Friday, March 3, 2006

The Zen of Chronic Illness

 Yes, you are getting a watershed of journal entries.

I don't know why, sometimes, it just happens.  :-)

That said, I have been pondering something for a while now.

Am I a better person as a result of having been afflicted with a chronic illness?

I think first you have to think about what that means.  I need to define it in my terms, at least.  In defining being 'good' and 'doing good' as a person, does scale matter?  I don't believe so.  I think that lighting just one candle in the darkness and bringing light to your immediate world is important, and sends out ripples farther than we see at first look.

My illness presents certain limits of scale.  I cannot be that person that stands on her feet all day assembling and delivering meals to the housebound, or nursing the sick, or teaching the needy.  I am not blessed to be so wealthy that I can give away money that will make an immediate and measurable impact on the world.

I do give to the needy what I can, when I can.  I give the clothing that no longer fits or is no longer wanted to organizations that get it to the homeless.  I do the same with toys and household items, rather than sell them at a garage sale.  Giving them away to those in need, is my way of giving back.

I did the same before Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus was ever on the radar of my life.

However, there are things that have changed in the smaller scope of my world.

I am definitely more aware of people around me who are struggling.  If I am out at the store, and I spot someone having a difficult time and I can help, I do.  I will help with bags, or run to get a door.  I know how hard it is for me when I am having a bad day, so I try to help others when I can.

I appreciate the little things in life so much more than I ever did before.  Sitting at home and watching a movie with the kids can be just as exciting as being at a hockey game.  I love the quiet moments and try to make them special, since often it is all I can manage to do.

And, when it is a good day, and I am able to play kickball, or basketball or go for a long walk, or whatever with my family, I savor the sweetness of those victories, much more than I would have before being diagnosed.

I think I have become a better wife, too.  I am able to let the little things go easier than before.  Men and women are just different and it is okay.  I am happy for all the help he gives to me and understand that he has his own way to do things.  It is great that he is doing things for me and the kids and the house.

My hubby has this way of still making me feel like the best wife and the sexiest woman alive.  There are so many days that I don't feel worthy of either of those titles.  If not for my mom, the house would be a wreck, and let's face it, t-shirts and pj pants aren't all that sexy, but somehow, he makes me feel good about me.

I don't know if our relationship would have grown in the ways it has if not for the RA.

I also have found the most amazing group of friends online that have Rheumatoid Arthritis and some also with Lupus.  I have been in an email loop with about 16 of them for 3 years now.  We share everything about our lives and our disease with each other.  There is a level of support and understanding that you just can't get from those who do not have disease.  It doesn't matter if they are your spouse or parent, child or best friend.  Sometimes only those in the same boat can help you row through the rough seas of a chronic illness.  I am blessed by them every day.

I also have friends that I have found online here in J-Land.  Some have this disease, or another chronic illness, most do not, but I am blessed to have them in my life as well.  We laugh together, support each other and cry together.  Our friendships are real and full.

I don't think I would have started an online journal if I didn't have RA and Lupus.  The desire to reach out and share my daily struggles and therefore, maybe help someone cope better with theirs, is what prompted me to start this journal.

So, there you have it.  I have made my case, what do you think?

I believe I am a better person for having this disease.  I believe that I am sending out many more ripples of that goodness, thanks to this diagnosis.

Does that mean I am happy about having it?  Heck, no!  It sucks!

But, I have it, so, therefore, I choose to make the very best of it.  I choose to Carpe Diem, Seize the Day.  There are worse diseases out there.  Far worse fates.

I will take up this burden and not let it bring me down, but force it to build me up and make me better.

And, I thank God for each and every day that I have the opportunity to do that.

Be well,




lrttklly said...

You have verbalized something I think I have been grasping at as I begin this year's Lenten journey.
Suffering is a common denominator in being human.
The suffering caused by chronic illness really gives us an opportunity to grow in empathy.
You can not help, but to see the world differently.
Thanks for putting your thoughts out there!

sangrialel said...

You have such an awesome attitude!  I know that is part of the reason why you are such a great person!  Lelly

jckfrstross said...

Beautifully put:)


tlgf1968 said...

didn't know you before, dawn, but am truly blessed to know you through j-land ... are you a better person?  i don't know.  but i do know that i appreciate the person that you are now :0)  ((( hugs ))) trace  (and, yes, i'm back!  can't wait to fill you in on the vaca details  lol)

lv2trnscrb said...

