Mental Health: How do you manage to maintain your mental health while dealing with autoimmune disease? Discuss how dealing with RA every day makes you emotional. Do you hide your emotions? #RABlog
In my early days with RA, I stood in the shower a lot hyperventilating. My children were young and it was the one place I could escape to deal with my emotions alone. In the beginning, the “what if’s” scared the heck out of me. I lacked the experience of RA to know what was in store for me and in 2004, there weren’t a lot of strong RA advocates showing life is a more positive light.
I spent a lot of years feeling good and then terrible. Good and then terrible. Good and then terrible. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, a feeling I don’t particularly like. One day I was ready to fight the world and the next day I needed help out of bed. It was physically and mentally exhausting.
However, with time, I realized a pattern. On my good days, I lived life. I enjoyed playing with my kids, working out, and performing everyday tasks. On flare days, I cried my eyes out feeling sorry for myself. Then I got mad, and finally determined. There was no way I was going to stop living my life.
Determination has looked different over the years. At times it meant fighting against RA. I always lost, but I think the game of trying to win kept me feeling like I had some control which mentally helped me a lot. I always had goals. Finally, determination became accepting that I would never win this battle against RA and instead I had to accept that it was a part of my life.
With acceptance, I became vulnerable. I was able to share my story with others without feeling judged or protective. I could open up and find others experiencing a journey similar enough to mine that I felt normal again. Acceptance allowed me to plan downtime into my day to conserve energy for the things that meant the most to me. And, while a challenge at the beginning, I finally came to the understanding that my body would require days in bed and by fighting it, I was only adding to the fire.
I am an emotional person by nature. Hiding my emotions has never been something I have been good at. I need to cry with people and I need to be held. I know that and for the most part, have never abandoned that need. I have had difficult days, months, and even years with RA where mentally, I have struggled. But I am fortunate in that I have some mechanism within my personality that always leans towards the positive. I don’t know why or how, but I ALWAYS have to find the positive in every situation I am in. I know this is a unique characteristic and that it is my saving grace in continuing on mentally.
5 thoughts on “RABlog Week: Mental Health”
Such a powerful blog Cathy. I have had those showers moments. However, I tended to cry when I had them. I think most of us have had something like this. today I am back to more normal showers. Except, well sometimes. I cry so I cna keep my tear ducts from drying up (you never know when you might need them).
It's so nice we have a community to share these experiences with. My kids were little when RA started for me too. It was so scary. Finding fellow spoonies and hearing them express courage like you have helped my mental health.
Thanks Cathy for your honesty. Parts of it were raw. Perhaps most of us with RA can relate to crying in the shower. Or in the car as I did. Somehow we pushed thru.
I think acceptance is often the hardest thing …glad you got there, 'cause fighting RA is kind of fighting yourself. My 'shower moments' were lying in bed in pain at 4am…now thankfully they're very, very rare and I hope yours are too!
Thanks for sharing your experience. I have found managing RA is a process, as well. I live and learn. XXOO