Monday, March 28, 2011

Look at the Possibilities

Please watch this video.  It's so very inspirational. 

When I first started with my RA symptoms, I focused on the negative a lot of the time.  I couldn't believe what was happening to me, I couldn't understand what was happening to me (that part hasn't changed much), and I had a very difficult time accepting what was happening to me.  This is totally normal, this is okay for us all.  We all go through the grieving process, grieving over what use to be.  Then I thought about perspective.  If I remain in "fall down" mode, what kind of perspective will I have?  Try a little experiment.  Literally get down on the ground and stay there a while.  Try to look around the room or look around the house.  How's the view?  How well are you able to see?  Try to enjoy a conversation with your family, children, and friends.  From the ground, try to accomplish even the small things we take for granted.  Not the best perspective to have, is it?  Very limited, and very limiting.  So, it occurred to me that bouncing back isn't just about pulling myself out of a rut, a depression, or a low point in my life.  Bouncing back is about having the courage to pick myself up off the floor so that I can have my perspective back.  Sometimes when we are down, you get trapped in a pattern of thinking that is difficult to get out of.  On the ground looking up, things can seem so large, and looming.  Picking myself up has helped gain a whole different perspective.

If you conducted the floor experiment, and then stood up, what are the things you missed while you were down on the ground?  Are there now windows you can look out of with birds chirping by?  The large and looming objects don't seem so scary to me after all.  I've noticed that it helps to focus on what I still have that is good.  My husband will joke with me when I am feeling low during a flare and ask, "Ok hon, but how's your pinky toe?"  I will usually tell him, "Yes, the pinky toe is feeling great!"  He'll say, "Well, there you go!"  Seems silly, but it's so true.  When I am feeling low, sometimes I have to say, "Ok, so my hands and wrists are stiff, swollen, and painful-as are my ankles, feet, and elbows-but I don't have a headache today!!"  It's the little things that seem to help me take my steps forward toward "CAN!"

Quick tips to pick you up:

1.  CAN...try to think of all you still CAN do, rather than focusing on all that you can't do, or have a harder time doing.  I can still sing.  Sometimes I CAN get on a treadmill and walk a slow pace, or enjoy a walk outside.  I CAN read stories to my children using the cookiest voices that they love!  I CAN tell funny jokes and act like a goofball in front of my 5th graders.  CAN!  I CAN put on a smile and control my attitude!

2.  Count your blessings.  What do you have in your life that is good?  I have a wonderful family.  My husband is my lifeline, and my children are extensions of that!  The are the joy that warms my heart everyday, and what pushes me to get up off that floor!!  I thank the Lord for them multiple times a day!

3.  Make small changes.  I decided to stop fighting the RA and make small changes to adapt to my RA, so that RA and I will live together more comfortably, in more harmony, if you will.  I am over the fact that I can't wear flat shoes or shoes with very high heels.  We've changed some faucets in the house that are easier to maneuver.

4.  Put on some upbeat music and sing, sing, sing!!  I often find this really helps me a lot!!

5.  Develop a closer and more personal relationship with Christ.  I don't know where I would be without the peace the Lord brings me everyday!  My fears, my worries, I give up to Him.  He reminds me that I am not alone. 

I would love to hear any other "pick me up" ideas!  Post some!!

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"  Philippians 4:13

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bouncing Back

I have a student in my class who has had a hard life.  A very sad life.  Today, he got in trouble with the Principal.  After being released from the "warden", he came in to my classroom, tears rolling down his red cheeks.  He walked right over to me, arms outstretched and hugged me.

Hugged me!  This might not sound so odd, except that this is a young boy who has built a hard shell around himself.  So, I hugged him and gave him the best pep talk that I could muster.  It's a blur all that I said (rheumatoid fog), but I ended with this:  People will disappoint us, things in life will not happen as we hoped and planned.  Sometimes we will fall down.  There will be times when it seems like we are always falling down, and that's okay.  What builds character, is how many times we get back up after each fall.  Every time we bounce back, we get stronger and grow more. 

