Independence does not come easily. We are born helpless human beings who are dependent upon our mothers for survival. Through careful guidance, education, and encouragement, we learn to become more independent. And as we grow up and venture out into the world, we may be self-sufficient and independent, however I think that it is healthy to depend upon others during times of need.
For some persons or communities, independence is the result of a hard-fought battle against an oppressive force. For some, independence may be the result of balancing internal powers for the betterment of the whole body. For others, independence may be achieved by simply thinking for yourself, making your own determinations for what works and what doesn’t. In each of these, I believe that knowledge, understanding, and courage are necessary for the individual and the community.
Today is “Independence Day” in the United States. It is the day, July 4th, which in 1776 marked the beginning of a new nation, the United States of America, formed from 13 separate colonies in North America who united to break free from British rule. History books point to the Stamp Act of 1765 issued by the Parliament of Great Britain as being the straw which broke the camel’s back.
American colonists moved to establish their own government while attempting to maintain allegiance to (and work with) the British empire during the next 10 years. After British combat troops were sent to reoccupy the American colonies and force their power, thus began the American Revolutionary War in 1775 as Americans banded together to defend their declared right to self-govern. The war formally ended in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris in which Britain acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States, relinquishing any rights thereof.
When you think of your experience with RA, do you picture yourself as being independent? Do you consciously seek information and gather the knowledge necessary to empower yourself? Do you imagine your healthcare team as your allies or as your governors?
Recently I was discussing possible imagery to represent a patient’s journey toward independence and empowerment with a person who works in marketing. One thing I found interesting was that each of the scenarios presented began with a boring, drab, or unpleasant setting. Or with a patient feeling left out (and put out) after witnessing another begin her own journey alone. This didn’t feel quite right to me.
When I think back to the beginning of my own RA journey and the diagnosis specifically, I can picture starting down various roads and being turned back without answers. I see now that a lack of recognition of early RA (and later acute RA which didn’t fit the “textbook” examples) by my doctors resulted in detours certainly, but eventually I did get on the correct path. At this point, I was dependent upon the expertise of my rheumatologist to narrow down treatment choices and provide guidance on next steps.
In my journey towards independence and empowerment as related to my own health, the journey has not been entirely straight. What journey is? Each experience, negative or positive, provides an opportunity to learn. Each nugget of information we gather provides the foundation upon which knowledge is built.
Could I picture each experience as being a piece of equipment which when crafted together in a fashion as unique as me will create the most awesome of vehicles representing empowerment? Maybe.
But the journey to independence has no definitive beginning nor end, thus no final product. Just as the American Revolutionary War began in the events prior to 1775 and Independence continues to be cultivated in the years since 1783, our journey with RA is ever changing and evolving.
While I don’t like war or the concept of conflict, I do appreciate dissonance. Even in music, it is passing dissonance which makes consonance and resolution ever the more sweet and satisfying to the ear. A wonderful aspect of music is that what may sound dissonant to you may be interpreted as richness and providing depth to the sound by me. What I disregard as noise might be soothing to you.
How I picture my RA may differ greatly from a product of your own imagination. Such is the beauty of creativity, originality, and independence of thought we so value in our culture. So let me ask you, how would you create images or a storyboard to describe your experience of becoming empowered as a person living with RA? Who would be the characters (if any) who accompany you or guide you on this adventure?
Let your creative juices flow!