Will You Waste Your Rheumatoid Arthritis?

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” – Anonymous.

Today I flitted through some old posts on the blog The Sullivan Four.  It a family’s “story of God’s faithfulness as [they] traveled the road of cancer and the loss of a child,” Hannah, who was a former classmate of mine.  Hannah’s grace and the grace of her family was and continues to be an inspiration to thousands.  I wanted to share something Jill Sullivan, Hannah’s mom, had found and posted to the blog.  While it is written about cancer, Jill had stated “I actually think there are a lot of words that could be substituted for the word ‘cancer’…These ten points could apply to many storms we face in life.”

I’m sure you understand what I want you to replace “cancer” with.  8 out of 10 of these points directly apply to our lives.

“John Piper writes about life after his diagnosis of prostate cancer. The list below and the full article (found at desiringGod.org) suggest purpose for any Christian in the midst of cancer. It is a time not for defeat and despair but rather it is a powerful experience to reflect on our purposes in life. This means that Christians are to seek to glorify God even when circumstances are most difficult.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.

5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepening your relationships with manifest affection.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.”

I don’t like having RA, and I never will.  However, I strongly believe this disease has changed me for the better.  I’m not sure of who I would be if I had never been diagnosed with RA, but I’m certain I would not have as close of a relationship with God nor would I understand the importance of being kind to others (whether their storm is invisible, like mine, or not).

We can let this disease get us down, we can let it defeat us, we can wallow in the “what ifs” and “what life used to be’s”  or we can realize that we’ve been given an opportunity to better ourselves and others through our storm, as Hannah Sullivan did.

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My Rewards System

I had a minor break down yesterday.  When I woke up that morning, I couldn’t believe how swollen and painful my hands were.  Not only that, my toes , knees and left shoulder decided to join in the mix as well.  I immediately took my meds (including the newest pain killer my rheumatologist prescribed), got a hot bath, used compresses, the works.

To say the least, I wasn’t a happy camper, but then I had a little talk with my boyfriend, Donavon.  He reminded me to stay strong and fight this disease, and that wallowing in a mess on the couch was not going to make dealing with RA any easier (those are my words, not his; he was much nicer in his approach).   My negativity was only making matters worse.  I quickly saw how right he was, however I was still in a lot of pain.  It was hard to be positive at that moment, so instead I worked on rejecting the negativity. I was still on the brink of a pity-party, but I shut it all out.  Donavon fixed me lunch and we watched a movie together, and I focused all of my thoughts on that, forcing any feelings towards my still swollen digits out the window.  Eventually time ran its course, and the intense stiffness began to dull.

A couple hours passed and Donavon had to leave for class.  As I walked him to the door I saw how gorgeous it was outside and instantly longed to be out of my apartment, if only to just sit in the sun next to my complex’s pool.  I decided to attempt to get dressed so that I could enjoy the warm rays and cool breezes waiting for me on the other side of my apartment’s constricting walls.  It was a chore to dress, especially into jeans (which took about seven minutes alone to finally wiggle on), but I slowly inched my way to my goal.  I was determined, and I found myself thinking less about the pain and more about how great it would feel to relax in the fabulous weather.

Getting dressed, while being a simple task, also forced my joints to work just the right amount to make them feel the tiniest bit better.  My mood increased substantially while sitting under a tree at the lake (Donavon was kind enough to take me after his class, it was a much better alternative than sitting pool-side at my apartment complex).  And as my mood increased, the pain in my hands began to decrease more.

When I let myself get down about my RA, I find myself doing exactly what I did yesterday morning: wallowing in a puddle of self-pity and tears.  When I’m in that state, I don’t want to do anything.  Why should I?  Everything I do hurts anyway, so I should just lay here and cry some more, right?

WRONG.  When I pushed those negative feelings aside, I felt my strength come back.  I was in no way shape or form fit to run in a marathon, much less walk across campus to my classes.  But I could get dressed and put on a little make up.  I set little goals, and I was proud of myself after accomplishing them.  It’s like the video game “The Sims“: when you set a goal for your Sim, their mood meter goes up after it’s met.  I then set a goal to get down the steps of my apartment and into Donavon’s car, and then out of the car to a nice spot by the lake (where I then plopped myself down and stayed there…lol).

Best part of it all: After acheiving my goals, I rewarded  myself with some quality time with Donavon, some very chatty geese,  and good ‘ole Lake DeGray.  It honestly made my day.

After a little reflection, I’ve decided I want to try to do this every day, sort of implement a rewards system.  Every day, I’ll set little goals and reward myself when they are met.  It’s a good way to keep from thinking about what you can’t do because of the RA, and more about what fun thing you’ll do after taking care of a few things first.

I’m still working on a little research before posting part two of The “D” Word (Disabled), but I promise it’s coming soon.  Until then, trying using a rewards system of your own.  I’d love to know how you reward yourselves!

Stay healthy!  🙂