This week I want to talk a bit about how living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia affects me mentally. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never really accepted having these conditions, although I am learning to deal with them. However, there are many days when I feel I can't even do that. I’ll sit and get upset, go over it all in my mind and ask myself, ‘Why this is happening?’ I often have panic attacks, overthink things, and then Mike will have to calm me down and reassure me I’m doing great. Yet I’ll still be convinced I’m not getting any better and, in fact, am getting worse. I start to think maybe things are never going to improve and that’s when panic kicks in. My heart starts to race, my chest gets tight, my palms get sweaty and suddenly I feel like the whole world is crashing down on me.
A hammer to crack an egg
The worst feeling is not being able to do normal day-to-day tasks. As an example, even on a good day it’s agony for me to just cut up bread. I have to use a pizza cutter (I know, that’s clever thinking, right?) to do something normal people find so easy. It’s so frustrating, but it’s everyday tasks like this that people suffering with my conditions struggle with. And when you’re trying to do them, no-one is even aware you are struggling. Nobody thinks, ‘Oh gosh, she’s having trouble with that’, because it seems so easy to do. That’s the thing about RA and fibromyalgia –– even the simplest of things becomes difficult. And If you can't do normal day to day tasks then what use are you? That’s what I hate, the feeling of being so useless, it’s awful.
I know what you are thinking, why don’t you just ask for help? Well, asking for help, for me that’s even harder than doing the actual task. It’s like admitting I’m not capable of doing something and it makes me feel low and like I’m not doing enough. To my mind asking for help is both an inconvenience to the person you are asking and an embarrassment to me. You are probably sitting there thinking, ‘That’s silly’, but to me it’s such a big deal. Asking for help, accepting help, is so difficult when in your mind you can do something and are capable, but your body is saying the exact opposite!
If you can’t say something nice…
I’m lucky enough to have a huge support network with my family and a select few friends. However, the way other people respond when they learn about my problems also affects me mentally. I’m aware it’s difficult for people to understand another person's situation, especially if they’ve never been there themselves. However, I don’t think it’s ever acceptable for anyone to make me, or anybody suffering like me, feel their struggles are less valid because there’s someone in a worse situation. Yet this is what some people do. Now, don’t get me wrong, every single day I wake up and I am so thankful to be here. In fact, I ALWAYS wake up thankful regardless of how I’m feeling because I do appreciate there are people struggling more, and certainly without the support I have. But let’s be straight, there is always going to be somebody worse off. But in as far as this is MY story, these are also MY feelings and I am handling things the only way I can. Sometimes it’s a big deal and sometimes it feels like it’s the end of the world but that’s still OK because that’s how I’m dealing with it.
It’s like some people don’t even try to consider how a person might be feeling. Or how their unkind words or actions can affect that person's state of mind. All it takes is a bit of understanding and kindness to help somebody struggling with their mental health feel that little bit better. It matters, and it makes a whole world of difference even if you only pretend to understand but can still be supportive. I’m being open about this while I’m writing because writing has been a good release for me. It helps me come to terms with things a little better, but to a normal person sat in front of me I would never be this open. I would worry they would be judging me, or simply thinking I’m attention seeking or putting it on. Regardless of how much support I get, for which I am forever grateful and thankful, there will always be people who doubt you and think it is all for show.
My own worse critic
The bottom line is, I often feel I’m not good enough and that I’m never going to be good enough for these beautiful boys I’m lucky enough to call my children, and of course my fiancé, Mike. I feel they deserve better and I want to give them the life they truly deserve but my body just will not let me. But that doesn’t stop me trying. I fight my body and mind every single day, which in itself is mentally draining. So, I don’t need negative people or their sniping comments, I’ve got enough of a downer on myself as it is, thank you! Sometimes I want to give up because that’s how my mind and body make me feel. I want to do so much more, to which my mind says yes but my body unfortunately says no. The truth is, I feel trapped in a situation I don’t want to be in but from which there is no way out. It’s a constant battle, day to day, one that I’m never going to win but it’s definitely one that I’m going to learn to live with and maybe even to love. I’m so unbelievably lucky to have those boys, their love alone keeps me going and I am so thankful to them and they don’t even know it, they have no idea what positive effects they have on my mental health. If it wasn’t for them, god only knows where I would be.