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!

5 comments:

  1. I was glad to see today's post, I know that you have been going through a rough period in the past few days. I admire your ability to share about yourself. This illness is so very public and private at the same time.

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  2. Hmm I can relate to this so much. We have to be brave and strong don't we? Take care.

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  4. Aunt Cathy- I'm so proud of you.I teared up reading this post. You are so courageous! Love you.

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  5. Cathy- I think it's so great that you feel comfortable sharing. I try to share with as many people as I can, but sometimes it is exhausting to explain and to have them believe me. One time I just walked away from someone at a party because he brought it up and then he didn't believe me! Anyway, you are so strong and I'm proud of you for being able to make it to your two classes plus all that emotional sharing! I hope you feel better SOON!!

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