I have to admit, when Lene asked me to write about Endings and Beginnings this month all sorts of things bounced around in my head. Anything from TV shows to projects in my small wood shop and at this time of year who could not think of the obvious end of year and looking forward to the new year. What struck me the most though was the Endings and Beginnings posed by being diagnosed with RA.
I received my DX several years ago, and pretty much "grew up" in my RA life on this website. I found most of the information I needed to confront the RA beast here and this is also where I first chatted with other people that also are suffering from the pains and pitfalls of RA. Thinking back on those days they seem like a lifetime ago, and in reality they kind of are.
When you think about life before and after your RA DX it can be two glaringly different lives that you see. I think its easy to spout out the obvious ones, ones that many of us can relate too. I used to work, 70 hours a week making good money. That has Ended, now I am on LTD and SSDI..... low income is my new Beginning. I used to have a lot of friends, many social engagements and my phone rang off the hook. That has Ended, I now have few friends and my phone gathers dust.... that is my new Beginning. Those are the easy ones to think of, and all to often dwell upon. I think if you dig deeper, and see Endings and Beginnings in a different way, it can be enlightening, even with RA.
- Ended= career, long hours, stress, timelines, numbers to hit, numerous travel days and being gone on holidays. Beginning = lots of extra, quality time with my wife. Time to sit and enjoy the beach, or the backyard, time to watch birds or just watch TV! Going to bed early and waking up late. Travel days now mean a weekend getaway anytime with my wife, spending time with her is something I cherish more than ever.
- Ended= tons of friends, lots of social engagements and the phone buzzing all day long. Beginning= Well, as it turned out when I needed my friends the most, they weren't really friends at all. They were business acquaintances. Turns out the people I had kept at arms length were my REAL friends and they stepped up to help me! They understand when I am too sore or tired to go do something and they do not hold it against me. As I shed my career, I shed the "friends" that went along with it as well. I would not trade the ones I have now for ten fold of the career ones I used to have.
What other Endings and Beginnings are there? I see them everywhere now that I am looking for them.
- Ended= good health and a visit to the doctor once a year or so. Beginnings= Flares, pain, decaying health and joints, oodles of medications and tests........okay, its hard to look at this one in a different light for sure, but it is possible! If I did not have RA I would not have met many, many fine people, and that alone would put a big hole in my life. I would not have had the chance to speak to Congress about health care issues, or lead the Arhritis Walk in our town. I would not have known the joy of being recognized not for a career move, but for advocacy issues I have been able to push locally and nationally. Most of all, I would not have met several people that thanked me for helping to change their lives by pointing them in the right direction for medical advice, or just talking with them when they were down and depressed. When something like that happens, it makes all the aches and pains, doctor visits and needles worth it.
- Ended= those long evenings worrying about work and continuing to work even when I was "off". Beginning= I have blossomed in my wood work, making many more things than I used to and giving them away just because. I have taken up painting again, something I had not done in nearly 30 years. I read more and play games on the internet instead of crunching numbers.
True, RA is an awful disease and can rob you of the life you are used to leading. It causes depression and can leave you feeling very alone. The good news is you are NOT alone, we are all here, just a few clicks away, people that have been through what you are going through, have had that pain, those symptoms and have felt that feeling. Also true is that you can start a new life, yes you need to make room for RA. There are days when I cannot use the internet, paint brush or wood chisel, days when I HATE RA and everything to do with it. But there are far more days where I can enjoy my "new" life and try to make a difference for everyone that suffers from RA. Its all in how you look at it.
What Endings and Beginnings do you have in your RA life?
Published On: December 17, 2012