only control how you respond. Life is too short so calm down and learn to overcome failure – I am learning how important that is everyday.
I know that happiness means that I stay true to myself and to may heart. I have made a promise to be aware of my own happiness. My soul searching experience forced me to walk away from persons in my life who were hurting me. I know that the choice I made was hard for all the parties involved but I am happy and it didn’t take long to be happy. I can hear myself laugh now and I have not had that in a long time. I feel relaxed and I am in a lot less pain from RA and Fibro for the first time in a long time. I know that the next part of my journey is going to be a long learning experience. There are also going to be difficult times but I have been told it gets easier.
Hello World is the title of a new Lady Antebellum song. It is the title of this post because I am making a choice to be a different person. The person I was many months ago put up with a lot including being mistreated. However, my brother’s death showed me that I was merely human because if I wasn’t, then losing him wouldn’t have hurt so much.
I visited Dad’s grave yesterday. I just happened to be in the area and I stopped there for a few minutes. I told Dad that I wanted him to proud of the person that I have become. Strong, determined, capable, and smart – just like he raised me to be. Dad died when I was 19 at a time when I really needed my Dad in my life. His death taught me how to be strong even when it felt like I had nothing left in me. Fifteen years later, I realized that his memory didn’t hurt anymore and I wondered why and that question was answered months later.
Fifteen years and three months after Dad’s passing, I lost my 31 year old brother to a very aggressive cancer. Did it change me? It changed every one of us, my mom, my siblings and me. Cancer took away a piece of each of us and it feels like I lost a limb. I ache and I don’t know how long I will ache but I am finally allowing myself to grieve. The façade that I put on for many weeks is something that I can no longer do. I had on through it all and I managed to be strong even when I thought I had no fight in me.
I have taken a bold step and made some choices that I probably shouldn’t have made while I was still grieving. However, the choices I made were thrust upon me and if anything, they were long overdue so it wasn’t as if I made choices without thinking. I made them because I had to and also, because I had for a long been considering them. My brother’s illness and death only forced to see the reality of what I was dealing with and I knew that I had to make a choice and the longer I waited, the harder it would be.
Now I have to be strong again and I know I have it in me. I live for my children and I always make a choice to be strong for them. And I have to do just that. Above everything that I am, being a mother is most important role. So for them, I choose to be strong.
I made a choice to be my own person. I made a choice to be a stronger and more independent woman. I made a choice to do what was best for me. As I look at my RA ridden hands, reminders of my diseases, I know with absolute certainty that I had to do what was best for my children and me. I had to be a mother but in order to be the best mother I could be, I had to make a choice to be respected. I believe that we have a choice to treat the people in our lives with goodness and kindness and people in our lives have a choice to stay or leave when we mistreat them.
Today, I am a different person and I say “hello world!”
Personal growth is the most important thing for any individual to do before they can move forward with their lives. It comes when we realize that our goals and our priorities have changed and when they have an adverse effect on inner selves and attitudes. As humans, we are fortunate to have natural strengths and, while not always fortunate, we have natural weaknesses as well. It is part of our inherent personal make-up and it determines how we succeed and why we fail.
In recent months, I have seen a different side of me and what has important to me to has changed because of recent events in my life. I have learned that I am the only person that can determine my successes and my failures. Some of that is inherent in my personality and some in my actions. For a long time, I was hung up on what success meant to others in my life without being fully aware of what was important to me. While it is normal to feel that way for any of us, my recent losses have forced me to see what is truly important versus what I has learned to believe is important.
We have influences (whether they are people, events, or other influencing factors) in our lives that determine basic values even when our values are different to start with. I have spent way too much time and effort trying to meet somebody else’s (this someday else is something metaphorical rather than a real person) idea of success all while ignoring the little messages from own psyche, I have become exhausted and unhappy. However, I have also had plenty of time to think and reflect upon my life in recent weeks and I realize that there is a lot I need to do to find personal success, to put my mind at ease and to actually be happy.
I am not sure when I realized that I was unhappy but my brother’s death was a rude awakening. I have learned the hard way that happiness is choice that only I can make. It is also something I have to create for myself and in order to do that, I have to look within myself to find that. Finding happiness is a personal responsibility and it has taken me a really long time to realize that.
And this is what I have realized:
- No one hurts us; we hurt ourselves. Moreover, we have to be hurt by others to realize our own mistakes and faults and to see that those things are just life’s lessons.
- We all face challenges and difficulties that we have to work though or around but our courage, patience and our strength are the sources of our happiness and not the circumstance.
