How to Handle Big Life Changes When You Have RA

I’ve recently had a few big changes in my life. I got a promotion at my current job, where I will be working full-time as an Assistant Director at Florida State University’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement. In addition, I’ll be starting graduate classes in English that will count toward my MA in Literature, Media, and Culture.

Compounded with these big changes is an even bigger change: I’m currently in the process of moving out of my current apartment. By September 11, I’ll be living in a new apartment, but still in Tallahassee, FL.

Anxiety about these big changes

And while I’m very excited to move and start these new life experiences, I am quite anxious: I’ve never had this many commitments before while also having rheumatoid arthritis (and high lupus markers).

I’m worried that I will quickly run out of energy — and therefore will not be able to complete everything that I need to — due to the fatigue. Normally I would write an article that talks about tips for handling this situation — and I will include some tips today — but, I wanted this article to be an expression of my anxiety and worry.

I never liked change

I’ve never liked change. Even as a child, I would hate moving, making new friends, etc., - all because once something was familiar and comfortable to me, I did not want it to change. While I still don’t like change, the reasoning behind my not liking change has, ironically, changed for I’ve experienced too much change in my life thus far to even imagine a life without something — and lamentably, sometimes everything — changing.

While I still cling to familiarity, I recognize now that I have associated change with negativity, as if my mind thinks, “Well, since a lot of things are changing, we’re headed back to that dark place where everything was changing and awful and terrible and we’re not going to recognize who we are after this.” Meaning: change has become synonymous with catastrophic and often traumatic change — such is being diagnosed with a chronic illness, especially at 21.

And now that I’ve currently entered into this phase of my life where something that was comfortable and familiar to me is going away — my apartment, not taking classes, the job that I’ve had for over a year, etc., — I feel more anxious than ever.

These changes are positive

I’m trying to take the time to have those hard conversations with myself. That, this time around, these changes are all positive ones. These are changes that will have benefits in my life and will teach me many things — not that having RA hasn’t taught me anything. On the contrary, it’s taught me more about myself than anything else in my life. It’s easier said than done to have those conversations, but it’s where I’m starting. And my aim to make this change as comfortable as it can be, by recognizing how I’m feeling the starting place to make that change.

Other ways that I'm coping with change

What else am I going to do to mitigate these feelings? I am going to start earlier in planning my weekly schedule, making sure to incorporate times for resting and times to explore and try out new things. That’s why I’ve invested in having a physical planner that I can live on my desk and in curating my digital calendar to match my physical calendar.

This is a time of great change, but I know I am going to be okay. At least, I’m going to keep telling myself that.

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