I spend a lot of time talking about the bad parts of arthritis. Part of that is because I feel most comfortable venting those frustrations with other sufferers who can relate. It makes me feel less alone. (I hope it does that for you, too.)
But during this season of thankfulness, I’d to take a moment to share the positive outcomes of arthritis. Yes, you read that correctly. There are things that arthritis has brought to my life that I’m downright thankful for. It’s going to be corny, but sincere. So prepare yourself for a saccharin induced toothache. Here are the things arthritis has given me:
Compassion and Sensitivity
I’ve always thought I had a gift for empathy. I’ve tried to be a good person in my life, to help others, and to understand other people’s positions and struggles. Despite the fact that my health struggles started when I was 17, I can honestly say now that I had no idea what others go through. There are some things in life that I believe no matter how hard you try, you just can’t understand. Arthritis has expanded my ability to understand the struggles of others. To empathize. And even more importantly, to understand that I CAN’T understand some things. My mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis several years ago. And I tried to understand. But now that I have psoriatic arthritis, I know that I didn’t even begin to grasp what she was going through. It’s made me realize that there are still things in life that I won’t understand unless I experience it. Because of that, I have found an expanded sense of compassion for others.
For all of these years I thought my health was unfortunate. I was dealing with one thing after another. But now I realize how minor those health concerns really were. I had no idea how really luck I was all those years. As a result, I’m also grateful that things aren’t worse. It a simple and beautiful thing.
When you’re young, it’s hard to keep your priorities straight. The combination of peer pressure and media can create almost a brainwashing affect. Even though you’re a rational human being, all of the sudden you want everything the media is telling you is appropriate for you. I will admit it’s happened to me before.
Now, I feel like my priorities are more in line with what really matters to me. I used to feel pressure to make more money, have a job that would impress people, have possessions that would say, “I’m someone that matters.” I’m not saying these desires are wrong. If this is what matters to you, then that’s your truth and more power to you. My truth is that I just want to be healthy and happy. None of those things really matter to me anymore. The way I prioritize my life now reflects that.
It’s hard to characterize this, because I’m a worrier by nature. I ALWAYS have been. It’s not that I don’t worry now, but I worry differently. I find it easier to let go of the little things. And when you’re diagnosed with a chronic, degenerative disease… it tends to change your perspective on size. For example, I have always worried about money in a super huge way. No matter what my financial situation has been. When Hurricane Matthew was on its way to North Carolina I was going back and forth on whether I was going to evacuate. In the end I chose to go for a few days. And of course, that meant spending money that I had not planned to spend on a hotel. Ouch. I normally would have worried about that one so much that I probably would have stayed. And you know what, maybe I would have been fine if I had stayed. But maybe I wouldn’t have. A hotel bill is certainly worth some piece of mind. It’s a SMALL price to pay. That change in perspective has been a huge help.
During this Thanksgiving week I hope all of you suffering from arthritis have minimal pain, lots of yummy food and the time to take a moment to acknowledge the positive things arthritis has brought to your life.