Yesterday, as my brother and I drove back from his college orientation, I quietly thanked God for his testing and for teaching me strength and resilience throughout this testing. The last 48 hours have been shown me the worst inflammation and swelling that I have had since my diagnosis. In addition, my joints hurt and my eyes and skin are dry beyond belief. People around me keep telling me that it a good time to rest and not to over do things. What they don’t realize is that this is what Rheumatoid Arthritis wants us to do. It wants us to give up instead of to keep moving. I keep explaining that moving and being productive is the only defense against the worsening of my symptoms, but no one quite understands because they are have not walked a day in my shoes.
Life before RA for me was constantly busy, stressful and sleepless. Life with RA is still all of those things but in addition, it is exhausting and often times painful. I often hear those struggling with chronic illness, chronic pain, and life’s tests asking why. I have already gone through the anger, hurt, grief and helplessness part of diagnosis. I already know the whys and what ifs. I have gone through it all. I have gone through the good days, the bad ones, and the down-right ugly ones. I know first hand the ugly nature of chronic illness and I know my condition is going to get worse, but I also know how to not let my condition win. I keep moving, I keep working towards good health, and I keep learning about myself so that I don’t let this disease win.
One day, I awoke and my life had forever been changed. My old life was one that illustrated the strength and character of a hardworking woman and loving mother. My new life was still about that hardworking woman and loving mother, but this new woman and mother was sick, scared, and unsure about the future. I remember being that person a year ago, and that is worse than the physical pain I feel today. I was lost in the present, scared of the future, and missing the past.
Yesterday, as I looked next to me at the passenger seat at the young man who was going off to a college two and half hours away next month, I realized this was merely the cycle of life. In about eight years, I would be making that same drive with my now ten year old and in sixteen more, I would be making it with my toddler. It was then that I thanked God for the tests in my life. If not for those tests, I wouldn’t have ever known the true nature of love, kindness and goodwill. My baby brother grew up without a father, a mother who was distant, and brothers who never gave a damn, and the man that he turned into came because of the hope, love and faith that his sisters instilled in him, things that he learned and relied on to become that young man that makes us proud today. I had my own tests in my life and when I thought that God was done testing me and that my life had suddenly gotten easy, RA and fibromyalgia were thrown into my face like a bucket of acid.
RA and FMS may seem like an insult after everything that I have been through, but I believe that God is constantly teaching us to be strong. I am older now and most obstacles of growing up into adulthood are long behind me, but it does not mean that I don’t get a break from learning and from testing. I may often wish that I did not have to endure this testing and for long time, I believed I was alone, but each of us has been tested whether we realize it or not. As my sister says, “we don’t know what happens behind closed doors.” So for anyone who wonders why others are lucky and they are not, think again. My favorite quote comes from James M. Barrie, “Life is a long lesson in humility” and that it is.
I continue to live a productive life with and despite RA and FMS in my life. That is why I blog because I do not want anyone to believe that because of chronic illness, they can’t work, be a parent, dream and to live a wonderful and productive life. Chronic illness is a set back but once you allow yourself to learn about your condition and how to live with it, the sky is the limit. Needless to say, it won’t be easy but if you don’t make a choice to live life despite and with chronic illness, you will never really know.
I recently received some bath soap and salts from Sheila at Aventine Hill Bath Emporium for me to review and test. Sheila’s skin products are all natural and organic. Please look for that review towards the middle of next week.
I also just finished reading “Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend!” by Rosalind Joffe and Joan Friedlander, and that review should be up in a few days.