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The Art of Stepping Down

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:

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • CynthiaV
    7 months ago

    Congratulations Tamara. I know it is not easy but you have made a choice for your wellbeing.

    Years ago I had to make the same hard choices. It was not easy to step down from one group and professional organization after another, commitments that meant a great deal to me. I even had to withdrawal from my doctorate program bc of my health.

    As difficult and heartbreaking as it was I knew I had made the right choice for myself. It was as if I was giving myself permission to relax, to listen to my body and respond appropriately. It allowed me to take better care of myself and it also gave others an opportunity to volunteer and step into positions of greater responsibility. A win-win situation.

    I wish you all the best as you begin this journey of better self-care.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    7 months ago

    Hi CynthiaV,

    Thanks so much for your words of encouragement and for sharing your experience and perspective. It is very helpful to hear that you have been down this road and are glad for choosing that path! I really appreciate you sharing this.

    All the best,
    Tamara

  • icequeen10
    8 months ago

    i have a diagnosis of Parkinson’s and RA. I don’t know which ache or pain comes from which. I have a Pakinson’s doc, a RA doc, a neurologist for lower leg and foot neuropathy ( both legs) and my family practice doctor. I am not getting care that I need……and, not sure what to do. I am starting with Medica Advantage 1/1/2019. Reading your posts today made me realize all the losses over the past 6 years. I need to make some changes.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi icequeen10. Sorry to hear you have been struggling, but great to hear that you have realized that somethings need to change and are ready to take steps. Too often people get stuck into thinking that suffering is simply the way things are with a chronic condition. You mention the multiple conditions and doctors, which is all too common with RA. Getting doctors too coordinate can be difficult. In this article one of our contributors writes about getting a new health manager/GP to help handle this aspect of care: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/finding-new-health-manager/. In addition, thought you might be interested in this article form our contributor Michael about a doctor who would not let him settle for the occasional flare and the damage that can accrue: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/the-good-doctor/. When you feel your conditions are not well controlled you are always entitled to a second opinion or to raise the issue of altering your treatment plan. Hoping you get some answers and relief soon. Please know that you are always welcome here for information and support. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Jeanne Webster
    8 months ago

    I have had to adjust my lifestyle also due to the uncertainties associated with RA disease. I am in my 70s and hoping the flares and infections don’t increase as I continue to get older. I enjoy being a free lance writer and am involved in making crafts and keeping busy with family and gardening as much as possible. I hope to keep hanging on as I merrily go along. My advice to others is to keep busy and as active as you can.

  • tckrd
    8 months ago

    Good for you for having the courage to do what is necessary.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    8 months ago

    Thank you, tckrd – I appreciate that!

  • Jo J
    8 months ago

    Tamara, condolences and congratulations! Because it is a loss when we step down from a beloved organization or activity, and it is an accomplishment when you empower yourself to honor your needs. During the turmoil of fighting for a diagnosis and treatment, I took early retirement. I loved my job as a School Nurse and I miss my kids and staff to this day. BUT, 1 1/2 years later with a diagnosis and ever changing treatment plan in place, I am grateful for the time and energy to focus on my health. And to rest. I have been able to save some of me for my family. I know I am blessed to be able to chose retirement and feel for those that cannot make the same choice.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    8 months ago

    Hi Jo J,

    Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your own journey since diagnosis. I am too young to retire, but I have made major job changes because of RA/RD. I used to be a School Social Worker, and left the job because it was so stressful that I was having constant flares. I did love that work though, and I loved collaborating with School Nurses! That is a tough job, where you see so many more types of situations and hardship than one might think. So I very much relate when you say that you needed to leave and when you say that you miss it.

    I am glad you are taking care of yourself, and I hope you are doing as well as one can 18 months post-diagnosis. Thank you for being in our online community.

    Gentle hugs,
    Tamara

  • Jo J
    8 months ago

    ❤️

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    8 months ago

    That is a great letter. I am stepping down from the local charter school which I have served as a board member for the last five years.

    My official resignation will be July 1 and I am looking forward to getting time back. Still, it is tough to give up a mission I feel strongly about. but I have 20 other things that i have added since I joined the board. I think it important to not be afraid to say no, or sometimes no more.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    8 months ago

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for sharing. Yes, it is important to say “no more,” and there are many emotions that come with that. I wish you peace with that process, and commend you for making a tough decision that will be best for your body.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Tamara

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