I recently heard someone say Thrive Not Just Survive in regards to a child. I got to thinking about this and realized that most days I survive but I am not thriving, as I should be. When I was healthy, I did not appreciate my health. I can’t remember the last time that I slept all night (without a sleep aid) or woke up without any pain or went through a full day without some type of RA symptom. We all know that chronic pain can affect us physically. It can also affect our mental health, our happiness, our productivity, our relationships and so much more. So, how does one thrive and not just survive when they have Rheumatoid Arthritis? Is it possible?
For me, it is appreciating those moments that I have almost every day where I feel almost normal. I have energy. Those moments may not last long, but appreciating them and embracing them is a start.
I think having a healthy and honest dialogue with your doctor is important. I am a poor historian of my health and I am not in tune with my body. I have difficulty explaining things to my doctor. That is why I keep a health diary so that when I see my RA doctor, I can go through what has been happening since the last visit. By doing this, my doctor can better understand and treat my RA.
I find that using those moments when I feel good to prepare for those times when I don’t feel good helps. Cooking dinner is a good example of this. I have things in my freezer or cupboard that can be easily prepared on those nights when I lack the energy to make dinner. I prepare twice the amount that I need and freeze half. I found this great book on Amazon that has recipes for making freezer meals.
Seriously Good Freezer Meals: 150 Easy Recipes to Save Your Time, Money and Sanity
I have several sets of bedding so that I can change them out without having to wash them right away if I don’t have the energy to do so. I try to clean a room every couple of days to spread out the work.
That leads me to the next suggestion. I am one of those people who wants to finish a project now. I don’t want to wait. I stress if it is not completed. I go and go until I cause myself to have a flare up. I pay the consequence for this. Learning to pace yourself and listen to your body is important. Does it really matter if your bathroom wall is half-painted for a week? Does it really matter if the laundry is not done? When it comes to your health, the answer is “NO!” This is a difficult thing for me to embrace but if I am going to find ways to thrive and not just survive it is something that I am going to have to do.
As I was saying above, I am not in tune with my body. It is important for us to pay attention to our body and slow down or modify what it is that we are doing if our body is screaming out to “stop.” One of my issues with stopping or caving into my pain is that I feel guilty if I don’t complete what it is that I am doing. Again, if I want to thrive I need to listen to what my body is trying to tell me and take action as necessary. Don’t you wish that we all came with user manuals? (My husband often jokes that he wished he would have gotten the extended warranty on me.) If I came with the warranty and user manual, we could flip to the frequently asked questions page to find out how to fix what is wrong. Instead, we are left with listening to our bodies which are trying to tell us what is wrong; it just doesn’t tell us how to fix it.
I read on the internet where someone said that thriving when dealing with chronic pain is a Pollyanna way of thinking. I get it. Chronic pain means that we are rarely pain-free. It means that every day is a constant struggle for us. However, does this mean that we have to just survive and not thrive? I don’t think so. I think there are things we can do to accomplish this goal, the goal to thrive. Starting with those things above are just that, a start. I also think that trying different things is beneficial. Have a dialogue with your doctor before starting new things but try different things. What about getting mental health counseling? How about yoga? How about a new diet? How about a new hobby? I drink a weird drink called Bird’s Nest in Rock Sugar. It is supposed to help with inflammation. I also eat Kimchi to help with my digestion. Are these cures? No! They are things that help me thrive. They are things that help me take control of my disease and to not let the disease control me. (I feel a new topic for my blog coming on…)
***May you too find ways to Thrive and not just Survive.***