My journey with rheumatoid arthritis began before my memory did. The story I hear is that one day at a park I began to limp and cry. I also stopped opening the refrigerator which before the pain began I had done with ease. So my parents brought me to the family doctor who finally sent me to get a battery of tests. When rheumatoid arthritis came up positive, my new rheumatologist told my Mom, “This is a serious disease but at least you’re not in the cancer ward right now.”
Over the years sometimes I’d think I’d trade rheumatoid arthritis for cancer because with cancer at least you die or survive. Instead I’m stuck with a stubborn disease that always keeps me guessing. But because I didn’t get to choose the disease, I choose how I live with the disease.
As a youngster I chose to numb myself, denying and hiding my feelings and my pain. This was a path to self-destruction which ended up almost destroying me.
As a young adult I opened up about my disease but continued to try to somehow beat it, subdue it, conquer it, and prove to myself and others that I was the one in control.
I finally realized that in fighting the disease I was fighting myself. Over time that gets really tiresome.
So now, my journey is one of resilience. This means doing my best every day. Not judging myself. Accepting that I’ll never accept a life of pain. Moving my body every day. Being honest with myself and others no matter how hard the truth is. Never giving up. And last but not least, having compassion for myself because this is the greatest healer of all.