What I would tell the younger me when I learned I had RA

If my RA has taught me anything, it has taught me patience. From the onset of my first flair-up over 15 years ago to dealing with the progression that is happening today, I have learned that to manage this disease and a keep positive attitude you have to learn the art of being patient.

I may be watching my joints deform and fondly remember the days I could wear sandals, and do physical work from early in the morning to late at night. But if I compare the me of today to the me of 15 years ago, I know I am a better person. I know I am certainly a more patient person. I wish I had learned this patience when I was first diagnosed. It would have helped me cope with the many challenges I’ve faced in the 15 years since my onslaught of RA.

If I could time travel and visit the younger me, there are so many things I would tell her. The me of today would tell the me of 15 years ago not to be scared, but be prepared for the many challenges ahead. I would tell the younger me that it may take time, but you will find a doctor who cares. I would tell the younger me that you don’t have to have the energy and physical being of Wonder Woman to be a productive and functional person. I would tell her that getting any little thing done a day is an accomplishment and something to be proud of. I would tell the younger me that as bad as the side effects may be and as expensive as the drugs may be, at least they have new breakthrough drugs that will give you relief and possibly stop the joint destruction. I would tell the younger me don’t be a hermit, but also don’t be afraid to tell friends you can’t visit as long; and a night of partying will be a thing of the past. I would tell the younger me, you can just as easily ignore stupid comments that other people make about RA, as it is to let them infuriate you. I would tell the younger me that you will spend countless hours on the phone with bureaucracies waiting on hold and transferred from person to person only to get different answers to your questions. It will be frustrating at minimum, but never forget you are advocating for yourself. And advocating for yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. I would definitely tell the younger me that you will be getting drugs that will make you think you are more hungry. And just because they make you think you are hungrier, doesn’t mean you have to eat. And finally, I would tell the younger me…Do not under any circumstances allow this disease to become your identity. You will still be the person you use to be…just more patient.

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