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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!”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • zanda1000
    3 weeks ago

    If you can endure RA for one day you are tough enough. You will know when you need a time out and don’t be afraid to take it

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Zanda: I think you are right. I applaud anyone who lives with RA is plenty tough enough.

  • CynthiaV
    4 weeks ago

    Yes you are! I remember seeing a meme once on Pinterest that made me laugh out loud. It read,

    “RA, because I’m the only one tough enough to kick my own butt!”

    We wear that meme like a medal for bravery!

  • jan curtice
    4 weeks ago

    I’m not always tough enough … sometimes this disease gets the better of me but I am winning the battle. For me, it is a matter of staying in the moment. Not focusing on the past, worrying about the future, just staying present with what is happening right now. I can handle NOW. That pain, those symptoms can be a bit much … but the ones in present are all I have to deal with. AND if I can manage those, then I have found that I can move on to the next moment and manage that one as well. I try to keep words like “never”, “can’t”, and “impossible” out of my vocabulary. My body is a metamorphosing bundle of surprises. What is a “no” today, very well may be a wonderful opportunity for tomorrow. I have that quality of life is found in those moments, not in hours, days, weeks, etc. That’s all we get … just moments where we feel our RA-best and/or able to be part of amazing things. Part of an outing/adventure is more wonderful than choosing to not participate at all. Yes, sometimes all we get are the appetizers and leave the full meal for another day. And those appetizers are precious moments indeed! Love to all <3

  • christine.laaksonen moderator
    4 weeks ago

    Wow, Jan Curtice, what a beautiful and positive sentiment. I love the idea of “I can handle NOW” and having moments. What a great perspective to live with. Thank you for sharing here. Wishing you a gentle day evening. — Christine ( Team Member)

  • Jo J
    4 weeks ago

    I agree with so much you have to say! I’m in a place of doubt right now myself. I’ve been tough enough in the past, I’m looking be tough enough still.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    4 weeks ago

    Who can forget lyrics like

    Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
    Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
    Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
    Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

    LOL despite your choice of group and song I know you are tough enough. in fact i suspect you are way more tough than even you know at this moment.

    As for the song, I might have chosen the Fabulous Thunderbirds ‘Tuf Enough’.


  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Hey Rick, I also have no doubt that Kelly is tough enough. As a side note, concerning the song – I said exactly the same thing you did. I even pulled up the Fabulous Thunderbirds and played it for her. It does occur to me that maybe we were dating ourselves as older, but turns out there’s only two years between the release dates. Best, Richard ( Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Richard, I know what woudl happen if I left a comment like yours that might be seen as disagreeing with my wife. So all I can say is you are:

    Revvin’ up your engine
    Listen to her howlin’ roar
    Metal under tension
    Beggin’ you to touch and go

    Highway to the danger zone
    Ride into the danger zone

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