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.