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Don’t Look Back

Don’t Look Back

As I have moved through the years of my life I found myself, at times, looking back.  I like to think this is a good way to take lessons learned and build on them to shape my future.  But it can also, sadly, be a way to get stuck in the past. We have to be very careful when managing a chronic disease like RA, that the past does not solely determine how to move forward.  I have discovered how important that is over the years and reminding myself of this seems timely and necessary to managing RA successfully.

Lessons learned from the past

Of course, there are always lessons to be learned and we should retain those as cornerstones of knowledge.  For instance, recalling how it felt to be diagnosed with RA has, in some respects, informed me about how to deal with current health issues.  But, at the same time, that level of reflection can become paralyzing if it crosses to obsession which is entirely possible.  The fear and confusion and pain of the early stages of RA, to this day, make my heart race and my anxiety rise.  I know that if I go back to that place mentally too often, it will only serve to make me less successful at managing my RA.  Instead, I try my hardest to remember how it felt when I finally moved forward, to a time when the state of confusion lifted, my treatment choices became clearer, my path forward sharper and more distinct.


I believe we have to consciously be aware, almost in a detached way, of our past, without letting it become so constant in our thoughts we cannot derive the lessons those past experiences give us.

At times, its important to focus on the now and future

A good example for me is the fear that bubbles up when a particularly bad flare erupts.  If I only look backward I am apt to emotionally “collapse” and lose my ability to actually deal with it.  So, I try to stop and take stock, remembering the best strategies to handle a flare without focusing on the fear it generates.  Only then, can I ensure that the mistakes of the past will not likely repeat themselves.

If you think of other times in your life when looking back did not serve you well, apart from RA, you can see what I mean.  Another example for me was a car accident I had.  It was not my fault, but nonetheless, I could not let go of the incident to the point it made it difficult for me to drive for a while until I was able to fully “put it behind me”.  That phrase really says it all.  It is fine, even wise, to reflect on the past but then, after extracting any value that it gives us, put it away.

I will be the first to tell you that this takes practice and to this day I often fail.  But, that said, I know how crucial it is to keep trying to move forward and only use the past as a history lesson, not as a roadmap for where I should go next.

Nan

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • tckrd
    2 years ago

    I know exactly what you mean by dwelling on past bad experiences

  • Nan Hart moderator author
    2 years ago

    Dwelling on the past is perfectly normal and not something to be ignored but rather something to inform us as we keep moving forward in our RA journey. Your recognition of that is half the battle. Thanks for sharing

  • Piggles
    2 years ago

    I was dx’d with RA back in November. It explained so many of my symptoms I was having for the pasteam couple of years. Initially I was started on p.o. Methotrexate, then switched over to injection which finally, I am feeling just a little relief.
    Recently I sprained my ankle pretty bad, grade III with both torn/ruptured ligaments on outside of my ankle. Well, it didn’t heal and now I am facing surgery to reconstruct my ankle so I can walk normally without severe pain. So why am I telling you this……you see, there is a catch. In order to have surgery, I have to stop aLloyd my RA meds at least 4 weeks prior. I AM COMPLETELY DEVASTATED! Juse when I started to feel better, just when there was a glimmer of hope with making me feel somewhat normal…..bamm, another bad hand I’ve been dealt.
    The last 10 years have been medical issues after issue, I’ve lost a career as a result of failed back surgery, an incurable disease of spinal column and a host of other health issues. Then the RA……
    I am trying hard not to cry myself to sleep every night since the surgery consult for my ankle. I am just sooooooo disgusted with my body, with my limitations, with ALL THE PAIN 24/7…..I try, I really try to see a light in the tunnel, but every time I get closers to that light, the road collapses….
    So in end, I am focusing as well as I possibly can of the tomorrows, but the past and present keep tripping me up! Much luv to all of you! Pam

  • Nan Hart moderator author
    2 years ago

    You certainly have had a difficult time but it sounds like you already have determined that “focusing on tomorrow” is the goal! As our health issues rise and fall in intensity it is quite common for us to be on that crazy roller coaster as well! Be assured that if you focus on the positive, even the very small ones like a sunny day, you will begin to see that life can be joyful with RA. Thanks for sharing.

  • sharoncookie57
    2 years ago

    I am having such a hard time not looking back at what I used to do and what I can do now. I am in the past and can’t seem to be in the now with what I have to change. I have to let go of what use to be and live today, count my blessing and go on.

  • Nan Hart moderator author
    2 years ago

    Sharon, simply recognizing the need to keep moving forward is the best start to doing it! Staying positive and “counting our blessings” is a great strategy! Thanks for sharing.

  • pam1963
    2 years ago

    This is a great article and so true. I try hard to remind myself that most flares won’t last forever. However that first 2 years was a hard thing to live through.

  • Nan Hart moderator author
    2 years ago

    Pam you are so right! The early stages of RA are so challenging as we deal with the fear and chaotic nature of RA. Although I remember it quite well, and it does inform me, I have tried to use it as a way to move forward. thanks for sharing.

  • Jo J
    2 years ago

    I’m struggling with letting go of the past even knowing it’s in my best interest. I had a difficult 2-3 year course to arrive at the diagnosis of RA. My first rheumatologist denied my symptoms and dismissed me from her practice. Within a month, my current rheumatologist diagnosed moderate-severe RA and treatment began. A year later I’m on Medrol, MTX, and Humira and about 50% improved. I wonder frequently where I’d be if treatment had not been delayed. Some of the anger is dissipating, but I have trouble not cursing the first rheumatologist when I flare!

  • Nan Hart moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Sadly, it is not uncommon for RA to go undiagnosed for some time so I know where you are coming from. That said, the fact you recognize your anger and it is dissipating means you are moving forward and that is great news. This process does not happen overnight but you sound like you are well on the way. Best of all, your current situation sounds significantly better and so moving on and making that change, no matter the reason, turned out for the best. Hope you continue to improve. Nan

  • Carla Kienast
    2 years ago

    Nan, you are so right. I think RA gives us many experiences and skills that we can use for other situations in our future. But we need to separate those talents from the negative aspects of being diagnosed with a chronic disease and use them to our advantage. Thanks for a great post.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    2 years ago

    In many ways RA has been a blessing for me. I am more focused, caring and complete individual. I never wanted RA and would never wish it on another, but after the shock I think it has been a blessing overall. Nothing has beat RA for teaching me to slow down.

  • Nan Hart moderator author
    2 years ago

    Rick you are so right! And being able to reflect on that has made my emotional health that much better when it comes to managing my RA! Thanks for sharing. I love that you see the positive in life.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    2 years ago

    Hey Rick. There certainly is something to be said for learning to slow down and enjoy the things that matter. Don’t know if you have seen this earlier article from Nan on gratitude and having a thankful heart: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/an-attitude-of-gratitude/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

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