Not Guilty

Sometimes I feel guilty about having rheumatoid disease.

Then I kick myself. “Why are you feeling guilty about this? You didn’t do anything to get RD. You didn’t commit a bunch of terrible “sins” or live a selfish, bad life before the disease started. You weren’t an awful child. You’ve always tried your best to be a good, kind, caring, loving human being! And you’re doing everything you can to treat the disease—medications, lifestyle modifications, etc. You eat your vegetables! Whole-grain everything! Chicken and fish instead of steak! So stop feeling guilty about something you can’t help!

Then I feel guilty for feeling guilty.

RD symptoms simply get in the way. They slow us down. They can cloud over even the sunniest of moods and switch a glass-half-full attitude toward life to a glass-half-empty one in a flash. They keep us from doing the things we like to do—and from the things we need to do, like take care of our families the way we feel we should.

And while most of us do everything we can to just keep on keeping on, sometimes having RD seems like too big a burden. Sometimes we sigh heavily. Sometimes we let a small groan slip through. Once in a while, we allow ourselves to complain a little bit, maybe even out loud.

And we’re embarrassed. We feel guilty. Because, you know, we’re supposed to be “warriors.” We’re supposed to be “fighting” this disease, darn it! We’re supposed to be “winning!” You never heard Hercules complain, did you? Sheesh, he was forced to clean the Augean stables in a single night (a Herculean task, heheh). And hey, look at Job! When his god dumped an entire land-fill of pain and misery on poor old Job, he didn’t whine once. He didn’t mutter and gripe. He just got up, smiled (grimly, I hope!) and pushed on.

So what’s wrong with you? Where’s your warrior spirit?

I know, it’s silly. But I also know I’m not alone in my guilt. Rheumatoid disease has a profound effect on daily life. Its symptoms—varying levels of pain that often cause disability, soul-dampening fatigue, feeling generally sick—color everything we do from the moment we wake up in the morning (assuming, of course, that we actually slept) to the time we tuck in at night.

And in spite of that, we take care of ourselves and our families. We work—either in the home, or out of it—even when we’re feeling bad. We hate taking time off work or not getting things done. We shop for groceries, make the kids’ lunches, get the laundry done. We cook meals, walk the dog, clean out the cat’s litter box. And we spend a huge amount of time just dealing with the disease itself. We go to seemingly endless medical appointments, pick up meds at the pharmacy, fill weekly pill boxes, and take the meds themselves. Some of us give ourselves injections! And let’s not forget dealing with insurance: coverage, the routine screw-ups, and astronomical bills. Is there any level of Hades that resembles trying to hold your own on an insurance company telephone tree?

So when the moment comes when you just can’t get up off the couch or you need some help buttoning that shirt, please don’t feel guilty for asking family or friends for it. You do so much every day for so many other people. You deserve help just as much as they do—and actually, you deserve and need it even more. You’re amazing. You’re tough. And there’s no shame in needing a hand now and then.

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

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