There was a time in my life was I was an A+ perfectionist. Everything in my life had to be perfect. My home had to be clean, my kids had to be well behaved, clean and well-dressed at all times, and everything I did had to be done to the best standard that I could think of. Seriously, I was the mom would said, “My kids would be a certain way.” At some level, I thought I had everything close to perfect. Then RA and fibromyalgia came into my life and perfection went out the window. I went from being uptight to being fairly laid back but it is not as simple as it sounds.
When I was first diagnosed, I felt like everything was out of my control. I felt like I had been handed a life sentence and I didn’t know what I had done deserve such a cruel fate. Perhaps, if I had not been such a perfectionist in the first place, those first few months would have been much easier to bear. I found myself dealing with a post-birth flare (shortly after having my son) and I had never been in that much pain before. That flare lasted nearly six months. However, things got better after that and they continued to until I plateaued. While I would love to be pain free, I don’t think that will ever be reality because the fact is, these are my good days. My hands, fingers, wrists, ankles, feet and toes ache every day and that is a good day. Three years ago, I would have told you that was a bad day but I have changed in more ways than I could have imagined.
Once we accept that chronic pain is part of new reality, we can move forward with our lives. In the beginning, I hated losing the ability to be the person who could do everything and anything. Nothing would have slowed me down. I kept an impeccably clean home, invited guests over, was involved in school activities, worked a full time job, was working on a degree and studying for the LSATs (test to go into law school), helping my mom out, etc. I was doing everything and anything to keep my life happening. I was only 32 when RA and fibro sent me to a screeching halt. The fact is I always knew I was sick but I was not sick enough that chronic illness dominated my life. Perhaps, if I had been less of a perfectionist in the first place, my RA would have triggered until years later but at this point, it does not even matter.
RA and fibromyalgia forced me to take a hard look at my life. I was burning myself out already and by doing so I was only forcing the inevitable. My blurred reality of perfection was my downfall in the beginning. Not being able to be the Type A person I had always been sent me into depression. Needless to say, it was a pretty dark point in my life. It was also a part of me that many members of my family were not happy to see. In the beginning, I thought that they were not being supportive or that they thought I was lying as to the extent of my condition but what they were really doing was trying to pull me out of the dark hole I had dug myself into. It was not until I realized that the only thing that changed about me was my health that I decided that I could still be a strong person, that I could still have dreams, that I could still be a good mother and that I could still succeed that I found the strength to dig my way out. I just had to change my definition of success. My definition at the time was seriously flawed because I felt that being perfect or getting close to it was success. How wrong I was! The fact that I was still accomplishing so much despite chronic pain was true success.
The hardest lesson I had to learn was to let go of the things I no longer had control of. As my sister once told me, “You getting upset is not going to change a thing so let the cards fall as they may. You cannot change your circumstances so let it be.” I couldn’t change the fact that I was sick but I could change my reactions and my attitude about the situation. By accepting my reality, I was headed in the right and the only direction towards making the best of what had just been handed to me. It did not happen overnight but it did happen over time. Truth to be told, I never saw myself accepting the reality of my situation. I wanted to defy the impossible. Maybe I did but not in the way that I expected.
I remember the first time I told myself out loud to “let it be.” It was like an epiphany. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Accepting that I had no control of certain aspects of my life and leaning to God for that acceptance made my life a whole easier. Every day, I see myself evolving into someone who doesn’t take life seriously and three years ago, I would have looked down upon that person wondering how anyone could be so careless but now, I am fortunate that I have that gift. That gift means that I don’t have to take life seriously that I can focus on the here and now. I focus on taking care of today and I know that tomorrow can wait. So, the words, “let it be” mean more to me than I ever imagined. Nothing is serious enough for me to get worked up over. Things will happen as they are supposed. If my best laid plans fail, I can make new ones with the understanding that everything is in the Almighty’s hands.
I still want to have an impeccably clean home, I still want to be successful and I still want to be a great mother but my expectations for all these things are different than they were before RA and fibro became a part of my life. I accept that sometimes the dishes or the laundry have to wait until the next day or that if someone else does them, that work doesn’t have to meet my standards. I accept that my dreams had to change but I am still here to have dreams. I accept my life has changed but I am still breathing. I have learned that by letting things be, I am much happier and without that stress, I feel much healthier.