Everyone is afraid of something. That is just a fact of life. I’m not a fan of high places for example. That’s my fear of falling dictating things there. I have a friend who tends to flip out during major thunderstorms thanks to a fear of tornadoes. I consider those sort of fears little fears. They’re there. You’re aware of them. You take steps to avoid the things that trigger them. But when push comes to shove you can most often face them and survive. I rode a ski lift one summer just to prove that my fear of falling didn’t control me. I’m still not going to go look out over the edge of a tall building, but my fear isn’t in total charge of my life. I subscribe to the wisdom found in the quote below to handle those smaller fears. Just repeating “Fear is the mind-killer” is usually enough to help me shake them.
Having a chronic illness like Rheumatoid Arthritis gives you a whole different kind of fears though. It isn’t like getting a cold. Or even something more serious, yet treatable. You see, I will never see my RA cured. I won’t ever get well. I won’t ever be free from it.
I’m realistic about my illness. I know the facts. I’ve seen the studies. I’ve seen what this illness can do in the members of my support group. I’ve been one of the lucky ones. Despite having lived with RA since I was age 10, I’ve always been one of those few whose disease is responsive to treatment. I live with daily pain and RA induced limits but for someone who has been sick for over 25 years, I’m doing pretty darn good. I can still work and be active. I can still take care of myself.
But I know that one day all that could end. RA is progressive and ever changing. One day the meds may stop working. One day the disease may leap forward and give me a whole new set of restrictions to live my life under. And odds are good that one day I may become crippled to the point where I am dependant on someone else. I know that those dreaded days may come next week or when I’m 90. But knowing they are might come feeds a fear deep inside of me that no amount of strength can face down. Those maybes boil down to two fears.
I am deeply afraid of becoming a burden to someone. I know that one day I’ll most likely have to give up my independence and move in with someone who will help me deal with RA struggles. I fear that, even though that person will most certainly be someone who loves me, that one day I’ll see that they are sick of taking care of me. Even though RA has been relatively kind to me, it is hell to live with. On the day my hell starts to destroy the lives of my loved ones my heart will break.
I also deeply afraid of losing my functionality. Not only do I love to write, I also knit, garden, take pictures, sew, hike, ride horses, and much more. I’ve already had to give up competing with my horses thanks to RA. That one thing has broken a part of me that will never heal. It has also cost me friendships. I am deeply afraid of losing any more of my life to RA.
Now, in my head I know that those fears are worst case scenario type stuff. As I always say, I’m borrowing trouble when I think about the worst possible options. Given that I’ve done so well on my meds and that I stubbornly refuse to sit still, mostly likely my RA will be well controlled all of my life. And I know that, even though this illness is isolating, I’m not really alone. I have a big network of family and friends. And I’ve always got the Big Guy upstairs watching over me.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: even big fears won’t stop me. And they shouldn’t stop you. I live with a chronic illness that will someday cripple me. But every minute I spend focusing on what may happen is a minute that I’m not out there enjoying this beautiful world we live in. Nelson Mandela once said “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” To my way of thinking he’s one of the bravest people this world has ever seen, so I really treasure those words. My two big fears are very real. And they’re not ever really going to go away. But I’m going to keep moving forward through this world inspite of them. I hope you all will too.
~Hugs and love, Elise