Posted 12/16/2021 8:45 AM (GMT -6)
Hi Sundance 123. I know what you are going through. Similar age - I’m 59. In 2005 - when it hit me, I was was teaching, coaching, and going to the gym 1-2 times a day. My life was full of activity, children, co-workers, goals, progress, movement, and the fullness that all of that involvement brings. In the next several years, without a diagnosis as RA wasn’t showing in my blood work (seronegative RA from what I understand), I ended up with several surgeries. Achilles rupture and repair, shoulder rebuild, several arthroscopic knee surgeries on my knee which led to a partial replacement, and a bunion and bunionette surgery. In addition, my right pinky, left wrist and elbow would scream with pain and swelling. From 2005-2011, nobody understood. I was blamed for being me (too busy, working out too much, letting stress of a divorce and the toll it took on my relationship with my daughters, and expecting too much of myself). I was finally diagnosed in 2011 after 6 years of damage, confusion, and misinformation.
I pushed hard to maintain life as I had been living it, but was finally forced to go on disability mid teaching year in 2015. The fatigue was just too much. I have grieved, and still am grieving over the loss of “who I was”. It hurts. It hurts so badly. It is so confusing and lonely. People don’t ask to do things with me. I can’t do the hikes that I want to go on, I can’t coach the kids on the volleyball court, or hold the babies in the church nursery. I forget and/or cancel plans for dinner with friends because I can’t keep it all straight in my head. I feel like I disappoint my husband on every turn as I can’t keep up. It hurts to go to bed and rest and it hurts to sit in a chair and rest - and yet I can’t move well.
This is enough to take a person down. Down to where we don’t even want to try anymore. I know I have been there and still go there sometimes. AND YET, I have had to look at myself to say….is this where you want to stay or do you want to re-build. Re-build something new from the strengths that have nothing to do with my joints, my physical body’s ability to perform. The thought of rebuilding something new is daunting. Scary as hell. AND YET, I think to myself - I have two options - continue to long for who I was OR to find the internal me that was possibly overshadowed by my “doing” with my physical body. I am BEGINNING to see that the strengths, abilities, and gifts I still have are actually quite amazing. I am BEGINNING to see that my contributions in this life to others and myself don’t have to have anything to do with the “meat bag” portion of who I am. I am BEGINNING to shift my thinking from what I have lost to who I can become and it is helping. Do I have bad days? Yep. In fact, I had neck surgery in March and another knee surgery a week ago. As I write this, I hurt all over. But that’s the “meat bag” part of myself. The part that can’t deteriorate unless I let it, is my mind and my heart. It is an everyday decision, but I am choosing to look past and through the pain and fatigue, rest the “meat bag” and treat it with love while being excited about focusing on my discovery of who I am on the inside. It is really helping my “hope” and “joy” factor.
I pray the best for you in your journey, Sundance, and hope you can find new ways to discover who you are that are a great work around for who you “used to be”.