I thought about my student today, about the hard shell he built around himself.  It reminded me of myself, and many people I know who have Rheumatoid Arthritis, who are chronically ill, and/or who have been through a lot.   When I first discovered I had RA, it was a "fall down" moment, indeed.  But what got me back up, was the fact that after 3 years of not knowing what was wrong with me, I now had a diagnosis and a medical plan that would help me get better.  Bounce back.  Then the questions started.  Fall down.  I answered as best I could.  Bounce back.  The silly comments and suggestions come.  Fall down.  I have learned to forgive and laugh it off because I know they are uninformed.  Bounce back.  It's a cycle.  Our illness is nothing but a cycle-a roller coaster if you will, isn't it?  Having a good day (or dare I say two).  Feeling pretty good, when out of know where, BAM!  FLARE!  The flare generally happens at the most inopportune times, of course!  Fall down!

Here, at this very moment, I have discovered that I have a choice.  Do I remain down, or do I bounce back?  RA changed me, caused me to build a shell around me-just like my student. Today made me realize how similar we really are-how there are times I have outstretched arms looking for that hug from anyone willing to support me.  Today, more than ever, made me see the importance of bouncing back.  RA has affected my body, but it does NOT have to affect my mindset and attitude!  At least THAT, I have control over!  What will you choose?  Will you choose to bounce back?  :)

Hugs!  Keep bouncing...and keep the Sunny Side Up!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Welcome to the Sunny Side Up!

It's only been 4 months since my official diagnosis.  I remember it as clear as day, going back to my rheumatologist to let her know that I tapered off of my Fibromyalgia medications because they just weren't doing anything for me.  She finally seemed to listen when I said, "the pain seems to be just in my joints."  My wrists were hurting, the small joints in my hands and fingers were throbbing-and let's not forget the swelling-yikes!  There were times, as well, that I would have used a little walker, if I had one and didn't think it would freak out my 29 5th grade students.  My ankles and feet were getting bad enough that I limped around most of the day. 

But, on this appointment day, there must have been something different in my voice, or maybe I was able to articulate precisely where the pain was better then ever before.  On this day, my rheumatologist decided to do all sorts of bloodwork and X-Rays of my joints.  I dreaded returning for the follow up results visit.  I mean, come on, it's not like it was the Idol results show or anything which comes with live entertainment.  :)  Nope, I was prepared to hear the words I had heard for about 3 years:  "well, we didn't find anything."  Instead, she went through my bloodwork, said it all looked ok, and said she wanted to pull up my X-Rays.  Several minutes later, she asked me into another room, where my X-Rays were up for viewing.  I assumed this was a formality, so my husband and I went in, listened to her talk show the different images, and she stopped at my hands.  I remember hearing the word "lesions" and "erosion" and the whole thing became surreal.  We went back into our exam room, she said she conferred with the other Rheumatologist and they believe it is Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I think she asked if I had any questions....questions??  I don't even remember hearing anything she said, and she wanted to know if I had I nodded a "no" and let her keep talking.  She mentioned something about trying me out on Prednisone to see how I feel, and to come back.

Prednisone.  My friend, my foe.  Prednisone and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love to take it because of how differently I feel on it, but I HATE how I have changed as a result of it.  Alas, at my follow up appointment, it was all still a blur because she was still talking about this RA thing, and now some Methotrexate, a chemotherapy, and at this point my head is spinning.  So, I stopped her and asked her, "are you sure, this is what you think it is?  I do not want to be taking these medications if you aren't absolutely positive."  She assured me (or at least convinced me) that she was sure I had RA, and we were going to take an aggressive approach to stop the progression.

4 months.  That was 4 months ago.  I have since then started Humira injections, well, I have taken 1 injection to date.  I will be decreasing my Methotrexate because she believes it is attributing to my exhaustion, and she wrote me a prescription for Prednisone again.  I will have to deliberate with my vanity and pride about whether or not I will actually be taking this! 

Why the "Sunny Side Up"?  For 4 months, (well, for 3 years and 4 months), I have been having a very difficult time dealing with and accepting my diagnosis.  Well, I've made it.  I am accepting it-not 100%, but I am on my way.  I am not angry, though I have angry moments.  I am not depressed, though sad moments can creep in.  I have an illness that MANY people, including myself, do not understand.  I feel like I am being pulled to help others through their journey as well.  I would like to use this blog to focus, not only on the pain, frustration, and exhaustion of RA, but the positive things in life that are there if we just look past the harder things.  My goal is two-fold:  to educate and inform the public about what this illness is all about and help others see the brighter side.  Cause really, if you don't look at the bright side, what else do you have to look forward to?

I enjoy mine, Sunny Side about you?