Limits on Stupid Decisions
I learned early in my life that my condition also meant that I had limits to the number of stupid decisions I could make. Case in point: during my second day at college I thought I would try a trick in my wheelchair, instead doing a flip and breaking my leg. Long story short, I can’t make too many stupid decisions because both the risks and consequences are too high. Now that I am older I can look back and laugh (just a little) at what a high price I paid for making a dumb, thoughtless decision. But I can’t laugh much because my broken leg almost cost me my college degree and could have completely altered my life’s course. Usually, I would say that young people should be free to make stupid decisions so that they can learn and grow from them. Sure, drink too much at a few parties and suffer through the worst hangover ever. Try some stupid stunts and break a bone. Fall in love with the wrong person and wound your heart. But there’s a lot of dumb stuff that I knew I couldn’t or shouldn’t do for fear that it could irrevocably harm my health. Even a minor stunt resulted in a broken femur—no fun. So, I have learned to be extra careful in life and thoughtful about my decisions.
Life with JIA
Even as a child, I took the long way around the playground where children ran with abandon and threw balls without aiming. I was always careful not to fall because I knew that I could hurt myself and also have difficulty getting back up. While other children could rough house, I refrained from putting myself in harm’s way. Nope, I am not perfect. But you still won’t see me taking many risks. I’m that annoying person who is always thinking things out a few steps and seeing worst-case scenarios twirl through my mind. I try to stop it, but can’t help myself. I have to force my mind to see things another way, not to focus on possible disasters. I also know that I have grown ever more cautious as I age. Every time I stand I am hyperaware of my legs wobbling and fearing the consequences of a wrong step could be a disastrous fall. Wet floors make me anxious from fears of slipping.
I probably go overboard with caution (overcompensating for my youthful days?). But limits to stupid decisions still reign supreme in my life. For example, I have to be vigilant about signs of infection and not put myself at risk for acquiring one. I can enjoy an occasional drink, but not too many due to medication interactions. (Plus, I don’t want to increase my fall risk.) I can do the things I love, but I need to plan for my safety and make sure I have the supports I require. Sometimes I reflect on my youth and worry that I may have missed out on some stupid-related fun. I didn’t party much or hang out in dangerous places or with dangerous people. I made mostly good decisions and played it mostly safe. While I may have missed some fun and/or painful life lessons, at least I made it to today intact! Nah, I don’t have any regrets on making good decisions. First, I know that good decisions have helped to prolong my health and create the life that I enjoy. Second, I also know that my rheumatoid arthritis, treatment regimen, and the disabilities with which I live require some care and thoughtfulness. It is just a part of my life experience. While I still enjoy the thrill of a roller coaster, I always check the safety bar first.
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