My Support System-
One of the most important things you can have in your life is a solid support system. It can make a HUGE difference in your life. My support system has been one of my biggest blessings in my life.
At the time of my diagnosis- I was a wife, parenting a teenager, working two jobs (hubby was working tons of hours a week at his job), I was going to college and just didn't have time in my life for this! I got angry again- and then I got determined. Maybe there was no way to be cured- but I didn't have to let RA take over my life. My illness may be a part of my life but I would not allow my disease become who I am.
Fortunately, I am blessed with a husband who is willing to support me in anything. You would not believe the number of stories that I read where the writer's family was either just not supportive or where the family broke up under the weight of the diagnosis and ensuing treatments. When I needed to cry- my husband held me. When I was angry, my husband put up with me lashing out at him for anything and everything under the sun. When I became determined to change the way I was handling this whole situation- he was my biggest “cheerleader”. He was willing to listen and learn along with me the different options for treatments, he would ask questions I did not think of and he would help me by bouncing ideas back and forth. No matter how crazy or radical my ideas were, he supported me.
I was also very lucky that when I was diagnosed my son was 18 years old. He was old enough to understand, to be concerned, to ask insightful questions. He was also at an age where he could be helpful when I needed it and be scarce when I was being miserable. In retrospect I am very glad that I had insisted that he learn to cook, to clean, to do his laundry and to be independent because I don't know how people in my situation handle raising small children. We already had a system in place because of all three of our work schedules, his karate schedule and other life “stuff” and that didn't have to change much. We only had to tweak it a bit to accommodate the things I needed more help with.
In addition to my son and husband, I had a good work situation as well. At my main job- my boss was also a dear friend. Each step of the way I could talk to her about the ups, the downs, the information that I had learned, the questions that I had and what I was feeling. Having a friend at work helped ease the situation and took the quandary of whether or not to tell my job about my illness out of my hands. At my “part time” job- it was an equally easy situation. Having been there for over 10 years, I had made some terrific friends and my bosses knew me. They knew my work ethic and they knew that if I was unable to do something- I was definitely not slacking off. It was because they had worked with me for so long that they were willing to let me tailor my workload to my pain and energy levels. An added plus was that my husband worked there full time and so they were kept in the loop through the whole process. It was a bonus that many of my friends also worked with me at one or both jobs and were interested enough to learn about the disease and easy my way when necessary.
Finally there was the rest of my family. Though we lived scattered across the US- they have always been only a phone call or an email away. When I received my diagnosis- I think we collectively burned up the Internet- each of us researching everything from the disease to the medications to the side effects and potential issues. We talked and talked, we emailed, and we passed info back and forth. Through the whole thing, I knew that they were there no matter what. The best part about my family is that each and every one of us comes from the place of “I love you and we will get through this.” It was when I thought about what I would say to one of them if they were in my shoes that this attitude kicked in. We have always been like this- it just took me some time to remember that.
I truly believe that had I not had all of this love and understanding in my life, it would have been a very different journey for me. I don't think I would have been able to develop the will I needed to change my life as quickly as I did. I might even still be allowing negativity and stress and my workaholic ways to dictate my life and I know I would have much more damage to my body.