- Sorrow and pain are part of life and neither is anything new because it is something that people deal with at various points of their lives. Regardless of the trial we have been handed, we need to be adult enough to move forward and take responsibility for our lives to get through whatever it is we need to get through in order to move on.
- It is important never to give up and acknowledge that sometimes, our best laid plans have to change in order to be happy. If something is not working out the way we need it to, then we need to change the course we are on to make it happen rather than make the choice to be unhappy.
- Pretending to be happy is a mistake as is forcing yourself to be happy. We all need to find some emotional balance in our lives and that involves taking a look at our lives and our circumstances. We should also look inside ourselves to ask why we are not happy, what things are hindering our happiness, and what it is we can do to actually be happy.
- Often, one of the most common reasons we are not happy is because we refuse to leave the past behind. I think that I have spent too much looking in the past that I have forgotten about the present. I need to do what makes me happy today rather than what made me unhappy yesterday or what I think I will make me happy tomorrow.
- It is important to trust God and trust yourself. I have put my trust in God and I have learned that through him I can trust myself.
- Happiness can only come if I am willing to believe in it. I am making it a goal to be happy and to appreciate all the blessings in my life. I am starting to see how I need to be aware of myself and my inner self, my motives, my values, my decisions and even my responses and reactions.
My personal growth journey is about making a choice to be happy. I am willing to be the best that I can be at any and every given moment. I am choosing to be happy. I still have along way on the journey I am currently on but I am getting there and a month from now, you will see a different side of me. I also will discuss what choices I have made to get there.
There is so much in my life that we have no control over. I have in recent months found that out. I have been through a lot more than I thought I could handle. Needless to say, life since my brother died has been struggle for my entire family. We are still grieving and dealing with our grieving process each our own unique way.
It is the “what ifs” and “what could have been done differently” that haunts us. I recently read Soul Print by Mark Batterson and it moved me in a way that I never imagined it would. It made me realize that my past, present and my future are unique to me. I have always done the best that I could with any and every situation that was handed to me. I know that God sees me as this strong and capable woman even when I don’t feel like I am. I know a lot of people in my life do, mostly it is because I can handle a lot more than most.
My mom is the strongest and the most capable woman I know and being strong and capable, I get that from her. I am always grateful that I had her for a role model because I don’t think could have been strong without her example. While my mom and I have never really seen eye to eye on anything, my brother’s death has brought us closer together. I admire her strength and I know she admires mine. There is no question that we have all changed. Lately, I have seen a side of myself that is weak and while I hate it, I know it makes me human. That side of me that is weak wants more than anything to go back in time and change things and choices that I have made in the past but the strong part of me knows that I have to move on from the place at my at right now in order to stop revisiting the past.
All these recent changes in my life (which I will disclose at later time) are uncontrolled. They are happening whether I want them to or not. While by I am making the choice to move with the change, I am doing it because I have to not because I want to. My personal life and my professional life have thrown change beyond belief and that change is both good and bad. The good part is that I am moving forward and doing what is best for me but the bad part is that I really don’t want to and I am not ready. However, sometimes change doesn’t really wait until we are ready. I want things to stay the same and I know I have no control the fact that they won’t. Before RA and fibro came into my life, I was planner and while they took away a lot of that control from me, I still had control of my responses and my choices. These recent changes are showing me that I don’t always have control of those either.
I am reminded of the coffee, carrots, egg story through these recent events. As the story explained that while all three objects faced the same type of situation (boiling water), each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong and unrelenting but with the boiling water, it become soft and weak. The egg started out fragile but its outer shell protected its liquid inside and with the boiling water, it become hard. The coffee beans were unique because they changed in the boiling water and changed the water itself.
The response of the coffee, carrots and egg is the response is similar to the response many of seek in times of trial. Are we a carrot, egg or coffee bean? Often times, I feel like I am the coffee bean because when things get bad, I use it as an opportunity to become better and change myself and the situation around me. Other times, I am passive like the egg but I become bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart. However, this is probably the first time in a really long time that I feel like the carrot. I am losing my strength and feeling so very weak. I know that I can and will get back to being the coffee bean but that takes time. I have had so much thrown at me all at once and I still reeling from the first set of obstacles.
While these last few months have been trivial, I have leaned to God for guidance and support. He has been with me every step of the way. Sometimes, he is holding my hand, other times he is giving me a shove, and sometimes, he is standing behind me because I am making choices all on my own with true confidence. I think that hardest part is dealing with the things I cannot control and those are the times I ask of God to let me be the coffee bean so that I can keep going.
When you have a chance, check out my review of the eArthritisHealth website. It is a new arthritis site that offers a library of resources on joint pain and various forms of arthritis and their symptoms, cases, diagnosis and treatment options.