Am I Tough Enough?
I’m dating myself when I admit that New Kids on the Block were big when I was in middle school. I remember several of their hits, but the one I think of often is “Hangin Tough” and the line that asks: Are you tough enough?
Sometimes I don’t feel like I have the endurance for rheumatoid arthritis and the daily battles that come with the disease. I question myself frequently. Am I doing the right thing on a bad RA day when I push through, climb out of bed, and get on with my daily responsibilities? Am I being wimpy when I stay in bed and rest off the flare that has knocked me sideways? How do I know when to be tough, when not to be, and if I am tough enough for this disease?
The self-doubt that comes with RA
The self-doubting is always there, but for me, it is the worst on flare days. I feel the weakest on these days in both body and mind. I don’t feel smart or strong enough to make the best decisions. I doubt my own senses and judgment. I berate myself for feeling crappy. And I wonder if I feel terrible just because I am wimpy and not tough enough for the RA fatigue and pain.
These are the RA brain trolls come to visit! They are nasty creatures and hard to swat away. I find it helpful to talk about it with my husband and he always encourages me to trust what I am feeling and to make decisions based on what is best for my health. I am always worried about letting people down when a flare hits me, but he reminds me that I’m no good to anyone when I am feeling so badly.
Perseverance to endure life with RA
I have found that I need a lot of perseverance to endure life with RA. I do have to get out and about even when I feel bad. I do have to push through fatigue, pain, and stiffness because it is there every day. So, when I have an extra bad day, I wonder to myself if I am just not being tough enough.
Knowing when to push or rest
It’s hard to know the line: when to push, when to rest. I know for myself that if I never pushed, I wouldn’t have a life! I’d just be in bed sleeping all the time! But I also think that there have been many times when I should have stayed at home. I sometimes wonder if I have been too tough on myself, too ambitious and if the cost has been damage to my health.
There are no easy answers. There is no way to know what is the right answer. There are no right answers even for every day with RA! Each day can be so different, with changes in the flaring joints. Sometimes I will have a trend repeat for a while, and then it changes without explanation.
I shouldn’t question my perseverance
If I am going to be honest, I have to admit that I am tough enough for RA. Maybe I’m not winning—because there are no winners! But I am still here and fighting and living. I shouldn’t question my perseverance because I continue to battle this disease and not give up on doing the things I want to do (despite needing more help over the years). Hmm, maybe I am winning after all!
I may not look like a youthful boy band member, but I am hangin’ tough! In fact, perhaps I am tougher than a red-cheeked teenager singing a pop song. They are no longer a band and their fame has faded. But their songs are remembered and I will start answering when I hear it: “Yes, I am tough enough!”
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?