"Grief and hope can coexist." -Rebecca Solnit
I recently saw a meme posted on social media that caught my eye and attention. I quickly took a screenshot of it and saved it to my phone so I wouldn't forget it.
The meme image is simply a black square background with "H.O.P.E." written in capital white letters. Beneath the letters reads, "Hang On Pain Ends."
Oh, that's good, I thought. Simple, to-the-point, and a true message that can often be hard to believe or hold onto, especially when you live with RA and the chronic physical and emotional pain that comes with the disease.
Joint flare-ups happen in alternation, but aren't forever
Some people reading the meme or this article might disagree with me and think, "No, the pain does NOT end" when you have RA. And when I'm in the middle of a bad flare-up, or any level of a flare, I often think and feel the same way: This pain is NEVER going to end.
Despite being a chronic condition, the different joint pains of RA do end. The problem is that often once one joint is done flaring, then another one will take its place or some new affliction will pop up.
However, during my 25 years of living and struggling with RA, I've experienced severe flare-ups where I couldn't even get out of bed or put any weight on my feet. During those times, I remember thinking in despair that I was going to have to live this way for the rest of my life.
Reminding myself that I will get through this
Of course, once the flare-up got under control, this was not true. I try to remind myself of the several times this has happened whenever I have a flare-up. This is not forever. This will end. You'll get through this.
I try to remind myself of this when I'm in the middle of great emotional pain, too. It's not easy to stay hopeful and positive, of course, when you're in the throes of deep, debilitating pain. It feels never-ending and like you'll never feel OK or "normal" again.
It's during these times that it's most important to "hang on" and hold onto hope the best you can, because it could be so easy to just give up. Chronic pain is exhausting. It batters your body and shatters your soul. But hope can coexist with grief, physical pain, frustration, anger, sadness, misery, and depression.
Holding onto hope
How do I hang on and hold onto hope in the midst of great suffering? Sometimes, I don't even know how I do it.
The urge to give up on life and to give in to the disease can be overwhelming. I tell myself that things always find a way to get better, somehow. And I try to remind myself, over and over, of previous times in my life when I was in immense pain and the pain did eventually pass.
Finding and having a network of supportive people in your life helps a lot, too — especially if they also have RA and can understand what you're going through. Hanging onto hope for yourself is really important, but so is sharing that hope with other people, and being there for others when they're suffering and fighting against unbearable pain.
I'm grateful for whoever created this simple little meme — HANG ON PAIN ENDS — and for reminding me to hang onto hope.
What gives you hope when you are struggling with pain flare-ups? Share with us in the comments below.
On average, how many times per month do you (or your caretaker) go to the pharmacy?
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