Tag Archives: depression

Living Better: Parenting Through Pain

My gal Echo has graciously agreed to open up about parenting through pain with me and you all. She usually spends her days trying to hold on to what’s left of her sanity while raising and homeschooling two kiddos.

She can be found writing about her life on her blog The Domain of the Mad Mommy

 

When you are a parent, there are daily struggles.
When you are a parent, there are daily triumphs.
When you are a parent in pain, there is daily chaos.

Parenting is a hard enough job on it’s own. So much to do, so much to learn, so many sacrifices to make, so many benefits to reap. Add some pain into the mix and it can throw everything into turmoil!

Pain comes in different forms. There is physical pain, like the pain that I am experiencing with my mouth and multiple dental surgeries.

There is also mental and emotional pain. The pain that can’t always be seen, but is always there.

The emotional and mental pain, I believe, is more easily managed. Counseling, coping skills, natural remedies, medication, therapy. It takes a while to get into the “groove” of things, but it can happen.

Some of the coping skills I use to parent through my depression are:

*Blogging – Yes, blogging. I come online, I type shit out and I piss and moan to all of the people on the Internet that will read it. Does it help? It helps me. It helps me vent. It helps me process. It helps me laugh.
*Humor – They say that laughter is the best medicine and I happen to agree. I love taking the daily chaos and turmoil in my life and turning it into something that can make myself and someone else laugh!
*Drugs – Caffeine is my number one drug of choice! I need it, I love it, I wouldn’t be able to parent without it. I was on Prozac and Ambien for depression and insomnia, but I have weaned myself off of those and seem to be doing pretty good!
*Cooking/Eating – I love to go shopping, buy fancy ingredients, cook a fancy ass meal and then rub it in my extended family’s face! Like ha, see, see what I can do. Fuck you.

I also yell, swear, take a hot shower, take naps (when I can), eat ice cream, eat Taco Bell and cry. Yes, I cry. Sometimes, you just have to cry!

Physical pain is harder to navigate. When you are in physical pain, everything is amplified x100. Your kid’s whining sounds like a thousand babies crying. The chocolate that just stained your carpet, didn’t “just” stain the carpet, it stained your very soul! You feel like you haven’t slept in days and no one, no one is going to help you!

I’m a parent…
It’s never just one LEGO!
It’s like this:

It’s like this all the time!
It fucking hurts!

Here are some of the ways that I parent through physical pain:

*Let it go – Seriously, I tend to let a lot more slide because I am in pain. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to get all worked up about the ALL of the toys being in the living-room.
*Sleep – I try to sleep when I can, where I can. Anytime, anywhere. If my kids are quiet and safe, I will sleep. Why? My body needs it to heal and I am less likely to bite someone’s head off when I am sleeping.

*Remedy – I try to remedy the pain in anyway possible! Seriously, I just want to stop hurting and when the doctors stop providing you with pain relief, you take things into your own hands!

It’s really about doing what you have to do for your kids and yourself. You have to parent through the pain because you have to be there for your kids. I know it sucks. Believe me. I deal with this shit everyday and although it sucks, royally, it is manageable. Give it time, make a plan and make sure that you have a strong support system. I’m not sure how I would cope if I didn’t have my husband supporting me and the support of the FABULOUS bloggers (my friends) that I have met online.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. Find a group. Online, offline, it doesn’t matter. Find someone you can talk to and not feel judged.

Write it down. Start a blog, write a journal. It really helps to get it out. To vent it. You don’t want to keep it bottled up.

Don’t be afraid to get help. Help for the emotional/mental pain and help for the physical pain. You do not need to deal with it alone!

Advertisements

Living Better: Life Lessons Of A Spoonie

LivingBetter

I’ve learned a lot of helpful things in life, like don’t touch the hot pot on the stove and don’t stick forks into electrical outlets. (Yes, I learned those both first hand, and no, I probably won’t share those stories. I was a kid, after all.)

Probably the greatest life lessons have been in the few years since I got sick. There’s not much like having your life turned upside down to help you see things more clearly. Certainly, I didn’t learn everything overnight or all at once. Each lesson has come through trial and error, some pain, some loss, happiness, immense effort, and all the usual emotions that accompany the big lightbulb-over-your-head moments. Because I’m kind and generous and extremely humble, I thought I would share some of these great lessons with you.

