Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Have RA. It Doesn't Have Me.

I realize my previous post was the fourth in a row about great online resources for people with RA. It made me start wondering what took me so long to find them! I mean, I've had RA for a year and a half now - why did I wait until now to start reading these uplifting resources?

I think part of the reason is that I only recently realized just how valuable it is to talk to other people who actually have RA and who really understand what I am going through. It's simply amazing the hope and inspiration that you can get from a perfect stranger.

Also, I think part of the reason I didn't go searching for these resources sooner was because I had a few bad experiences with literature about RA actually making me feel worse. Like my free subscription to Arthritis Today. APL and I were able to laugh about how discouraging some of the articles sounded (we actually jokingly renamed the magazine in our house to Dying Alone Monthly). We had a good laugh, and laughter is always a good medicine.

But, though we laughed, there's no denying that some of those discouraging sentences are still stuck in my head. Like the one that said "sometimes having arthritis means sitting on the sidelines while your friends and family dance at a wedding." Or the one that said "research has shown that people with RA have less emotional support and social companionship than people without RA." While I realize the magazine encompasses other kinds of arthritis besides RA, and maybe slowing down and letting go is a valuable coping mechanism for some people, I am only 26 years old!!! I haven't even had my own wedding yet!! This is not what I want to hear about my future!! So, after we stopped reading that magazine (for six months it went straight into the recycling bin after it arrived) I guess I was a little gun shy about searching for hope and finding the opposite.

Maybe most importantly, I have to admit that one of the biggest battles for me over the last year and a half has been openly admitting to the changes RA has brought to my life. I don't think I really ever went through a denial stage - I think I accepted that my diagnosis was going to require me to change my life pretty quickly. But it was more of a private acceptance. Within my own little family change was a fact, but outside of that I've struggled with how to deal with RA in public. At first I even had trouble talking about it with friends and family. I still have trouble making the words "I have RA" come out of my mouth and I still struggle with it professionally.

I know I've always admitted to and dealt openly with my RA on this blog, which is technically public. But somehow this blog always felt more private to me. Maybe its because at first no one was actually reading it. Maybe it's because, aside from my friends and family who know me personally, this blog is written by an anonymous "Z."

Maybe I've been afraid for the past year and a half to publicly link myself with RA. In my real life, if I make the choice to tell a particular person that I have RA, I can evaluate the situation for possible negative outcomes. Somehow I guess it felt a bit reckless, especially considering professional situations, to just announce to the world that I have RA, without any control over how people might change their opinion of me.

But you know what? I don't have any control over anyone's opinion anyways. And having RA is nothing to be ashamed of. It changes me, but it doesn't define me. The three inspirational women who's blogs I have just posted all have their full names on their blogs. And I've always claimed that this blog was all about honesty, but I haven't been completely honest here, have I? So, I'm going to take a deep breath and do it now:

My name is Mariah. I have RA. It doesn't have me.


More different A said...

I am so proud of you. I love it. And I love you.

A said...

BRAVO!! You're amazing!!

Jodi said...

Way to go Mariah!

Little Red said...

My llama, my hero. :-)

KCFitch said...

Love to you Mariah... and thank you for "dragging me along" with you on all those RA resources. I wouldn't wish this disease on anyone, but I'm glad I'm in such good company!