Getting diagnosed with RA was terrifying. Developing symptoms of RA was heartbreaking. But people deal struggles everyday. Some people thrive. Some merely survive. Which way was I going to go? I decided I wanted to live well – RA flares or not – and these are the four questions that help me thrive with RA. 

This awesome photo is from Miguel Bruna on Unsplash.

living well with RA

4 Questions that Help me Thrive with RA

Here’s the deal. I’m not naturally an optimistic person.

Friendly? Yes.

Kinda bouncy? Yes.

Smiley? Yes.

But optimistic. Um, no.

In fact, it has taken me a few decades, lots of therapy, and even more hard work before I learned how to live with my overly anxious brain and sometimes melancholy moods. Worrying comes easily for me. As does rumination. As does fear.

What happened once I was diagnosed with RA?

So, when I was diagnosed with RA, I freaked the hell out.

But, luckily for me, the diagnosis didn’t come with a lot of RA activity {for those without RA that means swelling, stiffness, fatigue, etc.} so the fear and panic subsided a bit. I was able to kind of ignore the whole RA thing.

And then, RA decided it was time for us to meet. Suddenly I felt like my toe was broken. And then my toe swelled up. And then several toes swelled up. I started hobbling around because the ball of my foot hurt when it touched the ground. My knee would hurt one hour and then my wrist and then neither would hurt a few hours later. RA does that – it feels like it’s playing hide-and-seek in your body.

Thankfully, within the two year span of my diagnosis and the activity, I had learned some hard-won lessons about the power of my mind, the importance of attitude, and the need for commitment. I knew that I could wither up and become a heaped mess of a person, wailing about how unfair RA was or I could choose a different way.

I chose a different way.

Each day I choose a different way. 

Some days I’m successful, some days not so much

But that different way doesn’t mean that I don’t ever vent or cry or throw a little pity party…’cause I do! It simply means that when I do those things, I don’t allow myself to stay there too long. I force myself to return to a different place – one that feels better and allows me to move on to other non-RA stuff. As Nietzsche said:

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.

I believe this wholeheartedly. We cannot control everything that happens to us but we can work to control how we handle it, our attitude towards it. I may not be able to control everything that RA does to me, but I will do everything I can to control how I handle it.

These four questions are the ones I use to help myself stay positive with RA. I don’t always feel them {sometimes I just cuss!!} but I am determined, committed to becoming someone who handles challenges in a way that allows me to keep living well.

These 4 questions {usually} keep me on track

1 – What do I need right now?

When you feel really bad, you need coping mechanisms. RA forces me to listen to my body or face the consequences. By giving myself what I need, when I need it, I can help it feel as good as possible.

That can be hard when you  have kids who need you, a job that requires so much from you, and a spouse that depends on you. But, when I feel bad, I’m not much good to people, anyhow. By realizing what I need to cope with the pain and then giving it to myself, I have more control.

2 – How can I take better care of myself?

There are things that I can do consistently that will help me feel better. These are the basic things that we all need to do to feel good – sleep, water, good food, exercise, stress relief – plus some other things that are specific to RA such as special exercises or regular visits to the doctor.

Instead of ruminating over what I cannot control, this question forces me to look at my habits and make sure that I am doing everything I can to get the best possible results.

3 – How is RA making me stronger?

RA isn’t what I would have picked to teach me life lessons. But life doesn’t work that way, does it? So, I’m going to let RA teach me and make me stronger.

Whenever I am dealing with something related to RA – doctor visits or another blood draw or whatever – I try to focus on how this is making me stronger instead of how much I don’t want to be doing this.

  • By enduring pain I can learn to focus on my breathing to get some relief.
  • By being patient with my slow pace I get better at being patient in general.
  • By dealing with side effects from medicine I am becoming more empathetic to those in similar situations.

4 – What can I do for someone else right now?

It’s easy to become so overly concerned with how my body is feeling that I lose perspective. Taking a few minutes to do something small for someone else gets my mind off myself. It also reminds me that there’s a world out there that needs me, pain or not.

Developing a hardcore mindset about a sucky situation is not easy but it is something that most of have to do at one point or another in our lives. These 4 questions that help me thrive with RA are called that for a reason. Even the title reminds me of what I am choosing to do. Thrive with RA. The questions help guide me.

RA may not be my best friend but I am trying my best to allow it to be my teacher.

Do you want an easy way to remember these questions so that you handle your RA or life challenges better? Check out this poster you can hang up to remind yourself to ask the right questions! (Coming Soon!)

RA live well

If you liked this article, you may want to check out:

Why I’m Trying the Paddison Program for my RA