5 Things I’ve Learned from RA
#RAblog is a seven day event from September 21-27, 2015. The brainchild of Rick Phillips, the goal of this week is to raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis and build community. Up on over to the RADiabetes site to learn more about #RABlogWeek and find links to other participants.For Day 4 of #RABlog Week, we were asked to share 5 things we’ve learned from RA. Here are mine.
Living with juvenile arthritis or, as I simply call it now (because it’s easier) RA, for 49 years has taught me endless lessons. Some of them good, some of them the kind that you’d rather live without. All of them have helped me grow.
Crying doesn’t change anything. When I was 11 years old, I was admitted to a rehab hospital on the Danish coast in the hope that it would do something for my JA. I hated every minute of it. It was an awful place and I cried for three weeks. It got me no comfort from the staff, and my deep unhappiness did not factor into the decision about how long I was staying (that time, it was three months). Eventually, I stopped crying. It didn’t mean I hated it any less, merely that that I adapted to my environment. Once I stopped crying, I got better treatment from the staff.
Sometimes, pain is worth it. A big part of managing RA is pacing yourself, working within your limits, and avoiding pushing yourself so far that you hurt for days (or weeks). It’s important to know when to do that and when to throw caution to the wind. Sometimes, being there for others, or having an adventure is worth the pain later.
Life happens anyway. When a curveball comes right at you, it’s normal to feel like the world should stop. It won’t, though. It will keep right on moving and if you hide too long, it’ll go past you. The best way to recover and to live well with whatever challenges you have is to find a way to keep putting your life first, and the challenges/RA second. Put your focus where the action is.
You can be happy even when you live with lots of limitations. I spent a great deal of my life being very sad. Which is not say I didn’t laugh or have fun. Underneath it all, it always felt as if my RA and my disability prevented me from finding happiness. Then I came close to dying in a big RA flare, a miracle medication gave me a second chance, and I discovered that what makes you happy is recognizing the joy in the small moments of your everyday. No matter how much pain you’re in, if you can find a way to have at least a one moment in every day when you truly lived, rather than merely existed, you will be happier.
I am thankful to RA. In so many ways, RA has been a gift to me. People look at me funny when I say that, but it’s true. RA has taught me resilience, the knowledge that I can cope with almost anything. My life and my self are the products of everything that has happened in the past 50-something years, both the good and the bad, and I like the end result. If I had to do it all over again, I’m pretty sure I would choose to have RA.