Friday, February 24, 2012

How Long Does It Take For RA Maturity?

Many times over the years we have been told by fellow border collie owners that this breed of dog doesn't hit maturity until around five years old.  By five they start to calm down. It is true. As Izzy hit the five year mark this year we have seen incredible changes in her maturity levels.  She is calmer, more patient. We no longer need to crate her off in a part of the house in fear of coming home to shoes chewed and items knocked off countertops.  We no longer have to give her an extra walk if we plan to be out for extra hours during the day in fear that she won't sleep through the night.  We no longer have to worry about her taking off with the kid's personal items as she now acknowledges that she is not allowed in their bedrooms and will stand at the doorway and wait for me when I go into their rooms. She will often walk past dogs on walks and almost shrug as if she has no interest in them where she once needed to lunge and bark at every one of them. It is almost like she has finally had the same experiences enough times that she no longer needs to react to each of them as passionately as she did as a pup.

Last week was a tough one for me as some rheumatoid arthritis pain returned to my body.  With the pain came extreme fatigue which always makes me want to hide in my bedroom alone. As usual with a flare, I panicked and felt some sadness.  I wondered to myself, "If it takes a border collie five years to mature and become calmer, how long does it take an adult human to reach maturity with rheumatoid arthritis?"  For me it has been eight years and I know that I have not yet reached maturity.  I have grown and show signs of working towards maturity, but I am not there yet.  I still throw little tantrums and still find it hard to share my feelings with my husband as a flare is in session, but I also no longer go on the internet and torture myself about what "might" happen to me in the future.  I no longer hide in my bedroom crying huge tears of fear.  I no longer feel the need to talk about my pain in long drawn out conversations or even "prove" to friends that this is a real disease.

 I have matured over these eight years.  These days when a flare hits I begin making plans to find open spots of time to relax and rest.  I shed a few gentle tears of acknowledgement that rheumatoid arthritis is a part of my life for keeps, even if I don't want it to be.  I remind myself over and over that the best thing about RA is that even though the the pain in certain joints feels like it will never leave my body, it always does.  My job is to take deep breaths and let the fear out.  I do still panic but with the panic I can now remind myself that I have had enough experience with flares to know my own strength.  I accept that I can handle whatever comes my way.  I am strong.

Slowly but surely I have matured over eight years.  Just as I see signs of Izzy maturing, I see signs of myself maturing.  Neither one of us is quite there completely and may possibly never be, but we are both definitely on the road to not being so reactive to situations that we have experienced over and over.  For now I am happy with the progress both of us have made.  I like that Izzy is still playful and keeps me on my toes. I am glad she hasn't matured to a point that she won't engage me in a game of "chase".  For me, I am glad that I still have feelings of fear because if I didn't......hmmmm......I don't know what that would mean but it doesn't seem good.  Rheumatoid arthritis is something to be feared.  Plus, the fear often challenges me to move forward and look for ways to change and grow.  Deepak Chopra says, "The best thing that can happen to me is happening right now."  I may not understand how or why this flare is happening right now but I do accept there is a reason for it.  My mantra is, "This flare is the best thing that can happen to me right now."  Saying it over and over makes me calm knowing that I am right where I need to be now so that I can be where I need to be later.  I am maturing with my rheumatoid arthritis and even though I don't have a complete maturity level yet, I am right where I need to be for now.

Have you matured with your rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory disease?  How long did it take?  How have you matured?  Where are you in the process?    


  1. I still have my moments especially with the moods. However, I understand that RA is here to stay and it is my choice whether I let it determine my fate. I am getting close to the four year mark. Full maturity though? – I am still a work in progress. I still have bouts of sadness especially when I am flaring but I have learned that I still have to move forward. What I can say is that I have grown up a lot. It was like one day I was 32 and the next, I was so much older, wiser, and so much more aware of my surroundings. RA has taken a lot from me but it has given me a better perspective on life. It has strengthened my faith in God and has taught me to be stronger than I ever thought I could be. , "This flare is the best thing that can happen to me right now." - I like that. If you don’t mind, I will borrow it. :-)

    When I was first diagnosed and I mentioned it on my blog, you were the first to give me good advice. You told me that my RA would get worse but I would get better at dealing with it. And what you said held true. It was also my much needed reality check at the moment. It took me out of that “woe is me” phase and turned me into a take action person. I just wanted to say that I am still very grateful for that advice and thank you again.

  2. Great post and so true! I think just having the ability to recognise that things can get better is the first step. That took me about 6 months. Since then I pretty much follow the same pattern - when I'm in remission I am happy as larry, not worrying at all. As soon as I flare, I get panicked and depressed. Not as much as I did in those first 6 months, nowhere close, but still significantly so. I hope that with time those feelings will continue to lessen their hold on me. Or maybe they never really go away, who knows? Hope you're feeling better this week!

  3. Lana,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story here and for your very kind words. They really made my day. Reading about your experiences over time has definitely shown that you are an action person. The RA community is very lucky to have you sharing with us and cheering for us.

    Thanks for commenting. I do think the feelings of panic lessen, but never go away. I appreciate that during the good days and bad you share. I always love reading about your adventures and I keep sending you happy thoughts for the trip you are planning.

