Fight to Be Yourself with Rheumatoid Arthritis
"Welcome back, my friends to the show that never ends. Come inside come inside come inside."1
I first fell in love with this lyric while watching a concert called “The California Jam” 1974. The concert occurred in April 1974 and was rebroadcast around Thanksgiving 1974 on four consecutive nights, starting at 1 AM in Indiana. It was a memorable event for me, and I came to love this song.
Chronic conditions: the show that never ends
"Welcome back, my friends to the show that never ends."1 I love this lyric because it reminds me of chronic disease. For me, RA and diabetes is the show that never ends. When I was hospitalized with diabetes, I got my ticket to "step inside, step inside." 1 When I was diagnosed with RA, I got to "come along come along."1
So what did I find when I stepped inside? Many things, doctors, appointments, tests, abnormal findings, and emotional peril.
The worry that comes with chronic conditions
As a reader of this blog, I wager you have either found or are worried about these things. I get it. You have a right to be concerned. Rheumatoid arthritis, in particular, and chronic disease, in general, are scary. I hope you realize that to live successfully with RA, you will need to come to terms with worry. It is a natural part of living with this disease.
How do we cope?
But here is something else you should know: you can do it. I mean, you really can do it. RA is indeed the “show that never ends." You can do this. Thousands of people have found they can make it. You may be asking, "How do they find ways to endure?"
Here is a secret: there is no right or wrong way to do this. Some of us complain a lot, others grin and bear it, and then many of us do both. Because even if you grin and bear it, sometimes we have to let it out and tell others.
Name it, say it, talk about it
Telling others can be tricky, of course. If you bottle it up too much, you tend to erupt. I have done this, sometimes in anger and sometimes in a fit of crying. While anger may feel right, I have found crying is better tolerated by others. But the best way to do it, as my wife Sheryl tells me, is to use your words: name it, say it, and talk about it.
Claim your rheumatoid arthritis
Regardless your RA is yours. You get to decide how you will travel in this show. You get to decide who to let in and how you will carry the burden. Still, there is one other thing you must know. However you choose, if you want to tell others or not, you get to change your mind. In fact, I encourage you to take the opportunity to do so.
Celebrate the positive
Over my 20+ years with RA, I have figured out some things. I have figured out how to express myself better, I have learned that I can endure the pain, and I have learned that telling my doctor how I am doing is the best way to secure some relief.
Support from people who understand
I have made great friends. People who write here and others who support me, not because they have too, instead because they have endured the same, and they have come out on the other side with the perspective I need sometimes. You can find these people as well. All you need do is reach out and be willing to listen as much you share. Because everyone in our community has pain, and they also have learned to scale personal mountains.
Fight to be yourself with rheumatoid arthritis
It is true: our “show never ends." But RA never wins until we give up. So do not surrender the fight for your right to be as pain-free as you can. Fight for the right not to be 100 percent when others wonder why you are not participating. Fight for the right to say I hurt. But also fight for your right to be your best. You can do it. I promise.
When was your last flare?