Friday, October 4, 2019

Adjusting Your Expectations

#RDBlog Week 2019

Expectations. We all have them. We have hopes and dreams, as well as plans for turning them into reality. But what happens when you get hit with a chronic, incurable illness like rheumatoid disease? It is so easy to feel shattered, as if all your hopes and dreams have flown right out the window.

Five years ago, I went to my dermatologist to find a treatment for rosacea and ended up with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Boy, did I not see that coming! Well, okay, the truth is that I absolutely saw it coming...for at least six months before I got the results of my blood work. My hands hurt every night and I hobbled across the floor each morning, struggling with each painful step. I knew something was not right, but I definitely did not want to hear those two dreaded initials: RA.

My life, five years into having RA, is definitely different than it was before. It's better.

I cried when I got the news. And when I read the material the doctor handed me about treatments and the long-term ramifications of RA, I cried even more. What about the plans I had for my life? What about the hopes and dreams I shared with my husband of just four months? I thought that life as I knew it was over. And you know what? It was. My life today is not what it was then. It's better.

If you didn't catch what I just said, listen up, because it's the truth: My life, five years after my rheumatoid disease diagnosis, is better than it was. Is it perfect and pain-free? No, it is not. Am I in remission? Nope.

The simple difference between then and now is that I have adjusted my expectations.

Prior to developing RA, I was working on obtaining and maintaining a "beach body." I was working out hard and dieting to get down to my ideal body. It was hard, but I was doing it. What I couldn't figure out, however, was why I was so very, very tired every day and it was getting worse. Little did I know that the fatigue of RA was beginning to set in. I felt like a wuss. I was stressed out trying to get my body to measure up to what I thought I should be capable of. And when I couldn't keep up the pace and the weight began to creep back on, I felt like a failure.

Today, I weigh 30 pounds more than I did when I achieved my "ideal" weight. Do I love that? No, of course I don't! Here's the deal, though. I have learned over the past five years that my identity is not tied to a number. It is not tied to the weight on the scale or the size of my clothes. I am ME and I have come to know myself in a deeper way since having RA and I have come to like myself for who I am. That is a gift that I would not have if it were not for living with my disease.

It would not be fair to skip over the struggles to get here, and to talk about the other expectations I have had to adjust. With regards to my diet and exercise program, I have learned there are things I can and can't do with RA, and there are things I can and can't control.

I CAN overcome my tendency to be a couch potato in order to be healthier. I can get up and walk around my neighborhood or the mall, and I can take the stairs instead of the elevator. I can limit myself to a 65-calorie mini chocolate bar as an evening treat and skip the dessert tray or a full-size package of candy. Those are things I can control...and they can make a difference. I could not do much aerobic activity after shoulder surgery, however, and being couch-bound for even just six weeks packed on some pounds. So did taking Prednisone. Even my migraine medication had weight gain as a side effect. And those "beach body" workouts I used to do? All those do now is to put me in a flare that will set me back even more. Can I still kayak, hike, and exercise? You bet. But "easy does it" has become my mantra. Look back in my blog and you'll see I even hiked the Grand Canyon a couple of years ago! I just knew to adjust my expectations and to not push myself beyond my limits.

I can't control everything RA does to my body, and so I have found my best way to deal with it is to accept the best version of myself, whatever that looks like.

Accepting what you can and cannot control is part of life. Even if I didn't have RA, I can't control everything and everyone around me. My daughter is a teenager now. Need I say more? Perhaps that's why the oldest saying in the book is this: "Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!" None of us can say for certain what our lives will look like in five, ten or twenty years ... or heck, even next week! So for me, I have found the best way to live is one day at a time.

As far as my body goes, I am not where I used to be, before I got hit with RA. But I am nowhere near where I feared I might be, either. My medications have been effective, with few side effects, and I am still mobile. If I ever am disabled by RA, though, I will be prepared. I think about accessibility in our current home and the one we eventually plan to build. I occasionally think about learning voice recognition software, in case my hands begin to give me more trouble.

I have learned to listen to my body so I don't end up in a flare. And those naps I used to feel like a "wuss" if I took? Today, I know that when my body says it's time to rest, I make no apologies. With RA, self care is of utmost importance, including the need to say "no" to doing too much.

Adjusting expectations isn't just an RA thing. It's a life skill. We all change, from the day we are born until the day we die. The way to deal with it is through acceptance. How do I accept the changes I don't like? That is where I have to reach beyond the physical to the spiritual for answers. My faith is what helps me navigate the roller coaster of life with RA. You see, this is what God tells me:

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

When I keep those words in mind, it is easier to adjust my day-to-day expectations. Because in the big picture, my expectation is that everything will work out just fine.

Peace, love and joy to you today.


Adjusting Your Expectations originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on Facebook.