  4. I loved your post and the parallels, it is so true. The thing that I think is challenging for us, though, is that RA can change without notice (unlike Izzy's rule to stay out of the kids' rooms). I can get better to the point of remission or plunge to new depths. So in some ways, it's hard to "mature" to a changing environment. However, we do hone our skills of patience, persistence, and the ability to handle pain over the years, making it easier to deal with even these changes.

    Thanks once again for a wonderful post.

  5. sometimes, I think I've got it. That I truly know how to work well with my disease and my limitations. I understand that being tired and having a flare is because I do too much and need to adjust how I work. And other times, I get reduced to a complete panic. It seems to depend on the symptoms of the flare - if it's just a bit of extra pain of the kind I know well and some fatigue, I can cope. If it's That Other Pain, the one that comes from deep within the joint and is accompanied by what looks like swelling.. Well, then I panic.

  6. I don't think that there is a set time frame, it is different for each individual. I feel I am there most days but still have occasional days of frustration. It has been a long, slow learning process littered with trial and error (a lot of error). I'm used to the pain and swelling, my big downer is the fatigue when I want to do something and it hits me harder. Hope you feel better soon.

  7. great post and i love all the comments.

    i know i have NOT matured with my RA but I have had big strides

  8. I often get cocky. I've been through the worst, I scoff, thinking I've had this disease for so long that I can handle anything it tosses at me. Am I RA Mature? Oh, yeah.

    And then a flare hits that's worse than I've had in a long time. Or I have a flare at the same time my hip bursitis is giving me the devil. Or, like recently, I flared, had bursitis pain and got hit by that wall of fatigue, too--a new symptom for me.

    I was so RA Mature, Cathy, that I got weepy and whiney and furious and despairing by turns. The raw emotion that welled up surprised me. I'm usually so calm and un-ruffled. I can usually just settle in and wait it out. But recently, not so much.

    I think Carla nailed it. RA is so changeable and so unpredictable that the best we can do, really, is rely on what we've learned over time regarding how to cope with the pain and disability, both physical and emotional. That's the real RA maturity.

    Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking post. And I hope your flare is over and that you're feeling much, much better now. Sending hugs, warmth and comfort your way.

  9. Great post.

    It's funny I came across this because I am just about to write a small post about the following story...One of my favorite spin instructors is a mind/body workout advocate. Yesterday during her spin class she exclaimed "Pain is real, suffering is optional." Through my 11 years of living with RA, I totally get what she means, probably more so than anyone else in that class who hasn't been through a similar experience.

    I choose to live my life with love, and like you, accept that "I am where I am supposed to be." Although the changes I have made these past 7 years are allowing my body to heal itself which has greatly reduced any sort of flares or symptoms, I know exactly where you are and I am thrilled to know you are at peace with whatever life throws your way. You are an amazing, strong, woman.

    Much Love,


  10. Thanks for sharing this post, Cathy.

    When I was a kid I remember having elaborate fantasies of being "cured". I'd go to see my rheumatologist and he'd say, "that's it, it's gone - you're all better!"

    It's true that RA has taken a lot from me. But, I've also grown a lot because of it - and I'm still growing. I continue to learn lessons about what makes me feel good and what really is too much for me; how to be more honest about how I'm feeling; how to ask for help.

    My arthritis feels like "me" now. That doesn't mean I won't do everything I can do feel better, but it does mean that I know I'm in it for the long haul, and we're kind of ok with each other.

  11. Cathy--excellent post and great question! There are times I think I'm making progress. And times I realize I still have a long way to go. I once had a counselor tell me that changing situations are actually much more difficult to deal with than ones that are consistently bad. So having my health be good for a while and then flare could actually be harder emotionally than if it were just terrible all the time. Those constant adjustments are challenging--at least they are for me.

    I'm trying stay calm and peaceful right now--praying the same for you.

  12. Thanks for the post on a low day for me. I am a puppy just trying to figure this out. Learning and making mistakes. Scared to death but trying to be brave. Trying to remember the only constant is change. Thanks again.

  13. I have psoriatic arthritis. I was diagnosed in April of 2011 - so less than a year ago - but my diagnosis was a positive thing for me. I think I had already traveled far along the road to maturity when my diagnosis came. My diagnosis was a relief- I was not imagining things; I was not crazy (well, not about this, anyway); my pain and stiffness and exhaustion were real, had a cause, and there were medications I could take to possibly feel better. I had spent at least 25 years of my life, minus my pregnancies when I felt fine (I have five kids!), being told by doctors that I was fine. Now I have major joint damage and fusions (I have AS as well).

    This past year has been a crash course in disability. I went from hiking with my family through the hills of CT to walking with 2 canes or using a wheelchair in a matter of months. I no longer get angry at my limitations, instead choosing to enjoy what I can do, whether that's curling up in bed all day with the kids and reading/playing games or spending the day at a museum. I am thankful for my body, which always keeps me in check and reminds me of what is truly important in life. I am blessed by the slowness and stillness my PsA allows me to experience - going full steam ahead 24/7 isn't all it's cracked up to be. I am grateful for what my PsA has taught me about myself and those who love me - the things you don't figure out until you're faced with something as life-changing as inflammatory diseases can be.