Even though it wasn't the path you would have chosen for your life, I do think having a chronic illness is a life growing experience. It seems like you are aware of that and are positively trying to live with it rather than have it bring you down; you are bringing yourself up as a result of the illness and living life to your fulless with what you have to work with. Good job!


thebaabee said...

My Dear Sweet Friend,
Thank you for such a poignant, well written and emotional entry this evening.  You always know how to calm my sad feelings.  I am so happy to have you as my friend.
Hugs, LuAnne

sunnyside46 said...

you are a wise woman , a brave woman ,a woman truly well in spirit


sdoscher458 said...

You are the type of person who when handed lemons made lemonade. I think you have a unflagging spirit that is admirable too...thank you for your kind thoughts about Joe, everythings fine now....Sandi

cdittric77 said...

I agree - and then I don't agree. here's what I mean:
For people with any chronic illness, addiction, mental affliction, there is something to be said for a life lived to the fullest possible extent - if that person is aware of their illness and takes steps to live their life without letting the chronic condition dictate their life.

And then, I know people who have let their condition - for some this is even their past - become their master and manipulate their lives. In this case, I don't see it as making us better people - but rather a group of people that is not yet aware.

Does that make sense?

lurkynat said...

Dearest Dawn
what a beautiful beautiful entry!I think you might expand it and publish it ! It inspires! love,nat

eml625 said...

What a great entry. Everything you've been through has made you the wonderful person you are today.
You made me smile !!


valphish said...

Wow, Dawn, what a postive entry!  You have articulated so well how I feel about my chronic illnesses and life!  Bravo!  I don't think I would have a journal either if I didn't have chronic illness and I know my illnesses make me slow down and be a better more empathetic person.  This is wonderful, Dawn.  Thanks for writing it =)! xox

wfhbear said...

Does the fact that we are chronically ill change our attitude or does our experiences while having this illness give us a more mature experienced attitude? By having the illness we generally know how being ill affects our lives. It also gives us insight in to the ways of discrimination, fear, and sympathy by others. These facts shape our opinions of others through our experiences whether we want it or not. If you are "shrugged off" by people whenever you enter a store then you will eventually think - "I might as well not go in any store because I will be ignored and refused." This can be equated to any situation you want. Those who do not have our problem don't have any idea of our problems and therefore usually exclude us. I hope this adds to your discussion positively. My Regards, Bill.

lupuswebsite said...

Before I had full blown symptoms and could no longer work, I ran a shoe store and had on Mondays the physically handicapped children from the Special  Ed school came in and helped me remove plastic from inside the new shoes.

They got paid for that and I felt wonderful these special kids you could actually see they had a physical handicap working. The impact of acomplishment these teenage children had was beyond words. I think of them often, I wonder how their lives are now.

To the general public, unless you are seen on the outside as handicap no one understands or sees "invisable illnesses" which can completly take over your life and make you home bound, or in constant pain.
You write very well and enjoyed this entry.
Wishing you well,

gdireneoe said...

LOVE this entry hon'.  Isn't it interesting? beauty comes from pain? ;)  C.

artloner said...

Well said, and a very, very positive outlook. Given the discussion in this and the next entry, I have two cents or so. I certainly try. Lord only knows, I try, and most of the time, it's all okay.  I don't wake up and think: "Damnit, I have a busted back"...or "I've got fibro and some serious depression going on"...and for that I am very grateful.  The very nature of pain and my illness dictates that I tend to medicines and stretching first thing every day. I agree that rumination isn't any good at all, and humor is how I get by. However, I do think that people who end up alone, as many of us do after catastrpohic illness wrecks families, have a very different experience that those who are fortunate to have understanding and helpful spouses.  When I visited Anne last Thanksgiving, I almost cried when she brought me a cup of coffe my first morning there.  Some days it's the little things that almost unhinge me...other times it's driving myself to the hospital, big things like that, that are my undoing.  Looking at my side of that fence, it appears that chronic illness has not made me a better person.  A hardier variety perhaps, but that's all. I do what I can for others, just as you described, but I did that anyway. I agree with [both of] your posts in that there IS life after diagnosis. Whether and how we choose to live it is up to us.

Thanks for the lively discussion.  :)