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Resilience, the Super Power of Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Yesterday, I was driving to the grocery store. I stopped at a stop sign and looked both ways before continuing. Such a simple thing, and yet for a second, I paused. I paused to remember that just three years ago, I couldn’t drive and I was worried about my ability to drive going forward.

This was because I was having to go through a neck fusion surgery that would limit my ability to turn my head, a lot.

Neck fusion surgery

I was having my C1-2 fused and C3 had already self-fused so I would lose 75 percent of my turning radius, something that is important when driving. Yet, three years later my body has adapted. I now unconsciously use the rest of my spine to make of for the lack of movement at the top.

Just like when my wrists were fused in my twenties, and I wondered what would happen if I fell. Would I break all my fingers? Would I reach out with my fist to catch myself? How would my body react? Turns out my unconscious reflex was to fold my arms in and catch myself with my elbows. Thankfully, I’ve only discovered this a few times!

The need to be adaptable with rheumatoid arthritis

When you live with rheumatoid arthritis you quickly learn how to adapt to discomfort. You learn to navigate the behemoth that is our healthcare system. You figure out how to keep working, or if you can. You learn to talk to your loved ones and friends in order to help them understand your challenges.

You stop trusting your body, and then you learn how to work with it and begin trusting it again. You figure out just how much pain you can take and what activities are worth the pain. You become resilient.

What does resilience mean in RA?

Resilience is a word that we hear a lot. According to Dictionary.com, resilience is:1

  • the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
  • ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

Resilience is usually all we have

After I started to read about resilience, I realized that resilience may be the superpower of people with RA. When you live with rheumatoid arthritis, resilience is all you have at times. One aspect of resilient people is that they learn and grow from challenges so that after the challenge is over, they have a better ability to deal with things like it in the future.

They become better at coping and quicker to jump in and learn. They become inspirations to those around them, just through their actions. They view change as an opportunity, and keep their sense of humor no matter what is going on. They are patient and engage others for support when needed. Most importantly, they believe that they can handle whatever comes their way.

People with RA are a resilient group

I witness all of these things in my peers with rheumatoid arthritis every day. We are a very resilient group of people, and with all of the challenges the world is facing right now, we have something to offer. Rheumatoid arthritis takes so much from a person. For me, finding something of value that it gives back, helps me to handle the losses better.

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