Last updated: May 2014
It seems when you live with a chronic disease like RA you are continually faced with making decisions...like it or not. I am not just talking about the simple choices that we all make day to day. Do I do the laundry today or tomorrow, what do I make for dinner, etc. I am referring to the much deeper ones that are never far from the minds of those of us with RA. They need to be addressed if we are to successfully manage RA.
At first glance, the notion of facing all of the decisions associated with RA can be like carrying a giant question mark on our shoulders....we are not sure where to turn, how to arrive at the right decision, who to consult, what to consider, how to prioritize. It can be confusing and overwhelming.
Standing at the "crossroads" of making major decisions can paralyze us and that lack of ability to make a decision can have a huge impact on your RA. For instance hesitating on a treatment change you know you need to make could be a real setback. I know when I was trying to come to grips with a medication failing (and it has happened several times) I tended to take a "wait and see" approach that has not always been the best decision. I am trying to be better at anticipating that these days.
Not moving forward when you have a chronic disease may well be the same as going backward leading to more pain, joint damage and poor outcomes. So now when I see a flare rising up or some other issue, I try to make some well informed decisions around that concern.
It is imperative that we develop the skills and the motivation to make decisions that will positively impact our lives with RA. We need to gather the information methodically and with care in order to be truly comfortable with the decisions we make. I try to go to sources and people I can trust and who have the knowledge I seek.
With RA we face a myriad of necessary decisions - both long term and short term. These decisions need to be approached with care, consideration and calm. To do otherwise jeopardizes our health and well being. That means going to the right people (remember your Support Team), doing the necessary research and just as important listening to your own gut when it comes time to make that final decision.
Just as it is important to feel committed to what you have decided it also critical that you allow yourself to adjust your attitude. Being flexible in your approach to anything you do in life is key. If I make the wrong decision, I try not to dwell on that but rather learn from it.
Understanding that you will make bad decisions is part of life. Making good decisions is a learning process and often having made bad ones and then reflecting on the details of that provide us with some new skills to use the next time around.
One of the dangers of "putting your head in the sand" and not making any decision at all is that you will miss out on what could be a disease changing choice or one that would ease your pain, make your life easier, happier and more manageable. Sure there are times (many many) when RA and all of its challenges simply overwhelms us and "burying our heads in the sand" may seem like a great option.
Life is not easy, just ask this ladybug...and it is that much more difficult with a chronic disease like RA. But that does not mean it cannot be a joyful, positive life. It just means that we have to be thoughtful in our decision making so that our lives can be amazing, despite the challenges of RA.
Part of your RA Tool Box must include decision making strategies and the understanding that waiting too long to move forward with a decision can have far reaching effects that we want to avoid. I don't plan to have any regrets about chances I did not take, decisions I did not properly weigh, choices I was too afraid or angry to make.
Even taking one small step, making one simple decision can have far reaching consequences. For instance, decide today that you will do 5 more minutes of exercising, be it walking, biking, strength training, swimming - whatever. Just 5 minutes. After you see the positive impact that has on your life it will lead to other decisions and then other decisions until that fear and reluctance to make more important decisions becomes a challenge you embrace not one you shy away from.
So my message here is not so much what the decisions are (there are so many we face when we have RA) but rather that we need to understand the absolute importance of making decisions and its value to us in managing our RA. There are certain realities that I have come to understand while living with RA for 15+ years and being decisive is surely one of the most important!
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