Seize the Day
I regularly fight the pull and tug of fatigue. My body saying “I don’t want to get up,” “I don’t want to exercise,” “I don’t want to go out and go to work, or be social or do the things I must do.”
Some of those days I have to raise the white flag. I cannot physically move and must rest. But most of the time I fight the fatigue and argue with my body. The reason is that the more I do, the better I feel. If I go out and conquer that day despite my disease, then I feel better about myself and my illness.
I think RA can be a fatigue trap. The worse you feel, the less you do until you’re in a downward spiral and don’t know how to get out. There are times when the best thing I can do is go out despite my disease. Thumb my nose at it and not give in.
There is a balance we need to maintain—just enough rest and activity. But fearing the pain and discomfort can turn our bodies into a prison or an exile from our own life. Maybe I can’t do as much as I once did, but I can still go out and live.
I’m fortunate that I like my job. It is a daily motivation to kick start the day. Got to go because the job will not do itself! But on the weekend I need to plan activities, like going someplace with my husband or hanging out with friends. These joyful moments in life give me energy and encouragement, even on days when I am feeling terrible.
Recently a friend asked how I do all the activities I do—working, blogging, volunteering for a couple organizations, plus socializing. I didn’t know how to answer. I just make the things I enjoy doing a priority and try to pack every day with these activities.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time at doctors’ offices, hospitals, orthopedic rehab facilities and in my sick bed. From a young age I knew these places were not where I wanted to spend my time, although they were necessary for my health.
By experiencing the frustration (several times) of being weak from surgery and difficult physical recoveries, I feel eager to get busy and enjoy life. Our time is short and I want to make the most of what I have. My husband credits me with getting us out to theater, baseball games and travel. I’m glad that he appreciates my joy for living.
For me, maximizing life means gathering experiences, enjoying people that I love, and contributing back to the world (either through my work, volunteering or other activities). I want my time to be both enjoyable and productive.
Recently I was awestruck when watching a documentary about President Theodore Roosevelt. The man knew how to live and packed 10 lives into one—quite an inspiration on that front. I may not agree with all his accomplishments, but I admire his appreciation for living fully. As a small child he was told that he would not survive long due to his asthma and poor health. But he defied all the odds to live a full life of travel, adventure, public service, family, authoring books and so much more. In many ways, his poor health fueled his passion for living.
While I know I need my rest, I am inspired by this story to pave my own path with rheumatoid arthritis. I will struggle with pain and physical limitations, but I can still pursue quality of life. When I am living fully, the RA cannot win.
Right now, what RA tips would most be helpful for you?