Sunday, October 12 was World Arthritis Day. This year’s theme, “Think Positive,” aimed to help people recognize and discuss the physical and emotional challenges associated with all forms of arthritis as well as positive things one can do to help increase self-confidence and positive feelings. The website cites tools and techniques such as arthritis self-management courses, seeking psychological support from health care providers, positive communication with friends/family and coworkers and building relationships with other people affected by arthritis http://www.worldarthritisday.org/
While the World Arthritis Day website doesn’t contain much information for people in the USA about finding self-management programs or seeking the help of health professionals, it does devote several pages to sharing people’s stories about techniques they use to keep a positive attitude, cope effectively and feel better emotionally.
What do you do to stay positive and cope with chronic pain?
So what do you do to stay positive and keep up your confidence? What do you do when you get frustrated or start to feel like you’re losing your sense of control over your body? Do you confide in friends or family, or your online friends through Healthcentral? Do you meditate or participate in other activities to relieve stress and recharge? Do you take your frustrations out with paper and pen (or keyboard and mouse) or let your moods flow with paint and canvas?
If not, perhaps listening, singing or playing music might help. Or maybe taking in the outdoors and contemplating nature is your outlet? Volunteering either with an arthritis related organization or other health care organization that you support can also be a great way to connect with people and make a difference at the same time. But above all, keep doing what you love to do, even if you have to modify the activity. And don’t stop dreaming.
How I stay positive
I have always maintained a fairly positive attitude when it comes to my arthritis. I’ve had it since I was a toddler, so joint pain, stiffness and flares are the only thing I’ve ever known. So as a kid, my self-made mission was to be as active as possible, participate in all the activities that I could, and to be just all of the other kids. I hated being singled out, being teachers’ pet and being teased by the other kids. I was also a tomboy, preferring to spend my time on my bike or hanging around in a tree so I never let my pain stop me. In fact, I often pushed past my limits, always testing. I thought if I hung from tree limbs or the jungle gym long enough I could straighten out the contractures in my elbows. Surgeries were a positive thing for me. I never complained about OT and PT. It all meant that I would be able to do more, and be more normal…whatever that is…and I was determined to make that happen.
That positive attitude and goal setting has stayed with me through all parts of my life. I set a goal, I meet it -mission accomplished, give myself a pat on the back, and on to the next goal. And in terms of my arthritis, I stay positive by setting exercise goals for myself, to challenge myself. My arthritis is not going to go away. While I had one extended period of remission for several years in high school, I don’t focus on that as a goal. I would love to have my elbows straightened and the fused joints in my foot replaced with artificial joints. But that isn’t practical or medically advised. So instead, I do as much as I can and I just try not dwell on the annoying pinched nerves in my elbows; my sore feet and creaking, popping, knees and shoulders. I do find that on bad days I complain more to friends or family, than I did when I was younger, but I think about the fact that the flare will subside and that I am fortunate to have access to good medications and that I am as healthy as I am. I can exercise. I swim a mile or so several times a week and I walk and even have tried out the climbing wall several times recently. I can do this because my arthritis has been stable and mild/moderately active for several years with Enbrel and Mobic. And I can do this because I just refuse not to. A friend of mine has recently asked me to do a mini-triathalon with her and some friends next summer. I can’t run or bike without my knees swelling within a few minutes. But I can sure do the .6 mile swimming portion, so I’ll do it as a team effort and I’ll do my teammates proud. And maybe once I’m done with that, I’ll work up to a longer distance swim. I daydream about swimming the Chesapeake Bay Swim… maybe in a year or two. I don’t stop dreaming.