Where Did I Go?
A common thread on Rheumatoidarthritis.net is, “Am I still me?”
We face so many changes in our bodies with rheumatoid arthritis. One day, we were going out dancing several times a week, rock climbing, hiking, socializing with friends. We were free to do whatever we wanted because our bodies did what we told them. We worked hard, we played hard, and we enjoyed life.
Life changes with a chronic illness
Then one day, we started noticing that our bodies were not playing along. There was pain and fatigue. We did not understand. We tried to think it would pass, but instead, it grew.
Then came the rounds of doctor visits, tests, x-rays, blood work, and convincing the doctor that there was something wrong. Finally, there was a diagnosis. But it was not the one we hoped for.
We expect ourselves to cope like we always have
As we coped with medication roulette to find “the right one” and changes in our ability to work and play, our ability to cope began to suffer. No one is prepared for the life we encounter with rheumatoid arthritis. And yet, we expect ourselves to cope like we always have - making to-do lists, delegating, continuing with work and housework, etc.
Finally, one day we are stopped in our tracks by rheumatoid arthritis. The body yells “NO, you can’t keep going like this!” And we realize that life is changed forever. At this point, the questioning begins. Self-doubt creeps in. If I cannot live life the way I did before rheumatoid arthritis, then am I still me?
Struggling with changes in my personhood because of RA
I struggled with this recently. With the COVID-19 isolation and my own limitations, I began to feel as though my personhood had changed. That I was no longer “me”. This is a common thought here. As I pondered that thought, I became lethargic and teary. Who was I, anyway?
The answer came from an unexpected source. I attended a virtual webinar of the Alzheimer’s Annual Symposium in Knoxville, TN, in August 2020. During the caregiving presentation, I got to hear one of my favorite speakers, Dr. David Potts.
Dr. Potts spoke of “personhood, the condition of being a relational person.” He further stated, “Personhood is imparted by the Creator, cannot be gained or lost, is not earned, and is not dependent on cognitive ability.”
What makes me who I am has not changed
Thus, I am still me and you are still you despite the changes of rheumatoid arthritis. I am still that funny, caring, singing, smiling woman that I always have been. My personhood, that which makes me who I am, has not changed. I certainly hope I have grown and look at life differently, but who I am is still me.
This gave me such comfort that I wanted to share. Just because we cannot do things we used to do, does not change who we are. I once danced on the dancefloor in my rollator. No one else was dancing, and it was a great live band. I enjoyed myself so much that people started to join me.
That is who I am - unafraid to do the things I love within my boundaries.
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