There was a time during the first few years I learned I had S-RA that I couldn’t see the thanksgiving in having chronic illness. I was on a poor-pitiful-me spiral into depression because I couldn’t escape the physical pain of this disease, I was angry over the loss of my career, and I was scared because medical issues had caused financial ruin. I know some of you have been there. For any of you who may be reading this blog and have days that are colored by the lens of pain to the degree you don’t care if you live or die, I want to shout loudly and clearly, “Don’t give up! There is hope!”
- Turn it over to God. I felt so alone sometimes. In my grief I’d cry over all my losses. I became resentful of others who seemed to have all I wanted yet took it for granted. My joyful spirit was crushed. Many people don’t understand this disease, but don’t let that stop you from crying out to God. He will put people in your life to help you. He sent a Christian lady to minister to me who also had RA that has become my best friend. One of the biggest complaints I hear from chronic pain patients is the lack of understanding by loved ones and subsequent loneliness and isolation. Even at my lowest point and I felt that no one cared, I knew God did. God did not pluck me out of the hell of this illness, but instead He took my hand and has walked through it with me. He will do the same for you, if you only ask.
- Get your pain under control. It is my firm belief that until you have a trusted physician treat your pain, that you will never be able to know if a disease modifying drug is helpful to you or not. At some point Rheumatologists are going to have to recognize that the pain component has to be addressed first and then when pain is not blaring in the foreground of every thought, you might be more agreeable to trying these treatments for RA that require months of waiting before any results are seen. Most Rheumatologists won’t prescribe or manage pain prescriptions. Seek out a very good general practitioner, preferably a MD with a Internal Medicine specialty. We are complicated patients and docs use to just treating runny noses (acute illness) sometimes are not our best choice. Having a PCP (primary care physician) who listens to you, is trained well to treat chronic illness, and will help you manage your pain is essential to fight this disease.
- Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to adjust. Rather than lamenting over all the negatives, try each day to be thankful for something you have in your life. It’s contagious. Once you make a concentrated effort to see beyond the negatives you will begin to see more and more positives. That advice isn’t something I just thew on the page. You choose your behavior. Your emotions do not control you. Once I learned the truth of those facts, I felt empowered.
So, to answer the heading of this blog entry: Can there be thanksgiving in illness? Yes! I believe that with all my heart.