Someone mentioned to me that a 20 year old they knew was in a car accident over a year ago, and since then, she has had back pain everyday of her life. Because of this, she has dropped out of school, expected her family to wait on her hand and foot, and refuses to do anything with her life. Further, her family feels she is depressed as a result of living in pain everyday. On the other hand, they also think she is handling the whole situation like big baby and her mother has commented to her on many occasions to “just take some Tylenol and go on with her life.” A part of me wants to say “get up you spoiled brat” and another part of me sympathizes. I also understand that not everyone is a tough as I am in dealing with chronic pain and spiral of emotions that chronic conditions bring with them. I am not ignorant to the fact that I am the exception when it comes to managing a life with chronic pain.
Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia Syndrome or any chronic pain condition means changing your lifestyle. For some people, this comes easy and for others, it takes an emotional toll. With RA, the best that you can do is stay active and take your medications to relieve your symptoms and prevent the disease from getting worse. It seems like this is easy but it is difficult to do when you feel pain, fatigue, and joint stiffness everyday of your life. Having RA means you work extra hard to educate yourself about the disease, you exercise, you change your diet, you use assistive devices and you find support. It is like a having a second job – at least in the beginning. After awhile, RA becomes a part of your life and you accept it and move on despite the pain, fatigue, stiffness, etc.
Having RA is like living in batting cage. Just when you think the balls have stopped coming towards you, another ball comes at you. You duck and swerve and get better at it as the days go by. You don’t always know when the balls will come flying out, but you know that you have to be on your feet all the time and holding that bat.
There are many times where RA has made me want to find a hole to crawl into and those are also the times when I could not find that hole. RA takes you down emotionally and physically and for some us the challenge is one we can take, and for others, it takes an emotional toll.
You know living with a disadvantage gives you strength above others. You can morph into Superman or the Incredible Hulk simply by going about your life despite the pain and the fatigue. There are times where I feel like I am evolving physically, emotionally and mentally simply because life has handed me lemons.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” We should look after ourselves and focus on the whole picture even if it consumes more of our time than we want it to because in the end, we are the only ones who will look out for ourselves. No one else will. If not for living with RA and FMS, I am not sure that I could be as strong am I today.