Change - often necessary, rarely easy
I almost hesitate to say this for fear I will jinx it, but the changes I had decided to implement following my rather difficult spring and summer have really paid off and I feel like "my gears" are running smoothly.
What had concerned me as it does so many folks with RA is whether I was 1) making enough changes or 2) making too many changes or 3) making the wrong changes.
No question that when faced with change, particularly when it comes to health related change, most of us would rather maintain the status quo then make changes that may or may not prove successful in our quest to manage RA. It is really quite natural to want things to stay the same. That, however, can prove disastrous for people with RA. The long term consequences of not making positive changes are life altering for RA patients.
In my conversations and online communications with RA folks a common theme is the "wish" that many express that they had "done that sooner". Been there myself. Where the problem comes in with RA, is that delaying a necessary change can impact our health for years into the future. Whether it is a new medication, a new doctor or other health professional, a new job, a new relationship, a new locale - all of these and many more will have a distinct effect on those of us with chronic disease. Sometimes you simply have to take the plunge.
This is, of course, easier said than done. I have come to embrace change over the years and I guess I can "thank" RA for that since it has literally compelled me to do that in many areas of my life from treatment choices to exercise options to vacation and trip choices.
I recall that to get started with the process of change I had to take them one at at time. I tend to move at the speed of light so this in itself was tough for me. In this case, though, having some patience paid off and continues to reap dividends. One step, one change at a time, can make it much less intimidating. And the difference can be monumental!
Now not all changes afford you the luxury of taking time to consider them. Case in point, my issues with my stomach this past summer. When you are feeling ill week after week, delaying is not wise. I should probably have had an endoscopy 15 years ago but had put that one off due to my fear of the procedure. Unfounded I might add as it was painless and because I was "out" I did not experience the claustrophobia I was terrified of. Although it may not have changed the end result I would have had the peace of mind of knowing that a hiatal hernia was at the root of it all! Peace of mind can be a valid reward for change!
I have to admit that there are times when the sheer quantity of changes we have to make in managing RA can be overwhelming and that can be paralyzing in itself. Never mind the fact that the change itself may be difficult to accomplish. We have all been in that place where there is simply too many things going on at once...job changes, family dynamics changing, friendships changing and on and on. It can be beyond daunting to the point you are completely stuck!
I think it is important to also point out that the "changeable" nature of RA itself can make embracing change almost counter intuitive. RA by its very nature can "change" from hour to hour, day to day. That constant unsettling state makes accepting change almost abhorrent to us. So it is with fists clenched (figuratively speaking) and mixed emotions that we must continue our path to change!
The best way to counter the avalanche of change we seem to face is too prioritize those that need your immediate attention and those that can be put off a bit. Literally list them on a piece of paper and decide what needs addressed now and then carefully weigh your options. Develop a priority checklist and then follow it! It is really satisfying to go through a list and check them off. That will make the notion of change a bit more palatable!
Another way to approach change is to fully understand the value of each change you make. As I have so often encouraged on my blog, learn and research all you can about the decisions you are making. You must be your own best advocate whether it is about change or some other aspect of RA.
We can be our own best advisers if we stop and carefully consider all the knowledge and advice we gather. You will find that doing that will boost your confidence in the choice itself as well as the results realized from the changes you are adopting.
Sometimes we are simply forced to change. No options, no way out but to make that change. I really do not like those kind and I try to avoid them at all costs but to be honest those of us with RA face them now and again and to be aware of that type of change may just help you to handle it when the time comes.
By forced change I mean the ones that you are essentially required to make or the result would be worse than the change itself....not always easy to sort out. In the end you really have to come to the understanding that it is for the best and adopt an attitude of belief in adopting the change.
Otherwise you will always be second guessing yourself and that is not a healthy way to adopt change.
Listening to another person's perspective on a change you are considering can prove to be invaluable in your decision making process. There were certainly times (and there still are) when I am either too tired, too sick, too overwhelmed or too close to the situation to have an objective view of what to do. Those are the times when the wisdom of my "support team" is very welcomed! I gather their input and then make my decision based on both my instincts and their collective wisdom.
Another strategy is to take some time and reflect on past changes you may or may not have made and consider why and what the outcomes of those decisions were to you.
Ask yourself if you could do it over how might you "change" your course of action? How might it have made an impact on your RA? These are crucial considerations and by going through this exercise with yourself you may just discover that change is actually just what you need!
It may be easier in the short term to "stay put" but just as in nature, seasons change, so in our lives the long term impact of change may just be what you need to successfully manage your RA!
When was your last flare?