Turning Points: Saying Yes to Change with RA

Patient Expert

“It was a turning point in my life.” We say this as if it is as simple as a before and after moment. As if there is one moment that clarified everything and afterwards, it all fell into place naturally. That one single moment in your life changes everything.

In real life, it isn’t quite like that.

I had my own turning point ten years ago. I’ve written about my big flare before, but since this year is my 10th anniversary of coming back to life and of blogging both, why not reference it again? I had a big flare of my rheumatoid arthritis (RA), one that brought me to the brink of death. And then, in a biologic medication, I found the drug that worked for me for the first time in my four decades of living with this disease. Ten years ago, I received the gift of a second chance. That was my turning point.

Or rather, it was my opportunity for a turning point.

Turning points don’t come to you on a silver platter, carried by a butler in a morning suit, and neatly marked with a card upon which the words “Turning Point” are written in calligraphy. Although, wouldn’t it be grand if that were the case?

The opportunity for change is often subtle, but even when it is as obvious as a medication working, as death averted, you have to notice it. In order for it to turn into something as beautiful as a turning point, you have to see it for what it is, to say yes to this chance.

But even then, even when you recognize it for what it is, it’s just the start. Change is not as simple as merely deciding that you are now going to alter a significant aspect of yourself or your life. Once you’ve made that decision, the work starts. And it keeps going.

Turning points are hard work.

Ten years ago, I decided to honor my second chance and to become the person I’d always wanted to be. First I had to find out what I wanted to be and that required a lot of thinking. Two key factors emerged. One, to do something about my lifelong dream of being a writer. And two, to be emotionally honest, both with myself and others.

Blogging was key to both of these. I started The Seated View, my personal blog, in early May 2005. From the beginning, I wrote about being emotionally honest, not pretending to be feeling better than I actually was, and telling the truth about my illness and my disability. This was a huge change for me — although my RA is visible and it is difficult to hide my power wheelchair as I enter a room, I have always been circumspect about the ickier details of my life. For example, I kept my pain to myself, along with the need to have help using the washroom, and I rarely acknowledged having limits.

For a long time, being open about the reality of my life was really scary. It was a real challenge to put the unvarnished version of my life out there in public. The fact that I was still weak as a kitten after the flare helped a great deal — I simply didn’t have the energy to pretend. Still, clicking the 'publish' button sometimes took a great deal of courage. And that put me on the road to becoming an RA and disability advocate.

Blogging was also writing practice for me, a way to build the discipline necessary for being a writer, and to build the writing muscle in my mind. It was also a great deal of fun. Having readers become friends, finding people who knew what I was going through, was another gift. After a lifetime of living with RA and coping it with it largely on my own, I finally found my tribe online.

After three years of blogging, HealthCentral found me and offered me a job. A year after that, I met the man who became my life partner. Another year in and I decided it was time to finally write a book. And so on and so on, one turning point following another, like pearls on a string.

Because that’s another thing they don’t tell you about turning points. Not only are they hard work, but they are also not singular. That opportunity for change will build and multiply, becoming many opportunities. When you say yes to change, when you say yes to doing the work, magic happens. It puts you on the path to a life filled with joy.

The foundation, the beginning of this is recognizing the opportunity and saying yes. What happens after that is rarely linear, often surprising, and always an adventure.

Have you had a turning point in your life?

See More Helpful Articles:

A Beginner’s Guide to RA: Biologics

Live Bold Live Now: Lene Andersen

Living with RA: Turning Points

Lene writes the award-winning blog The Seated View. She’s the author of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain.