Let me introduce you to the me you can never meet: The Me Before Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you have RA
, you spend lots of time adjusting to change
. For me, the biggest adjustment has been to the disability.
First, there is frustration that I cannot do what I still want to do.
But the “old me” is still around – she lives on in my mind. However, she no longer matches the “physical me”.
The second frustration is that no one else can know the mental me because the physical me cannot perform the actions which the mental me still wants to do. A great deal of effort has been spent grieving what I can no longer do, accepting a new norm, and finding new ways to express that old me who did not die. When I meet someone new or fill out a bio, I hate to be asked what I like to do. I CAN’T do what I like to do anymore! So, I act like a grown-up and focus on things more important than whether I can quilt or play tennis.
For this reason, I have been consciously learning more mature ways to define myself. While the Rheumatoid Arthritis will not allow me to express it in the same ways that I once did, I am still… creative, ambitious, independent, generous, and strong. I am still the kind of person who wants to get big things done!
It has only been three and a half years since my Rheumatoid Arthritis became what I always call “full blown,” so I know I am still adjusting. Perhaps that is why I still get ticked off when people see me as lazy or wimpy. I wish I could show them that, before all this happened to me, I could have done what they are doing, too – at least as good as they do it. That is ironic since I spent so much effort moving forward.
If it’s okay, I would like to look back over my shoulder one more time. Just long enough to let me introduce you to the me you cannot see:
The Me in the Scrapbook
The old me is still in the scrapbook…
Nothing is too hard. If I can’t buy it, I will make it. I sew my own curtains, slipcovers, and clothes for my little ones. If I can’t buy it, I will make it.I have refinished dozens of pieces of furniture. I make Christmas presents. I am fit. I love to run and swim for hours. I do not ask for help. My dad was a United States Marine; sit-ups and push ups are recreation!
Once, I bought a home with a 2 foot ditch dug out all the way around it. I convinced nearby road workers to dump a whole front loader of dirt in my front yard. I spent weeks with a wheel barrow and a rake grading the entire property. Then, I landscaped it properly so that it was the envy of the neighbors. I used to trim my trees, clean my gutters, and plant my vegetables. I
kept my front entrance like a House Beautiful magazine cover.
I bought 22 fifty pound bags of concrete, mixed them with water in my wheel barrow and put two coats of stucco on the outside of that house, too. Of course, I painted the whole thing inside and out. I even painted the playhouse to match. Inside the playhouse, I created sky on the ceiling, and flowery dunes on the walls.
I make my soup from scratch. I bring meals to the sick. I have hosted many dinner parties and receptions in my home and in large church halls. I used to make all of the food and decorations myself. I can endure pain. I am a pretty tough cookie. I survived encephalitis without medicine. I had five babies at home with no pain medicine. I have homeschooled my kids. Two of them have a disability. Really, this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Whew! That was a whirlwind tour down memory lane. I hope that did not exhaust you, too.
I have had to say good bye to the old me. As if that were not hard enough, someone told me last week that I just need to be willing to put forth some effort. People only say that because they are judging me by what they see on the outside. They don’t know the other me, the one who still lives on in my mind. I guess I could show them my scrapbook. (NOTE: I will post the photos on the Facebook
page, so you can see them enlarged, with notes.)
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