The Journey of Trusting Yourself
Today I realized something that has become a valuable lesson… again. I realized that I’m very good at determining how much I am capable of, what my physical limits are, how much I can push myself, and where I need to limit my activities.
The limitations of RA
For the past 5 years, I have had some big hits to my physical abilities because of joint damage that ultimately resulted in multiple surgeries. Post-surgeries, my fatigue increased while my strength and range of motion have both decreased. That is a fact and something I can’t change much. It’s been a big adjustment and emotionally tough. It’s funny how much a person can fool themselves when their reality isn’t something they want. Even though I’ve lived with JRA since age 2, I never envisioned being as limited as I’ve become.
Forcing a smile
After my C1-2 neck fusion, I was glad I wasn’t paralyzed or worse. For the first few months, I was trying to stay upright as much as I could and sleeping a lot, all while feeling so, so grateful to be alive. After a year, I discovered that my new normal meant I had to say goodbye to activities that I took for granted before, like walking on the soft sand. I cratered emotionally but, like many people with RA, I put my head down with a smile on my face and kept going.
Self-doubt can be a slippery slope
Then, 3 years later after my strong hand needed surgery and I lost even more strength and function, I stopped listening to my own voice and let the voices of scared people get into my head. You know, the people who tell you, often excitedly, “You CAN’T do THAT!” “Why are you picking THAT up? Why are you pushing yourself?” I started to doubt myself again.
Losing trust and doubting myself
This has happened before, and honestly, for the first 2/3 of my life, I had a bad habit of asking other people what I should do instead of deciding for myself. I’d ask my best friend, “Should I go off gluten to see if it helps?” “Do you think getting a massage would help?” I’d find myself asking without thinking and of course, anyone I would ask would have strong opinions about what I “should” do. The irony is, most of the time I did know what I needed and really didn’t need advice.
I realized I had been giving away my power
I finally recognized this vice in myself and changed. I think that this tendency comes from having a disease with so much challenge and uncertainty. Hearing the certainty in my friends' voices when they answered my queries gave me a strength that I sometimes couldn’t give myself. The problem is, after a while, I stopped trusting my own instincts about how to live my life. I basically was giving away my power to various confidants without knowing what I was doing.
I needed a change
Changing that tendency took time and a lot of effort. I had gotten pretty good at it before the latest onslaught of challenges. After my most recent surgeries, I started to do much less and limit myself a lot more. I was worried about exacerbating my neck pain, or worse, injuring it. I was worried a tendon would pop in my strong hand. I would limit my walks and say no to things that I really didn’t have to. And then, a year ago, I was walking on an easy path, fell, and broke my hip. As you can imagine, that didn’t help my mental state much.
The point of this story is this: if you are anything like me, rheumatoid arthritis will knock your confidence down again and again as you go through life. And, like me, if you can trust yourself, you will realize that you DO know what you are doing, despite your body not always responding the way you want. Rheumatoid arthritis is a complicated beast, and sometimes you just have to decide that it won’t get the best of you.
Today I took a long walk, one that would horrify the scared people. It was rocky, steep at times, far from help if I needed it, and it was great. I needed that walk to show myself that, despite the past few years, I still have adventures left in me. Rheumatoid arthritis isn’t getting the best of me today.
On average, how many times per month do you (or your caretaker) go to the pharmacy?
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