at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

RA Won't Get the Best of Me

This post is part of a blog carnival, prompted by -- with the subject of the carnival being, "how do you keep the disease from taking over?" Click here to read all of the entries!

We all need to have an armory, well stocked
with things that help us fight this disease --
including things that protect against RA taking
over our lives and getting the best of us.
Yes, silliness is in my arsenal.
We know that rheumatoid arthritis attacks each person differently, and the severity and impacts of the disease can vary widely between patients.  I feel very fortunate that while my disease is moderately aggressive, it has so far been very treatable and has responded well to the treatments I've tried.  As a result, most of the time, RA hasn't severely impacted my day to day living.  On the other hand, even with well-controlled RA, there are flare ups and periods of time with more active disease, there is joint damage that has occurred, and there are days that the disease threatens to steal away part of my life and part of my joy.

As I type this, I am home sick, lying in bed.  I've never dealt well with being sick (I'm the kid who would pout and cry whenever my mom made me stay home sick from school), and I finally realized why: admitting I'm sick and deciding to stay in bed makes me feel like I've lost a battle, I've been defeated, the sickness has won.  I know that's silly, and it's important to rest when your body needs it, but it remains an internal struggle.  Imagine the struggle I faced when I was diagnosed at age 19 with rheumatoid arthritis: every day it felt like I had lost a battle.  Coming to terms with living with a chronic illness was a long process.  At first, I was devastated.  Over the years, I've learned to accept things for what they are, but when the days of despair creep up (as they always do from time to time), I've found a few things I can do to help keep my spirits up and keep the disease from taking over and getting the best of me.  I've already discussed my thoughts on "managing my rheumatoid disease" -- there are obvious things we can do to be proactive about getting proper care and treatment and to take good care of ourselves -- but when the disease threatens to take over anyways, here are some things I've found to help.

Focus on Faith
I've said it before and I'll say it again: my faith in God is what keeps me going each and every day.  Learning how to rely on God's strength instead of my own and focusing on His faithfulness helps me to get through the tough days.  Knowing that God can work good things even out of the bad helps me to keep a a proper perspective.  If I focus my attention on my disease and dwell on my symptoms, on pain, on the unknowns of my future -- it quickly leads to a downward spiral.  But, when I focus my attention on God, and his love and promises, it fills me with hope and leaves no room for worry, fear or despair.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." -- Hebrews 12:1-3

Do What You Can and Accept Help
Another thing that helps me to keep RA from getting the best of me, is continuing to do what I can.  This will look different for each person affected by the disease, and obviously you need to be careful not to overuse flaring joints -- but focusing on what I CAN do instead of what I CAN'T do can help me to feel better.  I can't do push-ups anymore or anything that requires more than a 30-degree bend in my wrist, but I still CAN do most of my yoga DVD -- and I CAN modify things so that they work for me.  

I call this one of my "Conquering RA" pictures -- backpacking
on Isle Royale was a life dream that I was able to realize
despite RA!
I've learned that some of my activities have limits, but have also learned to adapt and to ask for help when I need it.  And to rest when needed, as it will help me feel better in the long run (okay - so, maybe I'm still learning how to do this one!).  I finally learned to take a prednisone burst if I know I'm going to be doing an intensive activity -- like backpacking -- and when I'm feeling well enough to do those activities, I need to take advantage and DO them!  Cooking in the kitchen has become a greater challenge with my bad wrists, but I've been known to knead bread dough with my forearms if it comes to it, and have learned to ask my husband for help with lids and heavy things, rather than hurting myself trying it on my own.  In the end, I feel a greater sense of accomplishment and less frustration when I simply ask for help with the parts that I know I won't be able to do -- then I can focus my efforts on the parts I can do and can actually enjoy the process.

Delight in Life's Simple Joys
Finally, one of the best things I can do is to take delight in the simple things in life that bring me joy and happiness.  A chronic disease can steal a lot of things from you, but you don't have to let it get the best of you.  Spending time with loved ones and taking the time to enjoy the things you love can make a world of difference.

"I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad"

These are a few of my favorite things...

Laughing. Humor always makes things better for me. A funny joke...or even a silly pun; I'm easily amused.  Inside jokes are even better :)

The smell of the outdoors on a fresh spring day -- or on a crisp fall day

Playing games -- cards or board games -- with family and friends

Watching things grow in my garden

Animals -- either watching them in nature or playing with a pet (or playing with chipmunks in the wild!)

Napping in a hammock

Sitting around a campfire

Reading on the beach

A bouquet of fresh cut flowers

Simply spending time in good conversation with loved ones

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!