Things I’ve Learned Since I Became A Spoonie

*It is not a competition. Pain hurts, yo. And it sucks rocks to be sick. But it’s not about who has what illness and how far progressed it may be. What might be a level four on that stupid pain scale for me, is maybe a two for someone else, and yet an eight for another. It’s not about comparing your husband’s cold to what a day in the life of you is like. It’s recognizing that we all battle something, and we’re in this together, not against each other.

*Find your tribe. There will always be people who don’t understand. Always. So it’s important to make sure you have a good support system to turn to. Whether it’s friends who you’ve known since you were in diapers, or your significant other, or family, or an online community, or any combination there of, find who you can turn to on those days when it’s just really hard. Knowing ahead of time who will answer your call in the middle of the night when the pain is keeping you awake and you just can’t stop thinking is a powerful tool.

*Be gentle with yourself. I know I say this often, but it’s probably the most important lesson. And I’m still learning it, over and over again. It’s hard to reconcile our new selves with the previous picture we all had in our heads of who we would be. We often continue to hold ourselves to the old standards, even though we know they’re no longer feasible. I’m in no way saying to give up on yourself, but be kind in your criticism. Remember that it takes energy to heal, and even if the house looks like a tornado has blown through it, you got up and LIVED today, and that is an accomplishment.

*Cut out toxicity. While stress doesn’t cause our illnesses, it can trigger flare ups. When we’re already fighting so hard to live, don’t you think we should try to make it as easy as possible for ourselves? Obviously the bills and chores will always be there, but there are stressors you can cut out. Let go of, or reduce contact with anyone who isn’t supportive. Cut out social outings that always cause you tension or anxiety. And if you’re struggling seeing where you can make some positive changes, sit down with someone you trust and ask them for their honest opinion. Often they see what we’ve become blind to over the years.

*Learn to accept help. And how to ask for it. Another thing I’m still learning on the daily. But truly, our loved ones WANT to help us. And there are certainly times we can use it. So why do we let our pride get in the way? Tell that pesky pride to shut its mouth, and accept the offer from the bag boy for help loading groceries into the car. Smile and nod when a friend offers to have your kids over for a play date and take the opportunity to nap. Most importantly, learn how to express to your loved ones when you’ve hit your limit, or when you’re close to it. Learn how to communicate what you need, even if it’s as simple as someone fetching your heating pad for you so you can just lay still as you feel a flare up coming. Trust me, they WANT to help you.

*Find joy wherever you can. This may be the most important thing I’ve learned. With a life now overwhelmed with medications, symptoms, the depression that often accompanies chronic illness, doctor appointments, and pain, it’s crucial to find joy and happiness. Smile as the cool fall breeze flutters through your hair. Stop and smell the roses. Pick up a box of crayons and remember what it’s like to be a kid again. Play your music loudly and sing along, not caring who hears you. Get excited about new fuzzy slippers and cute pajamas. Facetime or video chat with loved ones far away so you can see their smiles, even if you can’t be with them. Soak up every single ounce of happiness. It will balance out all the yuck, and from my experience, that’s worth more than all of Midas’ gold.

I hope these life lessons can help you to live better. Life may have it’s obstacles, but it doesn’t have to be so damn difficult. Embrace the fact that you are still LIVING and find ways to make life work for you. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel.

Ask Away Friday Vol. 13

It’s Friday again and time for a dose of Ask Away Friday!

This week I got to swap with the lovely Jenessa from Mothering {in Real Life}

(I don’t have a spiffy graphic this week cuz I started feeling puny while finishing this post up, and needed to just let it go. Sorry Jenessa, you deserve better.)

Jenessa is a married mom of three who blogs about life, her battles with depression, and her family. She has an honest voice that cuts through the fluff and tells it like it is. She’s not putting any fake flowers on it, this is mothering- in real life. Be sure to pop on over and tell her hi and check out her answers to my questions.

Here’s what Jenessa asked me-

1. I’m glad you have started therapy to learn some coping tools for your depression. What do you find works best for you? What else have you learned from therapy?

Journalling has been a new coping tool that I find helpful. I used to think my journals had to make sense, like my blog or writing. Learning that my journals could be messy, that they were more for freeing my mind, was HUGE. Now I scribble, write, doodle, and make thought bubbles in my journal. Whatever it takes to get the swirling thoughts out of my head and onto paper.

2. I love your recent post “Just one… but so much more“. What else would you add to your list of “I am…”?

Thank you! I wrote that post as part of Invisible Illness Awareness Week, and was really happy with the response I received. I don’t know if there is anything I would add, I think it came out well the first time.

