One of things I have learned about having RA is that my life’s struggles led me to be a fighter. How I learned to deal with crises in the past prepared me for Rheumatoid Arthritis. My struggles have forced me to gain strength and RA is not any different. I have found strengths in me that I never thought I had in me. While RA has closed some doors for me, it has opened others, and most importantly, it has opened my understanding of who I am, who I should be, and what I fight for everyday.
RA has taught me acceptance which was not complex, but finding that I was not always in control was quite difficult to say the least. In the beginning, I thought and believed that I would get better, and but it seemed RA presented one obstacle after another for me. Further, even though I accepted RA in my life, and there has not been a day that my emotions got the better of me. I grieve and sometimes, I feel sorry for myself. I know that my feelings are justified, but it angers me that RA has robbed me of my future. However, I have learned to make use of my good days and to do the best that I can on those days.
I have learned that RA controls my life more often than I do. I have learned to that I have to find better ways to control my life and my feelings. I control my RA and life with knowledge. I understand what tests my doctors take and why and what my medications are supposed to do, because I take the time to ask questions. I focus on eating healthy, taking my medications and vitamins as required, and getting enough rest. I leave the rest in God’s hands and I pray for guidance and strength. Again, in terms of control, I try to plan and I anticipate that my condition may affect my plans. I always fight and I try not to give up. I know my attitude plays a role in how I feel every day. I find better ways to do things and I do not overexert myself if I don’t have to.
I look for support and I ask for help when I need it. I work with my doctors and I trust that they have my best health interests in mind. I have focused on strengthening my relationships as much as I can, and I spend time with my children every opportunity I get. I have joined support groups and focused on meeting with others struggling and dealing with the issues I deal with.
I have learned to accept the physical aspects of RA, but I refuse to be weak because of it. I know my limitations and maybe, when I look in the mirror, I don’t always see the strong resilient woman I used to be, but I understand I have changed, and I know that I am still me.
Sometimes, my emotions are all over the place – I feel angry at RA, my body, myself, my doctors, my family and my friends. I know that is part of living with a chronic illness. Sometimes, it is hard to express what you are feeling on any given day without hurting those that you love. I have pity parties, and I cry, but I also have days where I am really tough. I know that it takes a lot to find humor, hope and faith with you struggle every day with a chronic condition and I pray that my loved ones understand. My faith gives me strength and I know that with God, everything is possible. We all have the power to heal and we have the ability to be courageous.
I look for distraction as method of forgetting about my pain, weakness and fatigue. I still try to focus on my career, my family, and faith, and my life is still meaningful despite RA. Personal growth is what I have gained, and as difficult has it has been, it has also been a rewarding journey. I have learned to be strong no matter how tough life gets. I have learned to be positive and to see the beauty in the simplest of things. I appreciate that I am alive and I do my best on a daily basis to treat others with kindness. When it rains, I look for rainbows. I have changed, and if anything positive came out my diagnosis, it was my personal growth.
Any person who lives with a chronic illness struggles, but we learn to cope. While we are coping, we learn acceptance, strength and control. Through all those lessons, we achieve personal growth. I am not alone in my journey, and I remind myself that not everything is about “me,” but I do have pity parties often. I once read that the late Christopher Reeve had his own pity parties every morning for ten minutes, and then he would move on with his day. We all need pity parties.