If you miss the me that was inspirational, happy and chirpy – guess what, I miss me too. I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired – simple as that. There is no other way to describe it. June was a month of more than I could handle and here I am starting July in the same way. I wish that was not the case but it is.
It is days like this that I wish I knew who I really was. Being sick can strip away layers of who you are. If you identified yourself with your career before chronic illness came into your life, it is hard to do that when doing your job becomes hard. Similarly, if you identified yourself in your relationships, those relationships suffer as a result of illness. For me, I identified myself with all the things I felt like I was good at such as being a parent and accomplishing my dreams. I believed I was close to having it all as a working mother but RA and fibro changed that. Having lost that part of myself has been hard especially on the days where it feels that I am in control of nothing.
Four years ago, I knew who I was without a doubt. I was working mother with a new baby on the way and aspirations of a career in law. I was going to go to law school and by this point, I would have been practicing law. My personal relationships were healthy and so was my body. Life was good.
However, September 2008 changed everything and getting very sick was not a part of my plans. In the beginning, I thought that getting sick was a temporary setback and that I return to full health soon enough. Within a year, I knew that my plans were permanently changed and my identity was slipping away. I was losing myself and at the time, it felt like the worst thing that could happen to me.
The person I was four years ago could not have endured what I have in just one month, let along what I have endured in the four years since my diagnoses. Have I really lost myself or have just learned to be a better version of myself? Or perhaps a less than adequate version of myself? Whatever the case, the need to identify with my illness is strong even though my mind and heart disagree. RA and fibro are a part of my identity whether I like it or not. However, I have not really identified myself with my illness in the past even though I have identified myself with the limitations that RA and fibro pose. Dos that make sense? The limitations that have again returned leave me missing the me I was when those limitations were dormant. I have accepted that the me without RA and fibro is gone but I refuse to accept this new me who has been in pain and feeling sick for over a month.
In the past year, I have realized that I identify myself with my abilities rather than my limitations. However, with this month long flare, I am feeling the opposite. When I am not able to live up to the lifestyle I created after RA and fibro came into my life, I find myself confused as I did that first year after diagnosis. I am not sure if this is short term and this new flare-up is here to stay. I am sad that I may have to change my plans yet again especially when I am still clinging on the person I became when I thought that I was in charge of my physical health.
As much as I miss me, I know that illness opens up opportunities to learn from our experiences. Being chronically ill has required me to change courses more than once and it has allowed me to find different passions such as advocacy and faith. I am not sad about the path that my diagnoses took me. I am just unsure about where I am going now. I know that if things continue to go downward, I have to make additional changes so that I see progress again. I also know that I am very busy and that stress has taken its toll on me.
Over the past four years, I have fought to establish a new identity after rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia managed to eat away at my plans. Something tells me it is time to stop fighting and let the cards fall as they may. I have always told myself that I fully accepted RA and fibro in my life but what I did was create a new mindset for living life with these diseases. Subconsciously, I vowed they would never win. I will continue to work towards disease management but I am not going to fight the change that RA and fibro brings to my life – after all, it is out of my control. It takes me energy to fight a battle I cannot win than it does to focus on what is most important. Yes, I miss me but I have to continue to move forward in order to see progress. If that means changing courses and plans again, so be it.