For those of you who asked or have been wondering where I have vanished off too, I was visiting my dear friend Waldo and having everyone I know looking for me. Okay, I wasn’t visiting Waldo because like the rest of you, I have not been able to find him. What I can tell you is that I have had many BUSY days. They have been outrageously busy, thus the reason I am shouting with all CAPS.
My firm had its annual Cedar Point trip which at this point is getting really boring if you ask me. How many years can we keep going to the same place? The good news, however, was that I did not wake up with the same amount of pain that I did the previous year. If anything, I am just a little sore. One of the things I constantly pray for is remission, and not just for me, but for the countless others who struggle with this disease. The pain of this disease is not the worst component. That would be the emotional factors that come to play living with any condition that wrecks havoc on your quality of life.
The physical aspects of arthritis come in the form of pain and other symptoms. However, many people, including doctors, do not realize the role that the physical symptoms play on the emotions and vice versa. On a physical scale, symptoms include chronic pain and fatigue, limitations, loss or ability and other health conditions. When the disease starts to take away your ability to do things for yourself or limits you, you start to realize the emotional aspects of the disease because over time, you see the role the disease plays on your abilities, responsibilities, relationships and personal identity.
Specific emotions that your arthritis condition brings with it include fear, denial, relief and frustration. We fear the long term prognosis of our conditions. We try to deny the disease’s ability to win in order to cope. In doing so, we participate in activities to worsen our symptoms. The relief we feel comes from knowing what is actually going on but that relief is always temporary considering there is no cure. The worst of these emotions is the frustration that we have limitations, the constant fatigue, and that we lose certain abilities, including mobility and other physical changes to our body (i.e. weight gain).
Lifestyle Changes, Unfairness and Anger
Emotional factors are an adverse effect of making changes our lifestyles in order to be able to live side by side with our conditions. This is not the just when we first get our diagnosis but these feelings come and go depending on our symptoms. The “unfairness” of it all – this includes the “why me’s” and envy or jealously that others do not have the condition and we do. Then, there is anger: anger at the inconvenience that illness has brought to your life, anger towards the attitude of the medical community, and anger at family and friends that just don’t seem to understand. We also feel angry at families and friends if they hover over us, try to control us or somehow give us the idea that they want to take away our independence. That anger is not something we feel everyday but it is something that comes around sporadically.
Anger also comes because we no longer control major aspects of our life like the ability to make plans because our symptoms are always on our minds. Loss of control also forces of to make career changes, change plans or goals and it disrupts our families’ lives. We feel depleted and robbed by our health. We start to feel helpless, sad and even depressed. We mourn the fact that our lives have changed due to factors that our not in our control and we mourn every time the disease takes something away from us. We also mourn an overall personal loss. Again, we don’t feel like this everyday but now and then, we need pity parties.
Coping, Acceptance and Hope
I am guilty of every one of these emotions. I worry about the future, I think about the present, and I grieve the past. At the same time, I cope, I look for acceptance, and I have hope. I have learned to cope because I have developed some great relationships through blogging, through Arthritis Connect, through educating myself about my conditions, through talking to loved ones about how I feel, and working with my doctors on managing my health. It has taken nearly two years but I am getting there. I am learning how to live with this disease, how to work towards more good days, and how to solve even the most difficult problems that my conditions have brought to my life. I have learned acceptance and I know understand I cannot fight my condition, but I can work everyday to live with it through my many treatment options, eliminating stress in my life and prioritizing. The most important thing I have learned is that my attitude plays an important part in living with chronic illness. I have learned hope and I have learned it by watching my children and leaning on their love. Nothing else matters but being their mother and I cannot do that if I am sick. Hope allows me to see that there are treatment options and that there are ways I can improve my quality of life. We all need to find our “reason to hope” in order to want to work towards better days.
Like anyone else, I have my “good” and “bad” emotional days and these are there in all of our lives – healthy or not- where we feel like there is a black cloud hanging over us. That is just part of life and maybe it is little harder for those us living with and dealing with chronic illness. We doubt our beliefs and we find certain skepticism about the world and life in general. However, those feelings are the last step before breakthrough. We need to find a way to get our endorphins (take a walk, a jog, etc.) moving, to clear our heads and try to make sense of it all. We all go through this – we just have to know when to put it all aside.