Would You Rather Have RA or Be Ryan Seacrest?

Would you go back and not have RA if you could?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question.  Most people, including the ones who ask it, assume it’s an easy answer – yes, oui, ja, totally dude! The thing is, though, it is about the farthest thing from easy there is.  For those of us who have lived with this disease for years, it’s nearly impossible to picture what life would be like without it.

Do you imagine your life without RA?

Here’s a question for you – if you could go back to when you were born and put a different person in your body would you?  See, it’s impossible to answer.  I know I’m supposed to say “I have RA but RA doesn’t have me,” and “RA isn’t who I am,” and “RA doesn’t play, Monsignor” (Sorry, I don’t know a lot of RA sayings), but the truth of the matter is that if RA isn’t who I am it sure as Hell hangs out here a lot.  It’s like that friend you had in college who was there when you left for class and then there when you got back from class.  It’s like dude… do you even go here?   You have to pay for his pizza and beer because he has no job, and he’s always creepy to girls that come over.  A general pain in the a$$ that you just can’t seem to get rid of and refuses to shower more than once a week.  That’s RA.  So while I may not be that guy, I still get all the wonderful benefits of having him around, all the time, always.

On the surface it seems easy – who wouldn’t want to get rid of the deadbeat who makes everyone uncomfortable?  The thing is there is benefits to having a guy like RAy around.  (That’s what we’re calling him for the rest of this piece – RAy.)  You get to blame stuff on him whenever you need a handy scapegoat.  Don’t want to go to that dinner date?  RAy can’t be left alone.  Forget to get a gift for that birthday party? RAy feels like garbage and you have to take care of him.  Just can’t stand to see the cutesy couple who calls each other “babe” and makes you want to vomit?  RAy got drunk and peed all over the furniture.  Metaphorically.

I cannot discount the impact RA has had on my life

Really though, it’s less about the benefits of having RA and more about the fact that the two can’t be separated – RA and the rest of me, that is.  I can’t even imagine me being me without it because the me I’d be certainly wouldn’t be anything like the me I am now.  (I’ll give you a second to re-read the last sentence….   OK, continuing.)  I don’t even have anything to use as an example – what if I ended up with a manbun, shoveling avocado toast down my throat so fast that they didn’t even toast the bread anymore and it was just an avocado sandwich?  Nobody wants to be that guy, least of all me.  The point is, how can you ask someone if they’d rather be someone else that doesn’t even exist?  I mean, if you asked me if I wanted to be Ryan Seacrest then, of course, I’d say yes – he’s dreamy and dynamic, a self-made success but if you asked me to be a guy I had to make up on the spot, how can I possibly answer?  Especially if I end up that manbun guy.

Another thing to consider is that I actually like who I am – how many people in this age of Facebook envy, SSRIs, and erectile dysfunction can say that?  In fact, I’m probably a borderline egomaniac, which is pretty amazing if you think about it because I do it in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  I’m terrified that I wouldn’t be this well-liked by myself and others (egomania – can’t help myself) if I didn’t suffer so many years with the effects of RA.  I’d like to think I’d still be as kind, empathetic, and intelligent as I am now, but the likelihood is I wouldn’t be.   If I hadn’t spent nights staying in, reading instead of going out, I doubt I’d be as well read.  If I hadn’t experienced the absolute, excruciating, white hot pain and suffering that sits at the very end of the human experience meter, then would I be as empathetic as I am to other people when they are hurting?  Probably not.  Finally, and most devastatingly, would I have my prized sense of humor?  If I hadn’t had to spend years deflecting would I have honed my wit to the fine point it gleams at today?  What if it just ended up with a ball point like a well-used pencil?  That guy ends up as an insurance adjuster who tells “knock knock” jokes to other grown adults.  Yikes.

Also, as long as we are talking about it, what’s the point of the question, really?  Is there an upside?  Is the person who asked it ever going to respond with “Well, you’re in luck!  I just happened to have a DeLorean here with a Flux Capacitor factory installed!  Jump in!  Careful, she kicks like a banshee at 88mph.”  While that would be heavy, it ain’t gonna happen.  I get asked it all the time, though, in almost every interview I do.  From now on, I’m just going to tell them to make like a tree, and get outta here.  (Award committee: that’s five Back to the Future references in one paragraph if you’re counting.)

Anyway, I know we’ve been on a long and twisty journey that took us from Ryan Seacrest to manbuns to Marty McFly, but all of it was just a long-winded way of saying that the question of “would you go back and not have RA” isn’t answerable.  It’s like Schrodinger’s Cat – unknowable until you live it and both dead and alive at the same time, which is exactly what RA feels like when you live with it.  So, I’ll end on something that a friend of mine bet me I could never work into a post – Seacrest out!  (Pay up)   Talk Soon.

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