What Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus Have Taught Me

When I first got sick and was subsequently diagnosed with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, I thought my life was over.  I couldn’t imagine what life would be like in the future, and I wasn’t sure I would have any future at all.

Part of me was relieved to finally have a diagnosis after months and years of not knowing what was wrong with me.  But I didn’t even know what lupus was and I thought arthritis was only something that happened to old people.  I was as naïve as many of the people I now meet and have to educate about my illnesses.  I never imagined that something like this could happen to me, but it did.

Related: Living with Both Lupus and RA: Symptoms and Medication Options

I’ve worked hard to live my life to the fullest, getting two Master’s degrees and a PhD, building relationships and managing the loss of relationships, moving to New York, moving back to Michigan, getting a job.  I’ve done all of those things in spite of lupus and RA.  It certainly hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it.

Sharing my life with lupus, RA and others

Lupus and RA have taught me about myself and they’ve also taught me about other people.  They’ve taught me what I need and don’t need in my life, and about what is truly important.

When I first got sick, I never thought that anyone would love me or want to be with me.  I’ve learned that isn’t actually true.  Not everyone is cut out to deal with a sick partner, and I’ve certainly experienced the loss of relationships because of my illnesses.  But being sick doesn’t make me unlovable.

Having both of these illnesses has taught me not to be afraid or too proud to ask for help.  This isn’t something that comes easy to me, but it is something that I’ve learned over the eight years of being sick that I can’t do everything on my own.  And I don’t have to.  Illness is a really good test and it shows you who your friends really are.  Some people will run away when things get tough, but others will be there no matter what.  And I am grateful to those in my life who have stood by me in spite of my illnesses; in spite of having to cancel plans at the last minute, in spite of not being as active as I would like to be, and in spite of the fact that I’m not the same person I was before I got sick.

Mostly, though, lupus and RA taught me that I am not alone.  When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone else with either of these illnesses, let alone both of them.  But as I’ve learned over the years, there are others out there like me, who live with both of these illnesses, and the commonalities and differences that come with them.

Lupus and RA have also taught me that I’m stronger than I ever could have imagined.  You don’t know how much you can handle until you are forced to face difficult experiences head on.  I’ve been through a lot in my life, almost none of which have tested me as much as the way that illness has.

Getting sick wasn’t fun, and life will never be the same.  But after eight years of coping with these illnesses, I can’t quite imagine life without them.  The lessons I’ve learned, the friends I’ve made, almost make it worth the difficulties that I’ve experienced.

See Other Helpful Posts:

Living Life With Lupus: One Day At a Time

Lupus Is As Lupus Does

Adaptation: Learning to Live with RA

5 Things the Newly Diagnosed Should Do