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Gain and Loss with Rheumatoid Arthritis

At the end of every year, I like to take the time to reflect on the things that I’ve gained, the things that I’ve lost, and everything in between. Since I was diagnosed, all of what I’ve gained and lost is intersected with having a chronic illness.

This year has been filled with a lot of all three categories, and I will cover all three in this article. However, I feel like I’ve gained a lot this year (and I’m not being sarcastic when I say that). While the year has been unusual, it’s forced me to better understand myself and the world in which we live.

Reflecting on things I've lost

Let’s get the bulk of the things I’ve lost out of the way: I’ve lost a lot of time this year due to illness (thankfully not COVID, but just RA).

Stopping Plaquenil for RA and elevated lupus markers

As I’ve written about before, I stopped taking Plaquenil, which has had somewhat of a deleterious effect on my RA. Although to be fair, I’m not sure if it’s because of RA or if it’s because of my elevated lupus markers, since I was prescribed Plaquenil to treat those markers.

The main symptoms that I’ve been experiencing are fatigue, joint pain and sensitivity, and headaches — most of which could be explained by elevated lupus markers (and also typical stress-filled living).

Less time for tasks due to prioritizing rest

To take care of myself, I’ve had to take time off to recuperate and make sure I don’t experience burnout - which I am prone to do - which therefore reduced my time to complete tasks, errands, what have you. I’m not saying that this was not a productive time (all rest is productive when you have a chronic illness), but what I am noting is that I have less time to do all of the things I used to be able to do.

Personal growth last year

Moving on to things I’ve gained. When I’m not taking time to rest, I have found myself ironically with a bunch of time to try new things, explore previous hobbies, and more.

Working from home and pivoting a lot of things to virtual formats has really increased accessibility for me to join groups, councils, etc., since I don’t have to expend as much energy physically being there. It takes a lot more work to get ready to go to an event/meeting than it does to just join from your computer. While I enjoy in-person interactions much more than virtual ones, I have found this an opportunity to do more.

Old and new creative outlets

Some things that I’ve recently gotten back into include: oil painting, writing every day, and listening to more music and podcasts. This opportunity to find new creative avenues in the midst of such a turbulent time has been very powerful for me.

Overall, I’ve gained and lost a lot this year. But when I look back at everything, I feel that this has been a year of growth and recovery. And for that, I am thankful.

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