3. What advice would you give to someone living with chronic pain, depression or other “invisible” illnesses?

Be gentle with yourself.

We all have these images of who we should be, and certain expectations of ourselves. When your life gets derailed by illness, it’s hard to reconcile our images of ourselves with what is actually possible. So we berate ourselves for not living up to this picture of perfection, when in reality, we’re doing the best we can within our new perimeters. So be gentle with yourself, be kind. Recognize that you’re doing your best, even if it’s not up to the same standards you used to have.

4. Tell an embarrassing childhood story – it could be about you, your son, or your fiancé.

Oh goodness. I won’t embarrass Scotty by sharing the stories his dad has told me. When Jojo was about three, we had just moved back to my hometown and were living with my parents while we got on our feet. We were all sitting in the living room talking one night, me, my (then) husband, and my parents. Jojo was in the middle of the floor playing with blocks when suddenly the tower he was building came crashing down. Without missing a beat, he uttered “Damnit!” with the same tone of voice as I do. And of course, everyone turned to look at me.

Jojo and I had a nice talk that night about how we don’t repeat the things Mama says.

5. You were a young mother, same as I was. How has starting motherhood young changed your life? (Or motherhood in general?)

I had to grow up. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. Suddenly there was this tiny little human who relied on me for EVERYTHING. So I worked dead-end minimum wage jobs and went to the parenting classes offered by WIC and learned via trial and error. I won’t say I did everything right, but I have loved that little man since the moment I knew he existed, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.

6. Share your favorite pumpkin or apple recipe for fall.

Here’s a little secret. I don’t like pumpkin. *gasp* Scotty does though, so I make him pumpkin cookies every fall. Maybe this year I’ll try pumpkin bread instead…

7. I love that your blog is so open and honest. Is there anything you don’t feel comfortable with sharing on your blog?

I try to keep respect for Scotty’s privacy. I don’t share about our personal lives here, no bedroom talk. I also don’t go into too much detail about his life, his work. I choose to blog, he doesn’t, so it’s not fair for me to decide what he shares.

8. I personally loved planning our wedding. What do you love about wedding planning? What do you hate? Does your fiancée help with the planning?

I love all the ideas! And Pinterest is both my best friend and my worst enemy. I can easily get overwhelmed there. Scotty is a GREAT help. I run all my ideas past him and make sure he gets a say. It’s his day too, after all 🙂

9. Tell us 5 random facts about yourself that you haven’t shared here on your blog before.

* I saw the Newsboys live before they were cool…well, this time around anyway.

* I was once stuck on the side of a mountain road with Nubs overnight. It’s a great story that I’ll have to share one of these days…

* I used to smoke. I quit five years ago for the last time.

* I love panda bears. Big puffy heart love them.

* I used to have my tongue pierced.

10. Fast Ten
Favorite Color: Teal.Turquoise.Aqua. That lovely place between green and blue.
Lucky Number: 3
Time You Usually Wake Up: 7:30ish, but I don’t usually start getting up until 8:30ish
Time You Usually Go To Bed: Anytime between 10:00pm and midnight.
Favorite Season: Fall
Favorite Sport: Football!
Favorite Flower: Daisies
Favorite Song: Linkin Park’s “A Place For My Head”
Favorite Movie: It’s a tie between Top Gun and Dirty Dancing
Best Memory With Your Kid: The first time he said “Love you Mama”

Many thanks to Jenessa for the great swap. Like I said above, I started feeling yucky, so Ima lay low this weekend and hope this flare blows by. Y’all have a good one!

Six Years

Today is your birthday.

Six years ago today, you were at a BBQ, celebrating, acting as though you’d made the turn and were finally seeing the light in life again. Six years ago today, you looked happy in all the photos that were taken.

Those pictures are the last we have of you. Whatever joy you may have found in that day was later sapped away and the grip of depression retained its wicked hold on you. In a matter of weeks, DAYS, we found ourselves staring at those photos with tears streaming down our faces.

Many times over these last years, I’ve asked myself why? How could you? What was the final straw that broke your back? I’ve alternated between anger that you would leave me to find you like that and hurt that you didn’t reach out to me. I WAS IN THE VERY NEXT ROOM.

Through my own battles with depression, I know you couldn’t see far enough out of the pit to see how much we all loved you, how much we would miss you. I know if you had thought of me finding you that morning, you would never have made that fatal decision. You would never have intentionally hurt me like that.

