The Art of Stepping Down

The past few months have been a rough go. Living with rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease (RA/RD) always includes uncertainty. This is an unpredictable disease, and I can never be sure how I’ll feel from day-to-day or even from hour-to-hour. That being said, I have stretches where my symptoms are more volatile than others. While RA/RD never leaves me confident of how I’ll feel on a future date, lately my disease activity has been more erratic than usual.

Taking stock of my life, due to RA

I’ve had a fluctuating mix of flares and infections, and this has necessitated multiple cancellations. I’m used to making the occasional health-related cancellation, but I’ve had to make so many in recent months, including some events that were very important to me, that it has caused me to take stock of my life and make some changes. I’ve more fully realized that I can’t participate in everything I would like to, and that slowing down might make my health more stable. To that end, I have stepped down from a board I was on and from a club I was involved in for many years.

In case the wording is helpful for anyone else facing similar decisions, I’m sharing part of the emails I wrote to those groups to announce the changes I needed to make:

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Dear [Group/Board],

I am writing with some difficult news. This organization, its mission, and each of you mean a lot to me, and I do not want to say goodbye.

I assume many of you by now know that I have rheumatoid arthritis. The impacts of this autoimmune condition have ebbed and flowed over the 18 years I've lived with this disease. Sometimes I feel it in the form of in-my-face joint pain, sometimes it's the symptom of fatigue that is most problematic, and at other times it is my confused immune system, unable to properly fight viruses and bacteria, and the immunosuppressant drugs I receive via a monthly IV treatment, that impacts me most. In recent weeks, it was all of the above.

This has led me to take stock of my life. I’ve realized that try as I might, I just can't keep up at the pace I've been attempting. I find to find areas in my life where I can cut back in order to take care of myself.

Stepping away from this group is not easy for me, as this organization does mean so very much to me. However, after much soul-searching, I've decided that I need to step away in order to take better care of myself.

Please know that working with each of you has been incredibly rewarding. I thank you for all that you do for our community.

All the best,

Tamara

While it has been hard to step down, the experience has inspired a range of emotions, not all of them negative. While it is deeply frustrating to have poor health and disappointing to acknowledge my body’s limitations, this process has also, surprisingly, been empowering. I feel like I am giving myself a gift. I am telling myself that my body’s needs are relevant, that I deserve to honor those needs, and that my worth is based on more than how much I get done in a day. In acknowledging and honoring my body’s needs, I am telling myself that I am important.

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