I have been asked this question many times. Friends and acquaintances are always so relieved when they see me in person as I look so normal. I don’t look sick and some of that is due to my coping mechanisms! It has also been well documented about the fact that autoimmune diseases, in general, don’t cause a person to look sick. In fact Rheumatoid Arthritis joint damage can take years to show. For most of us living with RA today, thanks to the medication we are on, it is quite likely we will never show major joint damage evidence. It is a silent disease to the onlooker. To the sufferer it is a world of pain with multiple burning inflamed joints that make simple tasks difficult, accompanied by fatigue which often leads to depression.
So how do I cope when I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, a stoma, a pathological broken femur as a result of an idiopathic bone disease that makes future bone breaks a real possibility? Aside from acceptance of my circumstances, there is a mix of practical and spiritual coping mechanisms that I have:
I might not be working anymore but I still take the time each and every day to get up, get showered and dressed and do my hair and makeup. Ensuring I stick to this normal routine is incredibly important to my overall sense of well being. I don’t have a set time to do that every morning, as some mornings my body just won’t move or function until after my morning medication has kicked in but that aside I still make sure I keep to my daily routine and look after myself. I feel so much better if I do that.
I keep my brain active. I read, I listen to music, I talk to friends, I research whatever I’m interested in at any point in time, I keep up with current affairs, I play games on my tablet and I can now add writing/blogging to my list of brain activities. An exercised brain makes me feel healthier, particularly if I can’t exercise my body!
I’ve always loved shopping but no longer have the energy or desire to spend hours at shopping centres but I love to shop online. Retail therapy really does work when all else fails! Maybe it’s a girl thing!!
I also have a strong faith in God. In the midst of the lost dreams and physical battles that I’ve faced over the past few years, one thing I can absolutely testify too is knowing that God’s hand is on my life and not just in regards to my health but in all aspects of my life. I have a personal faith and as a Christian, I find great peace in prayer and in knowing that I am never alone. My health has prevented me from being able to attend church over the past 6 months and that is a real loss for me but even when my husband heads off to church on a Sunday morning (he’s an Anglican Clergyman), I use the time to quietly reflect and renew my soul. I know that caring for my spiritual life is the key to my ability to cope.