Monday, September 25, 2017

RABlog Week: Mental Health

Mental Health: How do you manage to maintain your mental health while dealing with autoimmune disease? Discuss how dealing with RA every day makes you emotional. Do you hide your emotions? #RABlog

In my early days with RA, I stood in the shower a lot hyperventilating. My children were young and it was the one place I could escape to deal with my emotions alone. In the beginning, the "what if's" scared the heck out of me. I lacked the experience of RA to know what was in store for me and in 2004, there weren't a lot of strong RA advocates showing life is a more positive light. 

I spent a lot of years feeling good and then terrible. Good and then terrible. Good and then terrible. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, a feeling I don't particularly like. One day I was ready to fight the world and the next day I needed help out of bed. It was physically and mentally exhausting.  
However, with time, I realized a pattern. On my good days, I lived life. I enjoyed playing with my kids, working out, and performing everyday tasks. On flare days, I cried my eyes out feeling sorry for myself. Then I got mad, and finally determined. There was no way I was going to stop living my life.

Determination has looked different over the years. At times it meant fighting against RA. I always lost, but I think the game of trying to win kept me feeling like I had some control which mentally helped me a lot. I always had goals. Finally, determination became accepting that I would never win this battle against RA and instead I had to accept that it was a part of my life.

With acceptance, I became vulnerable. I was able to share my story with others without feeling judged or protective. I could open up and find others experiencing a journey similar enough to mine that I felt normal again. Acceptance allowed me to plan downtime into my day to conserve energy for the things that meant the most to me. And, while a challenge at the beginning, I finally came to the understanding that my body would require days in bed and by fighting it, I was only adding to the fire. 

I am an emotional person by nature. Hiding my emotions has never been something I have been good at. I need to cry with people and I need to be held. I know that and for the most part, have never abandoned that need. I have had difficult days, months, and even years with RA where mentally, I have struggled. But I am fortunate in that I have some mechanism within my personality that always leans towards the positive. I don't know why or how, but I ALWAYS have to find the positive in every situation I am in. I know this is a unique characteristic and that it is my saving grace in continuing on mentally.