One of the most impactful things I have had to learn since being diagnosed with RA is the art of prioritizing. We know that RA is draining: between fatigue, injections and pills, doctor’s visits, and physical malaise, RA (and really any chronic illness) saps energy out of you. With a limited supply of energy — which we often use the Spoons Metaphor to talk about this — you have to consciously decide how you will allocate the energy you have for the day.
Prioritization has made me more productive
For the longest time, I resented this fact because I felt like I was being forced to give up the things that I love and wanted to do, for the things that I actually needed to accomplish.
Only recently have I started to gain a broader understanding of this situation, where being forced to prioritize how I accomplish tasks, work, creative projects, and the things I want to do has actually made me more productive and has helped me feel better about my work.
I wasn't taking care of myself
This shift in perspective really came about through a lot of self-reflection. In a previous article, I had discussed how RA forced me to realize that my pre-diagnosis life was not sustainable.
I was exhausted all the time, I was working too much, and I was not taking care of myself. There were days where I would come home and just could not do anything else for the rest of the day — partly because I was too exhausted and partly because I did not have any other passions and interests besides finishing my degree and working.
The opportunity to create a life of substance
Being diagnosed with RA afforded me the painful opportunity to realize that I was creating a life that didn’t have that much substance. While this might seem depressing, I want to mention that RA also taught me the opposite: that I could create a life that did have substance. And that has been one of the best lessons I could have learned in my 23 years of existence.
How I have re-prioritized my life
So, what have I done now that I have been forced to re-prioritize and restructure? I take better care of myself by prioritizing self-care and resting. This involves actively listening to my body and checking in with myself to see when I am or am not in pain.
I also make sure to try and discover new things whatever I do and wherever I go. This can range from the mundane (trying a new dessert or tea from Trader Joe’s) to the relative extreme (which might include trying a new exercise, making a new friend, etc.). I’ve found that any way in which I can change my life generally has produced positive benefits.
Staying focused through chaos
And as much pain as RA has brought into my life — and assuredly there is a lot of associated pain — I am in some ways thankful that I was essentially forced to restructure and reorganize my life.
Somehow, in the midst of the chaos that RA shoved into my life, came a life that I had wanted; one where I could relax, work, and be at ease, all at the same time. Now, if I only I didn’t have to feel any RA pain!
Quiz: What % of our community members are living with irritable bowel syndrome?