But even knowing that, I’m still hurt. I’m still angry. And I harbor a deep, cutting hatred for HER. Depression’s lies and taunts hurt badly enough without having them repeated back to you by the one person who is supposed to love you the most. I can never forgive her for pushing you further that night.

You’ve missed a lot in these last six years. More babies have been born, we have more nieces and nephews for you to love on. My own son has grown so much! He may one day rival you for height. We’ve all moved, had relationships come together and fall apart. Our parents have bought a new home and gotten new dogs. Your dad is going to pin Chief this year. And I’m going to be married next year.

You’ve left a void, Ty, that can’t be filled. There’s a darkness in your dad’s eyes, an emptiness in my mother’s soul. Our sisters miss your camaraderie, my son misses his favorite uncle. I miss my brother, my friend.

You’d be 30 today. We’d probably have another BBQ, they were your favorite. There would be water fights maybe, definitely more photos. We’d have tons of great food, maybe you and I would swap a few new recipes. You and my fiance could talk music, Kim would make you one of her famous cakes, you and Stepf would maybe plan some kind of special thing for your dad’s pinning ceremony.

Most of all, you’d be here. And you’d be smiling.

**If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please know that help is available. 1-800-273-TALK is a 24 hour hotline. Please call. Please reach out. Suicide is NEVER the answer.

Treat Me Normal, But Don’t

I’ve found there’s a fine line between wanting people to recognize your disability and not wanting them to treat you different because of it.

Because we do need them to treat us differently.

There are accommodations to be made for those of us with a disability, whether they are dietary needs, a ramp or elevator instead of stairs, avoiding perfumes or strong smelling candles, extra time to get around, or braille and sign language. We need these things to go about our daily lives with some sense of normalcy, and yet it is the needing of these things that sets us apart from being normal.

I often find myself thinking, “I want you to realize that I’m not like you but I am.”

Which, of course, is confusing even to me. Imagine if I said that to my family.

The crux of it is that I want you to treat me just like you did before I got sick, while still remembering and recognizing that I am not that same person. I want you to still call and invite me out, but I need you to be sensitive to the fact I may have to decline. And please don’t get angry if I do have to say no. I want to still hear about your day, but please forgive me if my brain fog means I have to ask you to repeat some things.

Most importantly?

I know that you hurt. I know that if you stub your toe, it stings like a mother-you-know-what. It’s okay to tell me you hurt. You don’t have to hold it back because it’s not on the same level as my chronic pain. Yes, I have learned how to live with a certain level of pain, but trust me- it still hurts like a mother-you-know-what when I stub my toe, too. The same goes for emotions. Don’t hold back from venting to me because you know I battle depression. Yes, you being sad about the ending of a movie or book isn’t the same as the crippling sadness that hits me, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. And sometimes it’s really healthy for me to hear that the rest of the world has feelings, too.

As hard as it is for us to adjust to these new lives with chronic illness, we often forget that our friends and family are struggling to adjust to the new us. Even after two years of battling, my fiance still has moments where he hesitates in how to treat me, and he spends every single day with me and my illnesses. My mother swivels between fretting that I’m in the hospital because I didn’t answer her calls one day, to steadfastly arguing that all of my health problems will be solved if I had weight loss surgery. I have friends who don’t understand why some days I use my cane and others I don’t, and that it isn’t always based on my pain levels…

I guess the bottom line is that there will always be some level of misunderstanding when it comes to chronic illness and disabilities. If we have such a hard time understanding our own bodies, how can we expect those around us to do any better?

 

Fighting the Sinkhole

It’s like mental illness is this sinkhole.

You stand at the edge, and it’s just that pesky bastard Depression. But then your foot starts to slide, and Anxiety is pulling at your legs, dragging you into the mud. The compulsions and obsessions are clawing at your arms, your shoulders, drawing you in further until you’re overwhelmed and drowning.

That’s where I have been.

At first I was just at the edge, but I’d been there before, I knew what was coming. Even as the mud pulled at me, I fought to pull myself back up. I took my medication. I threw out a life line and called to find a therapist. And when the obsessions and compulsions became too much to bear, I found things I could focus on constructively.

Yesterday, with anxiety swirling around my head, I found a project and focused all my energy there.

For awhile now, I’ve been wanting some sort of day planner. Yes, I have a spiffy smartphone to keep track of my appointments and it works wonderfully. However, if I’m ON said phone trying to schedule another appointment, I need to see my week/month laid out in front of me so that I don’t double book myself.  My memory isn’t what it used to be.

