June 29, 2012.That’s a wrap folks.

The last day of my job of nearly 25 years. For what seemed like forever, I had fought through pain and multiple surgeries always feeling proud of having made it through each one and back to work.

In the year before I left work, I began to feel worse. My med’s were no longer working. We tried something new which I had a terrible reaction to. In order to work through the reaction, I was put on an extremely minimal amount of medication for my RA. Between the reaction in this one small quantity of medication I was on, I was miserable. Although still working and trying to maintain a “normal” lifestyle, the struggle made me realize how RA had consumed my life. I begin to discuss retirement with my husband. This led to many more discussions regarding finances all of which resulted in my guilt becoming overwhelming.

After approximately one year, the reaction started to subside. I realized that I was no longer the same person. I felt that RA had won. And I had no other choice but to retire. So plans were put in place that once our home was paid off the following year, I would stop working. I never realized how much of an emotional impact it would have on me. I feel as though I have lost my identity. I cannot seem to find my purpose. No matter what anyone says to me, I believe it to be true that your career defines who you are. A lot of the time it’s the first thing that someone new asks you. What do I say now? Hi I’m Jean and I’m on disability. I can almost hear their thoughts; really? You don’t look sick. Your hands look kind of funny but otherwise you look okay to me. Or they may be saying “I bet you sit around all day, sucking off the system now that you don’t work.” I have become a professional at destroying my own self-esteem. I’m sure there’s something I could’ve done to prevent myself from getting RA. I could have taken better care of myself, seen a doctor more, listened to my body. You name it, I thought it.

I have been working through this with a great counselor. She is helping me to realize that I have value, that I’ve done nothing wrong and that I still have so much to offer. If only I believed that. I wish I was the strong person I thought I used to be, before this.

If I had one wish, it would not be for unlimited wealth. It would be to wake up every day feeling that I had a purpose. I understand that I haven’t so much better than a lot of people do but this is my journey and it’s a struggle almost every day. I pray that one day I understand the reason why this was the plan for my life. I am sure I will look back and understand but right now, it’s not that clear to me.

So this is my life with RA so far. I look forward to better days, a fuller life and a more positive outlook. I know it’s out there and I will find it!

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