You look at yourself in the mirror, you may smile or you may break down and cry. You smile because you may want to see yourself as you’ve always been but you may shed tears because you know that you’re no longer that person anymore and never will be again when it comes to doing all that you once could before Rheumatoid Arthritis came into your life. That person staring back is not the person who you once were but a silhouette of that person so you find yourself grieving for the “YOU” that’s lost to a disease that haunts you and those in your life in a way that you were never in a million years prepared for. You hug yourself in an effort to reassure yourself that everything is going to be okay but in reality you know that your life is in for a tough go and it has been forever changed and will never be okay the way it use to be. How quickly did this disease snatch your old life away and set in motion grief and guilt that weighs on you because you can’t live life the way you once could and the way you want too. Where have I gone?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a catalyst for our grieving, our pain and the changes made in our lives. It leaves you feeling you have lost yourself and your identity as being the strong independent person who stood boldly and did whatever had to be done in whatever situation. There was never a stride broken when life challenges came your way. You took them on, fought, sometimes won and sometimes lost but the fight was one of strength and ability. Since RA, you’ve watched your fight become about something totally different. You see so much that was easy has become hard if not impossible. Many things slipped away right before your eyes leaving you in dismay. You long to step up and take control but your body can’t do what your mind demands of you. You try hard not to give in to your body’s weaknesses but the choice is not yours. Again, you’re wishing you could do what once was easy, the things that you never knew would be taken away without warning. Missing the old you and losing your abilities is making your guilt harder and harder to bear. You’re wondering why are you the only one who knows and understand this.
Your abilities fade, not just for you but also for those in your life. You’re not only grieving and hurting for you but more for those you feel you’re letting down. It’s not easy to say “I just can’t do that or I just can’t today” without feeling the pain of letting others down or feeling like a failure even though you know it’s not your fault that you “just can’t”. Finding ourselves in the mist of losing ourselves is a difficult task as we struggle with the guilt that slowly creeps into our minds never letting us forget that a big part of our lives is forever gone. To sit and think of the many things we can no longer do is very difficult because it means facing what we’ve truly lost. To many not being able to do what most would take for granted is hard to understand if they haven’t lost those abilities. Something as easy as getting on the floor to play with your child if you have one can be impossible, cooking takes away every ounce of strength we have before we’re half way done, laundry is like loading and unloading a truck and a very simple thing like brushing your hair or teeth can bring tears to your eyes. So you see, we grieve for that person who didn’t have to feel this way, the person who took on their day without a thought of how much is this going to hurt me today. That is the loss person we are missing.
Grieving: sadden, upset, distress, hurt for a loss. Where have we gone! Yet here we stand behind the disease Rheumatoid Arthritis. It has taken our families, friends, jobs, spirit, pride and so much of us. We are judged, ridiculed, silenced, blamed, shamed and misunderstood all while we are overwhelmed by guilt. Still we are sick, tired, over-medicated, in pain, overwhelmed, worn out, unsupported and still misunderstood while trying our best to be just half of the person we were and be able to do half of what we once could. You see looking at ourselves each day and seeing how Rheumatoid Arthritis has changed us is a difficult reality but it is a reality that we have to accept none the less. It is our painful reality.
With our disease come others in our struggles. Some stay and some fade along the way while some truly understand others have no patience for it at all. So you see the loss for us is great and as the emotional pain and guilt creep in, we’re grieving all that we’ve loss at the hands of this terrible disease. We’re Grieving For That Old Us!!