Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It's Just a Phase

Growing up, the single most annoying thing I heard from my parents was, "Be patient. Robyn is just going through a phase."   My sister Robyn is 14 months younger than me and has always had a more dramatic personality than mine which has made how we deal with life quite different. I felt frustrated and didn't have the life experiences to understand why my parents would tell me to be patient and let Robyn be who she is. Looking back now though, I see that Robyn did always move out of whatever phase she was in and she happens to be a pretty awesome person today.

When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I didn't connect what I had learned as a child about phases to what was happening to me as an adult and felt doomed.  I honestly believed that once I was in a full blown flare, I would never come out of it again.  In fact, I didn't make that connection when time and time again, my body came out of a difficult flare and once more moved on peacefully.  

The last three years I have experienced almost remission type symptoms with my rheumatoid arthritis.   It has been more than awesome to know that physically there isn't much I can't do.  I have had occasional one to three day flares that were fairly minor, almost as if RA wanted to gently remind me that it was still a part of me. About two weeks ago, it decided it was done being gentle and made a full return.  It hasn't left yet. But you know what?  That is okay. I have finally come to an understanding with my body that this is a phase and like every phase in life, it will eventually move on and something else will take its place. Knowing this, it makes handling this flare a ton easier.  In fact, it reminds me of how life is continuously putting us through phases of all types. A few years ago, I asked my teenage daughter to be patient with me because I had never been a mom to a teenager daughter before. Being a mom to a teenager definitely provides many experiences with phases- happy ones as well as frustrating ones. As I enter the stages of menopause, I have to remind myself to be patient with myself.  This too is a phase of life that will pass even if it feels it will be with me forever.  When I put on my clothes and feel frustration that comes with menopausal weight gain and feel unattractive, I HAVE TO remind myself that this is a phase and to be kind to my body mentally.

While my childhood experiences with phases led me to believe them to always be negative, I now know that is not true.  We also go through times of feeling very connected to friends and family, to experiencing joy in our work, to feeling content with where life is.  These are experiences that may last a very long time or a very short time.  We never master balance with the positive or negative phases because life is always changing. The thing to remember is be where you are at the moment.   Enjoy the good phases that nourish you, storing up the awesome feelings you have now  for when a phase brings you down again. Remembering that life is like a see-saw, going up and down, helps during rough patches to know that things will once again go up.

So, what am I doing while I go through this flare and deal with frustrating menopausal symptoms?

  • I focus daily on what my overall goals in life are and share them with people who will help them blossom. 
  • I exercise my mind and body daily. 
  • I praise my body for all the wonderful things it does on a daily basis for me.
  • I make lists of wonderful things about myself. It's funny how I can criticize myself for a tummy roll and then choose to focus on all that is great about myself and turn my whole mindset around.
  • For the most part I eat well, but sometimes lately I throw mental temper tantrums and eat outside of the diet that I know works for my individual body.  I haven't even felt guilty about.  Sometimes it feels good to be a little rebellious!  (Thank you for that lesson too Robyn!) 
  • Remind myself of the life lessons I have learned in the past, "Be patient.  You are just going through a phase."
Thank you Robyn for being who you are and for teaching me that life is always changing and that phases can be a wonderful thing because they are a part of what makes us strong enough to deal with the next negative phase and content enough to enjoy the current positive one.  Mom and Dad, thank you for reminding me to be patient when life doesn't go as I see it should go in my mind.