As you probably know, I have rheumatoid arthritis. When I was diagnosed, I had 58 affected joints, and I’ve never gone below 52. What you may not know is that rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and can go beyond joints to organs. Despite all of the bad things that have come from this – and I’d be lying if I said that everything was fine – it has, in some ways, changed my life for the better.
It puts everything in perspective – Woke up late and missed something? That’s annoying, but it’s hard to be stressed about that when my immune system is attacking me. Basically, there is absolutely no point in stressing over the little things because they really are little things in the mess that is my life.
I’m thankful for so much more – Because of the pain I live in and the emotional pain that goes with all of that, I’m thankful for so many more things than I used to be. The good days (or even moments) are much more special than they were before. Even if a day is completely ordinary, if I feel okay, it’s a great day. When I’m able to do fun things, I’m so happy about it. Any time I get to be an ordinary millennial, I am grateful.
I stopped be so controlling over my life plans – I’m the type of person who had a five-year plan, a ten-year plan, and more. But my arthritis makes my life so much more unpredictable. I can’t guarantee how I’ll feel tomorrow, let alone next week, next year, or next decade. I’ve become much more of a go-with-the-flow person than I ever was, and that’s actually a good thing. Yes, I have goals, but I have fewer ones and they’re more generalized, too. I’m not going to put as much pressure on myself to accomplish them, too, because there’s no way to guarantee that I’ll be well enough to complete them. As long as I try when I can, I’m okay with it.
I cut myself more slack – Again, my arthritis is unpredictable. So if it causes me to miss something, I don’t blame myself. I know my body and I know its limits, so if I need to miss something, it’s not the end of the world. I also understand that I am not like every other person in their mid-twenties, and I need to make sure that I don’t compare myself to them because it’s not an accurate comparison. (But I also understand that it’s okay to be frustrated or angry with the fact that I’m not like other twenty-five-year-olds).
I stopped caring what people think of me – I’ve lost count of how many times a stranger has given me a severe look for parking in the handicapped spots or how many times people stared at me for the KT tape or because I stayed seating when other people stood for something. When I was in middle and high school, people used to say (sometimes serious, sometimes joking) that I was faking my pain. After experiencing this for 15 years, I can honestly, genuinely say that I don’t care what you think about me. And that is definitely not a bad thing.
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