I am going on three years since my RA and Fibromyalgia came into my life. Three years ago, I never believed that I could come to terms with my diagnoses and accept these diseases as a part of my life. I remember grieving the loss of control over my own body – the one thing I thought I had control over.
The uncertainty of a life with RA and Fibro was the scariest thing I could have ever imagined at the time. I was afraid of what I didn’t know and mostly because I did not know what was ahead for me. Here I was – 32 years old and having just had a new baby and I was scared about a life with chronic pain. Not only was I scared – I was angry and frustrated. I wondered what I did to deserve what was happing to me. I also remember the feelings of denial and I never believed that I would ever accept my new reality or if I could ever even come to terms with my new life with RA and Fibro.
Fast forward almost three years later and I am advocating for arthritis and Fibromyalgia. In fact, I am going to be involved in an RA awareness event in the middle of July where I will be traveling to Washington D.C. to meet with other RA bloggers and discuss what we can do to bring out awareness for RA. I never imagined myself being so accepting of and so involved in a disease that made me believe my life was over. In fact, thought that I would be disabled by this point but I am not and I am very grateful every day for that.
When I first diagnosed, the hardest part for me was that I didn’t who I was anymore. Prior to my diagnoses, I was a working mother with dreams of law school and so much more. Then RA and Fibro came into my life and I wondered who I was now that I had no control of my destiny. I remember that first major flare-up – barely being able to walk and not being able to use my hands. My sister had to come to take care of my newborn son and me because I was in no position to do it. Not only was I physically unable, I was an emotional wreck.
I had no idea who I was and who I was becoming. My self-esteem had hit an all-time low and I felt useless and helpless. Chronic pain was destroying my ability to hold on to my inner strength. I felt that I was someone different because RA and Fibro invaded my life and this new person I was weak and so vulnerable. I thank God every day for my sister because without her, I am not sure that I would have been able to get through that very dark period in my life.
It took me at least a year to find the strength to live through the chronic pain that was consuming me and to deal with the new challenges in my life. There were days where I just wanted to crawl into bed and not get up again. I wanted to give up and I clearly remember how dark that period of my life was.
At some point, I realized that I had to find me again. The “me” before RA and Fibro was gone but it didn’t mean that I couldn’t be confident and strong again. I knew that I had to find a way to smile daily even through all the pain and the chaos. I knew that finding hope meant finding ways to feel better. It has been learning experience every single day but every day, I find out that I have strength that I didn’t know I had.
Last month, I was in an auto accident. It was a rear end collision that resulted in two herniated discs, one in my neck and the other in my lower back. I am in pain again – probably in as much pain as I was when I was first diagnosed with RA and Fibro. The difference is that this new pain is in my neck, shoulders and back, and it is pain I have not had before so it’s a new challenge.
At first, I went through the whole woe is me routine but I also kept going – what other option did I have? I am going to therapy, getting treated for my injuries, and not taking on more than I can handle. It occurred to me today that I am getting better at dealing with the big challenges that life throws my way. But mostly, I am starting to come to terms with what RA and Fibro have done to me. The funny thing is that it’s not all bad. True, my dreams and my goals have changed but I have also gained a lot. I am stronger than I have ever been in my life but I also know my limits. I have learned empathy and I have learned to lean on God and my faith when the going gets tough.
So, I am coming to terms with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia as a part of my life. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t something that happened overnight. It is something that happened slowly and one day I realized that everything would be okay.
I have learned to accept the things that I cannot change and to focus on the things that I can. I accept that RA and Fibro are part of my life. Yeah, they make life a little harder but they don’t define who I am. The interesting part is that I never believed that I could to terms with my conditions three years ago, and now, I am standing up with those terms on a daily basis. Who would have guessed?