Friday, October 23, 2009

Thank You Rheumatoid Arthritis

I teach a three hour class on Tuesday/Thursday mornings, head home, and go back again in the evening for another three hour class. Mornings are new to me this semester so I was lucky last week when my body began flaring up that we were on a week long break to do placement testing and I could just rest. But, I started back yesterday morning with a body that is still in a flare-up. Since mornings tend to be the worse, I had a difficult time hiding my flare-up as I walked into the community college and to my classroom. I was stopped by many teachers and my boss who all genuinely wanted to know what was wrong. I have never had to explain my RA to so many people in one day. Usually I can hide it or just say I am having some knee problems and move on. Yesterday people wanted an education. I briefly explained to several people my journey from medications to no medications. Surprisingly, they all nodded in agreement to my explanation of why I am off drugs and following an alternative path. But also surprisingly were the questions they had about the disease. Why does this happen to young people? (He-he, I am still considered young!) What can you do to cure it? What set it off initially? You can go into remission? They honestly wanted to know the answers and I could see the sympathy they felt for me. (I am still not comfortable with sympathy but I know it comes from caring hearts that will be sending me healing thoughts and I am not too proud to accept those.)

I left work yesterday morning feeling vulnerable that my body had forced me to verbally share my story with so many people in one day. I also felt proud of myself because I didn't cry and I let each person know that although I am experiencing a rough patch right now, that I also have good days. As I was sharing this positive piece of information, I believed it and visualizations of me bike riding even came to my mind as I was talking. How amazing is that?

By evening I was actually feeling worse than I did that morning. My long morning had worn me out and my body was feeling it. I had 16 students arrive last night. We did our normal introductions and I learned each person's name (I will remain known as "teacher" for the next eight weeks even though I ask them to call me Cathy) as well as some personal stories about each person. With each new class I always know from the first night whether there will be a strong connection or not. I felt it with this class and decided for the first time ever to publicly share with a group that I have a disease known as rheumatoid arthritis. I shared with them that there may be nights I arrive to class with a limp, there may be nights I struggle to write on the board, there might be nights I ask for help and there might be nights I feel absolutely wonderful. As I was talking, I had to turn once to the board to choke back the tears, but I did it. I didn't plan to share this information, but decided it needed to be shared. I am proud of myself. I accomplished a lot yesterday. I shared a part of me that I like to keep hidden, a part of me that is very vulnerable. That is hard. But, rheumatoid arthritis is not all bad. It has been given to me as a gift to learn about myself and to grow as a person. Yesterday was a growing experience for me. Thank you rheumatoid arthritis!