I am no stranger to toughness and nor am I a stranger to difficulties. I have always been a tough person and I have always forced myself to be tough through the worst of storms. For a long time in my life, I knew that getting through a crisis meant getting up when you fall down, and it meant getting up right away. With RA, I don’t always have the strength to get up right away. In the beginning, I did. Then my health got worse, and it was harder to get up right away. These days, I need time to feel sorry for myself because I eventually do get up, not right away, but I do.
The Arthritis Foundation says that 1.3 million Americans live with RA and 70% of those are women. Many women who stricken are as young as 20, and many are mothers. I don’t really know my heritage line when it comes to RA, but my mother tells me that her father had rheumatoid arthritis. I have never watched anyone struggle with a chronic pain condition so for me, my life is like a movie playing in slow motion.
If anything scares me the most, it is the fact that my children watch me struggle with this disease. It is for them I get up when I fall. Sometimes I worry about the complications of living with this disease and it scares to think that my kids could lose me because of RA. That is another reason I fight. My kids are entitled to a mother, healthy or not, who will be around for a long time.
I was very active before RA, and now I am lucky to just to be able to run after my kids. I keep praying for remission, for strength and for guidance. Mostly, I pray for the courage to find the strength to be tough. It is not always easy, but so many people in my life tell me that I do it in seemingly easy manner. I have to remind them that they do not know what it takes to make it look so easy.
My husband thinks that my accepting this disease means I have given up. See, part of having this disease means that you are fighting a battle every single day and accepting only means that you’ve stopped grieving for your misfortune. It also takes a lot of energy and emotional strength to fight.
For anyone who sees a family member struggling with a chronic pain condition, the only advice I can offer is to learn more about the disease. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the easier living with this disease is. Emotions play a big part because watching someone struggle takes a lot of empathy, and it does not come natural for everyone. In my life, the two people who try to get what I am going through are my sisters. My husband and my mom – they don’t quite understand but I have faith that they eventually will.
My fears about this disease sometimes cripple me emotionally. Crying is hard for me these days. I am too numb to cry and sometimes, I am too numb to care. When you grieve for so long, you eventually stop grieving. I hope that I have not become a cruel person, but I used to turn on the waterworks on over the silliest things, and now, I have very little sympathy for the world. I have learned that that is what it takes to find the strength to be tough. I don’t have time to sweat the small stuff.