Monday, April 29, 2013

"Suffering" is a State of Mind

I read a lot of websites, blogs, Facebook pages/groups, Google+ posts, Twitter feeds and LinkedIn groups devoted to Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Illnesses in general.  I do this so I can get hints and tips from others living with these illnesses.  What strikes me most and what ties these different platforms together is the sheer number of people who "suffer" with these illnesses.

I understand the pain they are experiencing.  I understand the frustration with the limitations on their lives. I understand how it feels when the people in your life just don't get it.  None of this is easy to live with.  That said, what I don't understand is constant misery.  The sheer number of people who essentially hate life because they are dealing with any or all of the issues of chronic pain, limitations and/or lack of support is astonishing.

When I go to these pages, I am looking for positive people, good hints/tips and ideas for being more productive in general.  I have friends who live with illnesses who are the happiest and most positive people I have ever met.  Unfortunately, they are few and far between.  It's often hard to find them due to the overwhelming number of folks living from a negative place.  I cannot imagine being there all of the time.  You only have to look back at this blog to see where I have had difficult times and struggled with these illnesses but I generally snap out of it fairly quickly.  Frankly- it's exhausting to be in that head space.  Who needs to add that to illnesses that make you chronically fatigued already?  Now- I realize that there are folks who are clinically depressed and I am not discounting that.  In those cases, a professional is the only way to treat the depression.  I am talking about the people who receive their diagnosis and it's as if they become their illness. Their diagnosis is the only thing they talk about, they complain constantly, they allow it to take over their lives.

I want to shout at them "It doesn't have to be that way! You are not your illness! Your illness is not you!"  Everyone has blessings in their lives- they only have to open your eyes and see look for them.  You have to look beyond the diagnosis, look beyond the pain, look beyond the frustration and see the bright spots in your life.  Then take those bright spots and giving thanks for them and look for more. An example in my own life is this:  I work in retail.  Part of that is stocking shelves, shipping and receiving, and a lot of 50+ lb lifting.  There are days when I can do it with no problem.  There are days that I struggle with it but find a way to lessen the load. There are other days (like today) when I am in a fibro or RA flare, or even when one is coming on when there is no way in the world that I can do any lifting.  I could focus on these days where I am not able to work to my full capacity.  I could make this so "huge" that I let if affect my good days.  I could let it make me feel useless- but that is just not true!

 I am very capable.  On my really good days I can run circles around the 18-26 year old students who work for me.  On my average days, I can work side by side with them and hold my own.  I have told every member of my staff that I have both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibro and what it means for me.  Every single one of them understands what that means for me and what it means for them when I am having a bad day.  The bright spot is- they never, ever make me feel like I am imposing on them by asking them to do the heavy work.  Another bright spot is that when I have to ask them to do the heavy stuff- I can take over the light stuff and we can keep moving forward.  When I find myself mentally beating myself up about not being able to do something, I remember that I have help and that though I am not doing everything- I am more than capable of doing *something* to take the load off of those who are taking the load off of me.

I am not my RA or Fibro.  I am so much more.  Despite these challenges, I have a good life.  I have a wonderful family, I have a good job, I have pretty terrific insurance, I have good doctors looking after me.  I learn something every day.  I don't suffer from my illnesses- I live with them and don't let the things I can't do define me.  If you are in the mind space where you are suffering from something; be it illness, mourning a loss, a broken heart, you can look beyond those things and find the good.  You can focus on the things you CAN do rather than what you CAN'T.  If you take nothing else from this post, take this: you can change your mindset and put your challenges where they belong- as a part of you, not as all that you are.

I leave you with a quote:

"People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success." 
Norman Vincent Peale 


Remicade Dream said...

I understand what you're saying, but please remember that you are only seeing what they choose to put on their blog, Twitter account, etc. I know you said that when you read blogs, etc., you are looking for positivity, tips on living, etc. These are good things, but for some people, a blog creates a space where they are free to talk about the negative parts that they can't show the people in their lives. There's a lot of pressure out there for people with illnesses to be relentlessly positive, but being that way all the time can have negative effects too. For some, blogs and online communities are a safe space to vent so they can continue to show a brave, positive face to the rest of the world. They can be comforting, too - sometimes I really need to know that someone else is experiencing what I have.

Having said that, yes, I definitely know real-life people who wallow in their illness. I agree with you, that's not necessary. Sometimes I find myself in that wallowy place, and that's when the positive blogs really help me.

Anonymous said...

I completely understand and also agree with what "Remicade Dream" pointed out.

I think for some of us, maybe the first few years are tough. We do become our disease as we navigate this new body and new limitations we have been given. For myself, I think I am getting closer to acceptance and I know then it will be easier for me to reframe my life, less of a patient and more of participant.

Very good posts and more for me to thank about. Thank you.

Jules0705 said...

Joan and Remicade Dream- you both have good points. So much online is all cloaked in context. It's a moment in time that we are seeing and I need to keep that in mind.

Thank you both!

Joanne said...

I tend to agree with you. Although we all need to have a vent and a moan from time to time I personally find life a lot more enjoyable and the conditions I have much easier to cope with if I concentrate on what I can do, not what I can't. The 'suffering' thing is encouraged sometimes by professionals and I think it doesn't help anyone to think of themselves that way. I tend to be the otherway and have to remind myself to ask for a bit of TLC occasionally but I think I do much better for being that way! My new blog hasn't done any posts on health, my old one did a bit, but I do plan a new post on lifestyle/health tips because these days I'm healthier than many despite my arthritis!