My fiance happened to have an old planner lying around that he happily passed along to me. I set up the laptop and searched for printables to help me organize my life. I found PrintablePlanners.net where I was able to download and print blank planner pages specifically designed for the model I had. While my printer spewed out page after page, I dug out my scrapbook paper and crafting tools. I cut, glued, and hole-punched for the better part of the day.

dayplanner

 

The finished product might have taken me all day, but it was the most calming thing I’ve done all week. Not only was I able to focus all my anxiety, I now have a functional way to organize all of my appointments, my medications, and remember those pesky birthdays that keep sneaking up on me.

I also laminated printed copies of my medications, my allergies, doctor’s info, and emergency contacts to place in the front of the planner. Now I’m prepared for any sort of emergency or brain fog.

Depression and anxiety are still pulling at me, but I’ve got my arms wrapped around a nearby tree. I see my new therapist this Friday and I have hopes that she’ll be able to help me free my feet from the mud.

#DayOfLight -It’s A Real Struggle

Today I’m joining up with my gal Andrea and other awesome bloggers for #DayOfLight

Depression is a very real thing, yo.

And for those of us battling chronic illness, it’s almost a required buddy. On nearly every message board, forum, and website for chronic illness there are studies quoted showing how we are at a higher risk for depression.

I battled depression well before my diagnosis. As a young divorcee, I was overwhelmed and hit a point so low, I attempted to take my own life. Fortunately, I failed. I confided in family members and I got help. I’m one of the lucky ones. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle.

Many of you know that we lost my oldest step-brother to suicide almost six years ago. Losing him, I made a renewed promise to myself and to my loved ones- I would continue to seek mental health support and I would never make another attempt on my life. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle.

Because depression doesn’t just go away.

It’s a daily choice to take care of myself, not just physically, but mentally.  Some days are easy, some days are hard. Some days I just want to hide in my bed and forget the world exists.

Because depression isn’t just going to disappear, I work with my doctors to stay on top of my care. Yes, I take medication. I know that’s not the answer for everyone, but it’s what works for me. I also do yoga. It took a long time to find what works for me, and on any given day, what I need can differ. The important thing is that you are aware of how you’re feeling and you take that time for yourself, whatever it is.

And REACH OUT.

Talk to your doctor. Or your family. Or your best friend. Talk to me. I’m not a doctor and I don’t pretend to be a medical professional, but I can listen. I can hold your hand (even virtually) while you take the steps needed to get help.

You are not weak. It is not giving up or giving in.

You are not alone.

Month of Positivity- My Truth

MOPBlog

 

I haven’t been honest with you, my dear readers.

I started this month with such high hopes for myself. I naively thought that just by blogging about the things in my life that bring me light, I would be able to stave off the darkness. If I told you all the people for which I’m grateful, I would be reminded of how great my life is in spite of all the pain. If I had this blog to hold me accountable for practicing self-care, I would be better about being kinder to myself.

I should have known that Depression doesn’t work that way. This isn’t a new battle for me, after all.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for all of the people and things in my life that I’ve told you about, and many more. Logically, I know that my life could be much worse, it has been much worse.

But Depression doesn’t rely on logic.

Depression feeds on all of your deepest insecurities and forces you to face all the ugliness.

So while I’ve been telling you how thankful I am to have awesome people in my life, how I’m grateful for all the pieces of my life that are bright, I’ve been hiding my darkness. I’ve hidden that each day while I write about my happiness, tears are streaming down my face. While I tell you how much I love my son, my fiance, my friends, I’m wondering how they can love me back. While I am thankful for all the good, I’m praying the bad will just go away…even while knowing I probably deserve the pain and hurt.

It took a seemingly benign text from Cindy Lou last night to bring down the veil I’d been hiding behind. I spent last night in tears on my couch, demanding to understand how my fiance can still love me. Insisting that he deserves someone much better than me. Someone less crazy, less of a burden.

All the hurt and anguish I’ve been battling all month long came spilling out last night. I cried until I was a snotty mess (I’m so not the glamorous one), until I was worn out from trying to explain the thoughts that were engulfing me. My fiance hugged me, assured me he didn’t think I was bat-shit bonkers, and promised he still loved me.

I’m telling you all of this because I promised one thing when I began writing again. I promised I would be honest. Because if you can’t be honest in your writing, what kind of person does that make you? I didn’t want to find out.

