I miss me

4 years ago I was vibrant, confident, joyful and successful. My worries consisted of paying bills on time and getting overtime at work. I thought nothing of climbing up on the side of a machine to correct a problem, balancing on a ladder to solve an issue or using yoga moves to crawl under moving belts to collect a jammed board. I would drive 40 mins home and then start supper and dance around the kitchen while cleaning up after supper.

I never gave my joints a second thought. I mean after all I was only 39 years old. I didn't have chronic pain. I would hurt if I pulled or strained a muscle but I knew that would heal.

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The stiffness and soreness came on gradually

Around 6 months before I turned 40 I started waking up really stiff and sore. I thought maybe I was dehydrated. I work in a very hot plant with a lot of heat. I figured I just needed some water. I always tried to figure out what was causing the pain and treat it that way instead of going right to an OTC pain med. After being up and moving around and drinking a bottle of water I started feeling better and thought well that must have been it, but then when I tried to stand after sitting for 20 min on my lunch, that same stiffness and soreness was back. I thought it might take a few days for my muscles to recover for being dehydrated. Then I drove home (which takes about 40 min).

Normal movement became difficult for me

Getting out of the vehicle and trying to walk into the house is extremely difficult. I keep telling myself it is just muscle, it will get better. I continued with that thought for several months until I finally see my Dr I have had for 20 years. He says it is fibromyalgia and to take muscle relaxers.

I sought a second opinion because muscle pain got progressively worse

I continued on for 3 more months with the same pain and it was getting worse. I called the Dr several times and he just kept saying to take the muscle relaxers and Advil. A couple weeks before I turned 40 I went to a different clinic and sought out a second opinion. She did some labs because she suspected RA. My lab results showed high RAs among other things. She immediately referred me to a rheumatologist.

RA made me a completely different person

In just 3 years I have become a completely different person. Someone I do not recognize. I have racked up 100,000 dollars in medical bills for an ACL reconstruction and complete hip replacement and all the specialists I have to see.

I am hesitant in every move I make. I take any pain pills I can get my hands on. I am depressed. My worries have evolved into what joint is RA going to destroy next. I cry more than I smile. I haven't danced in 3 years. I make up excuses to not attend school activities and concerts because using RA as an excuse gets me that sigh and eye-roll look. I had to step down from my thriving career to be a parts orderer in an office. My self esteem is trash.

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Reminding myself of my accomplishments

While I am writing this I see the anger that is still in me. I remind myself that through all this I bought my house and new car, even though I am in debt. I helped my 2 older boys graduate from high school. I have survived 2 major surgeries and am walking well at this time.

I miss the old me but I have discovered that RA has taught me to be resilient

I am stronger minded and I can't help but wonder that if the RA had never happened would I have been brave enough to stand up to my boss? Would I have believed I could own a home or have a new car? I have to be ok with who I am today but sometimes I still miss the old me.

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