Now, I’m not a religious man by any means, but after sixteen years of negotiating the rocky path of RA I am convinced that we, the people with awful diseases, are touched by God.

This path… this is no ordinary path. This is a life meander we never planned and we didn’t deserve, but it’s a journey that shows us, no-shit-Sherlock, the stuff of which we are made. In the darkest, most forbidding moments we are shown the way to access our deepest resilience with no option of an out, no half-time buzzer, no quarter given. There is no tapping out, or ‘hollering uncle’. No rules, and no mercy. Simply you and your body in an organism’s most avoided place, for as long as you can imagine, and then way beyond that.

When pain and depression are the walls, floor and ceiling of our world, we get to the nitty-gritty of what it is to be alive in a way that most humans will never know. This stripped down place has no distractions or boredom, no artifice or falsity. It is lean and pared down and pure in its own way. Some ascetic traditions practice for life to attain the place that is thrust upon us, that has become our lair. In this way it can be a blessed place, as nasty as it may seem.

We get to grapple with the question of: “When life is stripped of joy and quality, what is it inside me that yearns yet to live?” an inquiry of depth and profundity not for the average person.

In order to avoid persistent pain, our consciousness can take some diversions it would never otherwise take leading us to altered states of awareness. These hard won mindscapes, diversions that I choose to call hallowed and empower with all the magic I can, honor my struggle and have it mean something, and in turn it encourages my mind to turn to the place of diminished pain.

We surmount invisible difficulties in the strange obstacle course of everyday life, door knobs and jar lids transform from utile objects into tactical mission objectives, and the personal calculus of energy transformed into goals can get fine and not a little bitter at times.

We, the Puffy People, are working muscles of patience, tenacity and endurance that Navy Seals have yet to conceive of. We surrender and make compromises daily in a way that is beyond military capacity to consider or sustain.

We, the Battalions of Itis, are proven warriors from the toughest battleground. Veterans of countless campaigns, ambushed by nerve endings, harassed by insomnia, surrounded by hostile territory, we get no medals or ribbons for our endless fight. Just a long slog to find respect and adequate care.

Military personnel are actually very well taken care of, with world class medical and psychological resources at their fingertips, rotated out of action when they become fatigued and compromised. You, my friend, should be so lucky.. How many of us struggle with only rudimentary care and minimal resources in the non-stop fight for our lives, no relief in sight?

This, the advanced course of life, is not for the faint of heart.
You are a warrior and a monk.
You are a trooper and a stoic.
You are a monument to bearing suffering, and I salute you.

Believer or not, you walk close with God. A-Ho!