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?