The Patience of Patients
Last updated: March 2022
Sometimes inspiration comes in the most unlikely places. A few days ago, it came when I was listening to a book whose main character was a surgeon. This woman had always been healthy and for the first time was experiencing a prolonged illness. I don’t remember the actual quote but it went something like this: “I suddenly understood why patients are called patient, it requires a lot of patience to be in this position.”
I listened to this and then laughed out loud. It made me think of the hours I spent in my first surgeon’s office waiting to be seen and using the time to study since I was in college. I thought of the times I’ve needed extra help and how flexible I needed to be in order to get the help I need. It brought to mind how patient I often need to be with myself when my body refuses to be pushed.
I'm patient with others, but hard on myself
Patience is an essential skill when you live with rheumatoid arthritis, and some of us are better at it than others. Since I was young, people have noticed my ability to be patient, but my patience with myself runs thin on a regular basis. It’s something I’m trying to work on, but along with a lot of people, I’m hard on myself. When my body is struggling, I do best alone because if I’m around other people I’ll immediately start feeling like I’m disappointing them by my inability to do the things we planned. I’ll be wondering when my pain and swelling will give me a break so I can get back to my life.
Learning to give myself grace
After listening to this quote, I had an epiphany. I realized that I was patient at the doctors’ office and I was patient when I needed help from others, but what I needed most was patience with my own body. If I don’t learn this skill, not only will I spend a good chunk of my life alone, disappointed, and frustrated, I’ll be continuing to push myself too hard and add to the pain and discomfort that I feel every day. That’s not a life I want to live anymore.
More patience, more joy!
So, I’ve been changing a little bit, smelling the roses as they say. On days that my body is dragging I take a breath and decide how I can add to my joy that day. When the inevitable disappointment happens, I immediately pivot to the joy. I still prefer to be alone on really bad days, to move through the day at my pace, but I feel differently about my alone time, less impatient for it to end and more focused on getting through it with as much ease as possible.
It’s true that patients need a lot of patience, and as mine grows, so does my life.
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