The Most Important Relationship is...
Last updated: September 2020
RA and our relationship with us
During the time of the year where everyone focuses on their relationships with other people or frantically tries to find someone to share the Hallmark holiday with, we sometimes forget the most important relationship is with ourselves.
Most people agree they bend over backward (if you can do that as an RA warrior, hats off to you!) to make their relationships work. But, somehow, we forget about the one with ourselves. We wouldn’t say “your face looks bloated” or “you move like a sloth on hypnotics” to our partner, friends, or family so why do we say it to ourselves??
Our bodies are already fighting a losing battle; so why add fuel to the fire with our minds on top of that! I’ve been lucky that my RA has been more controlled than in previous years but when I’m harder on myself I experience more symptoms.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s way easier said than done. There are so many more things I worry about. The average worries, like family, work and finances are magnified because trying to juggle everything while in chronic pain and fatigue is just plain hard.
A snapshot of my day with RA
I wake up in the mornings wondering if I can get out of bed myself or does Marmalade, my cat, have to roll me? Can I get through my workday and still care for my pets at the end of it? Do I have enough spoons to feed myself in the evening or does my father have to help me?
Those are my very first thoughts. I am already starting out in a negative headspace. And, as the old saying goes, once you wake up on the wrong side of the bed the day just goes downhill from there. Though, if everything were downhill my knees would hurt a lot less!
Okay, so I get out of bed what next? Feed the pets, feed myself. Med the pets, medicate myself. Thankfully, these first three tasks are relatively easy. However, I take 10-15 pills every morning and most of them taste horrible. Great, now I have a bitter aftertaste in my mouth.
The day is getting off to a swell start. But, I haven’t felt the worst of it yet! As the day progresses, I feel more tired, more painful and just overall, more low. I may have fun plans in the evening like climbing or grabbing dinner with a long-lost friend but with my symptoms the way they are and my mood in the negative digits I have no interest in doing anything more.
Well, there go my relationships all because the one with myself isn’t great. How can I treat myself better or make sure I stay in a good frame of mind?
First, I wake up. Before those negative ideas push themselves into my forefront I look to the window and say “it’s light out!” I really don’t like waking up before the sun so that’s a happy thought!
I do give place to those pesky questions from before because if I don’t acknowledge them they will eat away at my psyche. But, as soon as I think them, I brush them aside quickly and turn to my pets and say “good morning”.
Throughout the day, I remind myself to think positive thoughts. I even have a reminder on my phone to do this every hour. “The sky looks very blue.” “The new plants are starting to bloom.” “Mocha didn’t barrel me over today!”
Maybe positive thoughts are fleeting for the day. In that case, I inject some enjoyable activities like coloring, reading, Netflix, or extra napping.
I wish I could do something to control the pain or fatigue, but I can't. I can only control my mind and my relationship with it.
Of course, it’s okay to feel down. I’m dealing with something heavy and chronic. I’ve been dealt a pretty absurd hand of cards and I think I owe it to myself to feel the sadness of it all. But, at the same time, I can’t let it consume me. How do I expect to navigate my chronic illness (which isn’t going anywhere anytime soon) when I’m adding extra pressure on myself?
I would try to stay positive and caring with someone else. I would certainly not insult them. So, why do I do it to myself? Why am I so hard on myself for something I can’t control?
If I want to be successful or happy, or in place I am proud of, I have to nurture my relationship with myself first. Let me know in the comments how you stay positive through your chronic illness journey.
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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