The Predicaments of Disease
Predicament: a difficult or unpleasant situation
A while ago I came across a book called Archetypes: Who Are You, by Caroline Myss. This book talks about archetypes, universal patterns of behavior that can help to increase self-understanding. By learning which archetypes describe you most accurately you can make better life choices.
There are ten primary archetypes:
- Spiritual Seeker
Of course, with this introduction, who wouldn’t be curious? I most definitely was and after getting the book I immediately took the quiz to find out who I was. I was convinced, looking at the list, that I would be a combination of caregiver/spiritual seeker, since I knew myself so well. Or so I thought. To my surprise I found out that I was an athlete, first and foremost.
This actually explained a lot. I’d have a hard time counting the number of times I’ve been told that I’m “overdoing it, pushing too hard.” Earlier today, in fact, it may have been mentioned after I did a long bike ride with PMS. Over the years I’ve enthusiastically rock-climbed, kayaked, mountain and road biked, played softball and basketball, skied (both cross-country and downhill,) snow-shoed, bagged a handful of peaks, and done Pilates, Tai chi, Bikram yoga; even as a kid I couldn’t watch any professional sport without wanting to join in. I’ve always gravitated toward really active people and I'm also an armchair mountaineer, as I love to read books about mountain climbing expeditions, something I’m convinced that I have the grit to do if not the body. My first book actually began with speaking about the similarities people who live with chronic pain/disease have with professional athletes.
The irony in the situation is this: I live in constant, considerable pain which makes athleticism a bit more challenging to say the least. Added to the challenge is the fact that I no longer have wrists (they were fused over twenty years ago,) and I’m also missing five other joints in my hands because, over the years, they too have undergone fusions. My feet aren’t much better; I take that back, they are worse. At this point, my choice for potentially alleviating the pain in my right foot is a total ankle replacement. The left foot is burdened by hammertoes, joints that have fused themselves because of all the arthritis activity I’ve lived with for 45 years, and active disease. I haven’t even started to talk about the joints that actually hurt me the most, and that would be my knees. My knees love to swell up like grapefruits (not kidding about the visual,) and plague me for days, weeks, even years on end before they decide to calm down.
By now you may begin to understand my predicament, my unpleasant and difficult situation for which there may be no solution at hand. I’m an athlete at heart who is burdened with a less capable body than most.
I’m pretty convinced that the experience of chronic disease is learning to handle one predicament after the other. By now, whenever I come up against one, I’m not surprised or even daunted. I know that eventually I’ll figure out what to do.
In the case of my archetype dilemma, at the time it didn’t take much figuring out. This is in large part because I have enough years into living with disease that I’ve learned that my body can be pushed pretty darn hard, pain or not, and bounce back. From the outside looking in, I know I look a bit stubborn and foolish at times when I’m limping up a hill, but I can tell you I’ll have a smile on my face so I’m a happy fool.
As an athlete with really bad pain, I’ve discovered that moving my body in the ways that make me happy, and to the extent that I can realistically handle, is how I need to live.
By looking at the predicaments my disease brings me, and learning to live with them, I’ve found that my peace of mind improves along with my mood. Knowing that I can stare a predicament in the face and dealing with it instead of reacting with fear, anxiety, sadness, or frustration, gives me strength of the most important kind: strength of character. As much as I long to be the first female to ride the Tour De France, for now I’ll keep limping up the hill and building my character.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?