The same goes for any condition or disability that you might be fighting …. from fibromyalgia, to diabetes, celiac disease, to multiple sclerosis, to lupus, scleroderma, ankylosing spondylitis, myositis, felty’s syndrome, sjogren’s, thyroid disease, bipolar disorder, cancer, and more.
There are so many conditions out there that can prevent you, or me, or any one of us from living a so-called “normal” life….and any one of us can “have” one of them …. but that doesn’t mean that they have to “have” us!
We are not defined by the illnesses or disabilities that we have! Likewise, we did not cause ourselves to have them, and should not feel any guilt or shame. We do not need to let any social stigmas about them or misconceptions about them consume us. Nor should we let any negative thoughts or negative situations that come along with the conditions ruin us.
Yes, I have rheumatoid arthritis (among other things.)
Yes, arthritis prevents me from living what many people would consider a “normal” life. It DOES affect my quality of life. It HAS cost me friends. It HAS cost me income. It HAS cost me from having the type of body that I wish I could have. It HAS cost my my health and well-being.
Gone is my emotional well-being. Gone is my physical strength. Gone is my independence. Gone is my energy.
I’ve made sacrifices. I’ve sacrificed my love of shoes. I’ve sacrificed playing sports. I’ve sacrificed being able to work the type of career that I would be working if I didn’t live with chronic, unpredictable, and disabling illness.
I live with uncertainty. I’m uncertain what the future holds for me. My calendar is dictated by doctor’s appointments and treatments. I never know how I’m going to be feeling day-to-day or hour-to-hour.
But guess what.
My illnesses still – STILL – after ALL of that DO NOT, and WILL NOT control my life.
*I* have them. They do NOT have me.
You never walk in to a doctor’s office and are told, “m’am, the flu has you.”
No. You are told, “m’am, you have the flu.”
This is because YOU own it, and YOU can beat it.
The same goes for just about any diagnosis you are given. Nothing is written in stone.
So always remember that. Every day that you wake up is a fresh start and a new beginning. It is a new chance to make do with your given situation. I know that some days are harder than others.
So here’s what *I* try to remember.
Yes, I have chronic health problems, including, but not limited to, arthritis. Yes, all of these issues have put limitations on my life, and I’ve been forced to make changes and sacrifices.
But guess what?
They’ve made me see who my REAL friends are. They’ve allowed me to weed out people who do not TRULY care. I’m sure you all can relate, right?
My ailments and illnesses have allowed me to become a more empathetic and compassionate person. They’ve allowed me to open my heart to others. To open my eyes to the world around me, and to feel with my heart what other people are going through. When others are hurting or sick, I TRULY can relate. I feel what they feel, and I know firsthand their physical and emotional struggles. Sympathy, empathy, and compassion are some of the world’s greatest gifts. I feel that chronic illness have given these gifts to me on a golden platter. You’ve all gotten that gift, too, through your trials and tribulations!
My illnesses, though in some ways, have robbed me of physical strength, have also made me a way stronger person. I’ve been through a lot. So, in some ways, I am STRONG. So are you. Always remember that. What has been taken from us physically has been given to us exponentially in heart and in character!
I’ve also made friends virtually who have become an amazing support system of people who I can vent to….people who can truly relate and understand on a physical and emotional level what it feels like to be stricken with chronic disease. This is something that no doctor, friend, or family member – no matter how well-meaning – can provide, unless they too are living with arthritis or another chronic and/or autoimmune condition.
Living with nonstop and unpredictable health conditions has also allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of who I am. I’ve learned more about myself through all of this than I think most people have ever been afforded the opportunity to do. I don’t know that most people learn their true character until they are faced with tough situations. For the past few years in dealing with all of these health problems, I’ve developed a healthier and clearer relationship with myself and my inner being. I encourage you all to do the same, as I think that it is important for your overall health and wellness.
So let’s all remember, when we are feeling downtrodden and ready to give up, that we are in charge here. Yes, I am aware that with many conditions there is no “cure.” We may not actually be able to change the course of the disease. That being said, we can still change the way that we feel ABOUT the disease. We may even be able to change the way that we feel while living WITH the disease. We can change our attitude about and outlook towards the disease. And THIS may ultimately end up affecting the outcome, after all. You just never know.
I always say that it never hurts (pardon the pun) to be positive. Realism is healthy and important for making informed decisions about your healthcare….but I think that it is best when accompanied by a big, fat dose of positivity and optimism. Hopefulness never hurt anyone, and, sometimes, is just what the doctor ordered.
Always remember that you have the disease…..it doesn’t have you. As of now, the reality is that most of us are going to be living with arthritis pretty much forever. So why not change our thoughts about it? :)