Friday, April 17, 2009

“But You’re So Young!”

When I first got diagnosed with RA, I had a really hard time telling people about my illness and talking about the consequences. I spent a lot of time avoiding people and I got really lonely.

Luckily, over the past few months my acceptance of my situation has grown to the point where I can almost always talk about my RA. Usually I can even joke about it! And I feel like it actually helps me to talk to people candidly about my RA sometimes.

I still have a little bit of trouble spitting out the sentence “I have RA” to someone for the very first time, but so long as I take a deep breath I am usually happy that I did it in the end. I’ve also gotten really good about getting past the inevitable pity that comes with telling someone for the first time. I know people feel bad and it’s hard to know what to say. And I’ve gotten to the point where I can handle pretty much any response.

Except for one: But you’re so young!

That one still gets to me for some reason. I know that I am young. I know that I haven’t really had a chance to live my life the way I might have wanted. I know that I have to deal with this disease for the rest of my life, which (hopefully) will be a really long time. You really don’t need to point it out to me. And, to make matters worse, this sentence is usually uttered by really well meaning people that I have good relationships with: the nurse practitioner at student heath, my massage therapist, my neighbor….

Oh… they say after I manage to tell them I have RA, but you’re so young! What’s the appropriate response to that?
“Yes, it sucks that I will have to deal with RA for the majority of my years.”
“Gee…I hope I find a good way to deal with this pain or, you’re right, the rest of my life will suck.”
“Yeah, I no idea how I will ever manage the pain and fatigue and a family and career at the same time.”
"Hmm...I wonder if I'll ever be able to climb the Half Dome with APL like I always wanted to?"
Lately I’ve been leaning towards: “Hey! At least I’m younger than you!”

Well, today I learned a new response that I think I’ll use from now on. I was having a conversation with my mentor, who I call “the Guru.” He said he thought it was actually a good thing to be diagnosed so young. This way I wasn’t already set in ways that would be more difficult to alter. I hadn’t started a family or a career, so there wouldn’t be too many huge life changes to make. And I’m lucky enough to be able to take some time to adjust and learn how to live with the RA while I’m still more adaptable. And, from this point forward, I can start my career and my family with the RA already under control, instead of letting it rip up my life later.

It was the best point I had heard in a long time. Thank you, Guru.


Sylvia Zebrowski said...

I like your guru and I'm glad he likes you. You deserve a good friend like him.

KCFitch said...

I love the lat one... “Hey! At least I’m younger than you!” I'm gonna have to use that! :-)

Rebecca said...

It's insight like this that underscores why we call him the Guru. Well, and the whole derivative name thing.


Little Red said...

In response to "but you're so young!" I think you should go with "and YOU'RE so ugly! But somehow you manage. So shall I."

Immature? Possibly. Brilliant? Yup.

~kelly marie~ said...

Ugh, I hate this too! I wonder what that is such a universal response?

On the other hand, I wonder if I will get sad when people stop asking. It will be like being called ma'am.

~Mariah~ said...

That's true! How can people say I'm too young AND call me ma'am? Because sometimes people call me ma'am and, you're right, it's totally weird. ~;o) I don't feel like a ma'am.

Ihuoma said...

I love what your Guru said. It's the loveliest thing I've heard in a while. I've always hated the "but you're so young comment" and I wondered why it got to me so much until I read your blog. You're right. What am I meant to answer to that? I mean really? I'm with Kelly Marie, why is it such a universal response?

~Mariah~ said...

IHUOMA: It is SUCH a frustrating comment. Though, come to think of it, I haven't been getting that comment much lately. Maybe I'm getting too old to be too young!! Crap. Now I'm old. ~;o)