Four Quotes That Changed My Life with RA
Chronic disease is a marathon, not a sprint, and my marathon has given me the opportunity to try out lots of ways to handle the challenges that JRA has thrown my way. Throughout the course of my long life with JRA I’ve had many different iterations of how I cope. I’ve handled it horribly, and I’ve handled it courageously, with everything in between. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve gained some wisdom that helps me not only with the disease but also with my life in general.
Bless in the mess
To me, this is the “bless in the mess,” and it usually boils down to one thing: perspective. Which leads me to the first quote that changed my life:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
This quote from Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search For Meaning, has influenced me more than any medication I’ve taken or treatment I’ve tried. I’ve read Mr. Frankl’s book so many times I’ve gone through at least three copies. It helps me to remember that I am resilient. Every day with JRA is a new one, and by adapting my thoughts and actions depending upon what I’m facing in the moment I can live well, regardless of my present circumstances. Mr. Frankl wrote about his experience in four concentration camps during WW2, which led to his developing a new branch of psychotherapy called Logotherapy. The basic tenants of Logotherapy include:
- Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
- Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
- We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.1
Ways to be fulfilled even when in extreme pain
Thinking about these ideas has led me to find ways to be fulfilled even when I’m in extreme pain. It keeps me curious instead of helpless. It motivates me to try to use my pain as a muse, instead of thinking of it as a torture device. And when I shift my thinking about my life and my pain, it’s much easier to see clearly that even when I need a lot help, I still have value, and can still make a positive difference in the lives of the people around me.
“Don’t light yourself on fire to keep other people warm.” -Penny Reid
This quote came to me recently when my good friend Colleen passed it on in an email. I think of it every day now because as someone who has always made a great effort to “keep up” with the people around me I know that I do this often. It’s incredibly hard to see the look of disappointment on the faces of my friends and family when I opt out of activities, which makes it even harder to say no. As a person who is guilty of being a people-pleaser, I am also guilty of holding onto silent resentment, which leaks out during moments of emotional strain, and this is much harder on relationships than saying no in the moment is. I’ve lived the consequences of pushing myself too hard in order not to disappoint others for too many years, and I’ve also damaged relationships by not speaking up. To me, this quote says it all about healthy boundaries. I’m still working on actually doing it, which leads me to Thomas Jefferson:
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”- Thomas Jefferson
Self- honesty is the only path to self-care. Over the years I’ve found plenty of ways to hide the truth from myself and that dishonesty has led to decisions that have harmed my body. Not admitting to myself how tired I was has led me to say yes to things I had no business doing. Denying my reality has led me to take jobs that were way too demanding on my small frame. Pretending I was happy only made me more miserable. The only way to live well with RA is to be honest with yourself and the people around you.
“Fall down seven times, get up eight.” - Japanese proverb
This quote keeps me going when all I want to do is put myself in a coma until my body feels better. It embodies the Japanese concept of resilience, and helps me to remember that as long as you continue trying, eventually you will find a way through life challenges. Many of the things that are most worthwhile demand persistence, and anyone with RA knows this well. Finding the right treatment plan, or a doctor who listens, can take great effort and the ability to keep trying. But in the end, it’s always worth it.
There are so many quotes that have shifted my thinking and the way I go through life; sometimes they have been the only thing that have kept me going. They have been my mantras when I’ve had nothing else to hold onto, and they bring me strength every day of my life.
Are there any quotes that have helped you live well with RA?
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