If I can share my battles with chronic pain, I should also be sharing about the struggles that make me want to pull the covers around me tight and bury myself in my bed. Because I know I’m not alone. And if the people I love and admire can be open about their fights against the darkness, I can too. Because it’s not right to portray my battles as anything else than they are.

I’m sorry if you came here today for something light, something that would make you smile. I just didn’t have it in me. I’m sorry if you feel cheated out of positivy, trust me when I tell you I often feel the same. I can’t promise you that tomorrow I will once again be light and smiles, in fact, I think I won’t be. Yes, I will share something for which I am grateful, but I will also share with honesty.

Today I’m grateful that there are people who love me even when I can’t love myself. Those people give me hope even when I’m bawling my eyes out and insisting that I’m undeserving of their love. Those people are my heroes.

Month of Positivity- Day 7

MOPBlog

 

November 7, 2013

I’m thankful for Joules.

I met Joules when we both were With The Band. We didn’t work on the same teams, though, so I didn’t really get to know her until I met her in person.

In fact, I met Joules for the first time at a late 30th birthday present to myself last year. The Bloggess was in Portland, and thanks to urging from Joules and Shevaun, I went to meet them and see an icon.

Joules, Shevaun, and I had dinner before the reading/book signing. It was the first time I had met either woman, though they had hung out many times before. Amazingly I didn’t feel like a third wheel. We all chatted like we had known each other for years. We laughed over pasta and smiled excitedly while we waited for Jenny to come to the podium. I knew instantly that these two women would always be special to my life.

Joules is funny and dynamic. She’s crazy smart but never talks down to you. She’s fierce and far stronger than she gives herself credit for being. She loves deep. She’d give you the shirt off her back if she thought it would help you. She can cook up some yummy treats and craft better than Martha. She makes me want to be a better person. She cares about our world and where it’s headed. She’s raising one of the coolest lil men I’ve ever seen.

I’m thankful that Joules has pledged to join me this month in looking for the light in our days. The holidays can be rough for some of us and Depression makes things harder, but Joules isn’t letting anything keep her down. Her comments each day make me smile, her posts make me happy in the pants. Because she is posting. She is finding the light in her days no matter how hard the darkness wants to hang around. She is fighting. And she will win.

I’m hoping to get to see Joules soon so I can give her a great big hug and some baked goodies. Maybe we’ll spend a day crafting and chatting. Maybe we’ll do something crazy. Whatever it is, I know it will be awesome.

Because Joules is awesome.

I’m still resting up and fighting through this flare. I’m hoping to sneak in a long, hot, bubble bath this weekend. And comfort food. I’ve been craving warm, soothing meals to match the stormy weather.

What are you doing to stay cozy this fall? Are you finding the happiness in life’s little moments? Don’t forget to comment so we can share the light!

Staying Positive With Chronic Illness

A common question I’ve received from my new readers is: How do I stay so positive?

Truthfully, each day is a new day. Some days are harder than others.

Just like the different diseases that ravage our bodies and/or minds, there are ebbs and flows. When I was first diagnosed in early 2012, I fell into a dark depression for a number of months. It was hard to see how I would ever learn to live with a disease that was going to eventually take everything from me.

How did I find my way out of that dark spot?

I found fellow spoonies online. I found people who were like me who showed me how to smile in the face of my disease. I found friends.

The truth of the matter is we can’t do this alone. Because some days are HARD and I need to know I can call on someone who will remind me that there is hope. Because one day I will be that ray of hope for someone else.

Once I found that support system, I was able to research my disease and start taking matters into my own hands. Getting informed so I could make the best decisions for my health gave me some of the power back. I couldn’t change the fact I had RA, but I could do something about how it would impact my life.

I’ll be honest, there were still some dark days. I still have days where I wake up and am angry at the life I have lost. I’m angry that I have to take a handful of medication just to be able to function at a fraction of the person I used to be. Those days will come. On those days, I try to remember to be kind to myself. I seek out a friend who will understand where I’m at and will help me make it to the next day.

Most days I wake up and embrace my new life. I may not be able to work but I have the ability to volunteer my time and services to help others like me. I may be hurting but I have the freedom to take a nap or rest as needed. Being limited in my abilities has inspired new hobbies for me. I can finally read all those books that have been on my list for years. Being home all day, I can cook nice dinners for my fiance. I have the freedom to write, which has always been a passion of mine.

I know it’s not easy, this life we lead. I know there are times it’s hard to find happiness in the midst of the pain. And it’s okay to have some down days. The important thing is that you try again the next day. And remember that you are never alone. We are here, and we’re fighting with you.