Grieving the old you

I’ve recently realized, that there’s been a death in the family. Don’t worry, although it is somewhat tragic, it wasn’t gory, or even sudden, like when you woke to a morning phone call saying that Uncle Ed passed away in his sleep. In fact, it was a slow death that occurred over almost a year’s time. So slow and subtle, in fact, that many didn’t even know it was happening.

Ok, well no one actually died. But, I’ve come to understand that RA can change us so much, both physically and mentally, that we don’t even feel like the same person. And, dealing with the progression of these types of diseases can be as devastating as losing a loved one or close friend. And, in my case, I realized suddenly that I had went through all of the stages of grief, as I’ve dealt with and attempted to adjust to this disease.

The 5 stages of grief and loss are:

    • Denial– At the onset of my RA, I blamed my pain and inflammation on everything from leaky gut syndrome to chemical sensitivity. I’ve always been very healthy and couldn’t believe that I actually had a possibly debilitating disease.
    • Anger– Oh boy. If I were really honest, this one would take a while. I have, at one time or another been angry at everything. Angry at the disease, angry at the people that didn’t understand what I was going through and even angry at the government for allowing drug companies to push drugs that can cause so many horrible side effects. Many of which seem to help at first, only to leave you in worse shape than it found you in.
    • Bargaining– I think bargaining can be so subtle that we don’t often realize we are doing it at all. I think I mostly bargained with God in simply trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
    • Depression– Whew! There it is! No one, and I mean no one, that hasn’t experienced a disease like this can even vaguely understand how difficult it is to deal with a disease like RA. And, not only do we deal with depression related to the discomforts of the disease, but it seems that the RA can just plain cause depression all by itself.
    • Acceptance– I didn’t even realize that I had went through the stages of grief until it hit me suddenly one day. You see, I’m a fighter. I’m not a quitter. I’ve been a soldier and fought in a war. I’ve been a police officer and lived to go home each night. It’s been etched into my psyche to ‘Never Surrender’. And, because of this I have researched natural RA treatments and have effectively managed to keep my RA symptoms to an absolute minimum. All without the use of pharmaceutical drugs, none the less.

But, during a recent minor return of symptoms after I had let my guard down a little, the realization suddenly set in that this might be a battle that I fight for the rest of my life. And, I might never win. In fact, acceptance of the possibility that ‘Not losing’ might be the best ‘win’ I can hope to achieve.

And, there it is. Acceptance doesn’t mean defeat, by any means. I’m not going to accept the fact that there isn’t possibly something that can cure RA. And, I’m certainly not going to stop fighting. But, with this new-found acceptance, I might just be able to at least find some peace with the reality of this thing called RA.

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