Wait a sec, hold the phone, put the ponies back in the corral…


 You’ve now had time to digest the information. Actually, you may be more confused and frightened than ever because you may feel as if an information “bomb” has knocked you out of the realm in which you were sure of how things worked. Now nothing makes sense. How could I develop this type of disease? I am far too young. The doc said there was no cure but “we” had plenty of treatment options to try. He said it like it was a good thing but now fear of the known replaces fear of the unknown. You thought a diagnosis would make you feel better and on some level it does but the more you learn the more frightened and disheartened you become. Your friends and family act as if it is nothing serious and you may find yourself beginning to resent their reaction because you are in pain and it is not going away. This isn’t some minor problem, you are going to have this the rest of your life. What was the term the doctor used…progressive? That means…this is going to get worse, much worse but it is not going to kill me? Your mind begins to race again as you try to process this overload and subsequent realizations. What are you going to do? How are you going to work? What kind of future do you have? What is my future going to look like?

            As your good days and bad days hit at seemingly random times, you begin to take note of what circumstances surround each type of day. You quickly find that the weather plays a huge role in your pain. The higher the barometric pressure coupled with the rapidity of the change will dictate whether it will be a day of dread or of your new level of “normalcy”. No one understands that your lifestyle must change. Heck, you are having great difficulty understanding the changes you must make. This is not an easy transition and you will fight it every step of the way. You start off by lying to yourself and ignoring the symptoms until they knock you on your butt because they will not be ignored. You refuse to ride in a scooter type vehicle because those are for “disabled” people and you are NOT disabled…are you? My God, what if you cannot work…will you become a “burden” on society? How will you pay your bills? What kind of insurance do you have?  You are nowhere near retirement age so what are you going to do, how are you going to live? If you have children it becomes more complicated especially if you are the bread winner.

            Depending on how you react to major life stress will dictate the order in which you arrive at the various coping mechanisms. I have found that people who have developed arthritis during childhood have stronger and more effective coping mechanisms in regards to their disease and life in general. People who develop disease onset after a relatively long period of normal activity, say in their 30-40’s, have a much more difficult time accepting and coping with the disease. You see, folks who were essentially born with the disease have never known a day without pain and/or limitation in some fashion. People who have lived their lives with no real incidents of serious health issues experience mourning when they are hit with this type of life altering disease. Likewise, folks who develop arthritis in middle age experience a very active voracious level of the disease. It’s almost as if the disease were making up for lost time. This type of disease is devastating on every level. You will question your faith, your relationships, and your own sanity at times. Nothing is “normal” any longer. Life, as you know it, is over and the journey begins to rebuild your future. There are six stages of grief and you will revisit them time and again throughout the progression of the disease because your mind and soul need answers and when it is faced with the impossible it has to try to make sense of everything. Very soon you will come to a horrific realization. That day in the doctor’s office when you felt relief when told that your ailment was not terminal was borne out of ignorance, for now you realize what he was telling you. People with chronic deteriorating diseases are given a life sentence of torture, ridicule, condemnation, self-defamation, depression, pain, deformity, a constant fight for treatment depending on their socioeconomic level in society and no possibility of release. So what are you supposed to do…give up, give in, and accept societal labels and live down to their stereotypes? No…Hell No!

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