If you get a cold or the flu, it’s okay because in a few days or a week, you will return to your healthy self. In those days, it will be physically and mentally draining. After all, no one enjoys being sick even if it for a week. Imagine the nightmare of becoming ill with something you can not get rid of. Imagine the pain comes in all variables to be described as nagging aches to excruciating to kill me now. You can’t do all of the things you use to do and what you can do has to be modified. How will you continue to survive and thrive in this world? How will you continue to provide for your family? Will you be able to do all of the things you planned? Will people think you are lazy or have given up if you can no longer work? What about your dreams? What about your goals? What is this new diagnosis? And another one and another one as a result of Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease. What the hell is happening here? Friendships and relationships change. Marriages change. You’re too young for this. You were thinking about enjoying your retirement…without pain. What do we do now? Why me? I am sick of hurting. Can I have a day of no pain???
The matters of the universe swirl in your head and the weight of the world is your shoulders. The impact of RA on your mental health can be devastating. It was for someone like me who was already an emotional human being who has lived through some very tragic moments. Now what? Another thing to hide. Another thing to deal with privately. I don’t want people to know I am depressed. I don’t want people to know I am anxious. I don’t want people to know I stand on the ledge of suicide. They will label me weak. And you don’t want to be labeled weak in the African American community. Or crazy. We associate mental health issues such as depression and anxiety as “crazy.” Ah, the stigma.
What do I do? How do I deal with the mental impact of RA? I try to take it day by day. I put on my brave face and walked boldly into the psychiatrist’s office, the one that has a brown face like me, and I said “I am sinking. Drowning in this sea of emotions and pain. Help me.” And then we went to work. Because seeing a therapist is WORK. A good therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, knows the tools you need to cope with life’s tragedies. It does not, DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE WEAK, it means you are smart to seek help. And those who say you are “weak” or “crazy’ are the ones who are in need of help and don’t even know it. I use the tools my therapist gives me. Daily.
I practice yoga to help mind to focus on what is right in front of me. It helps me to control my breathing. It helps me to control my thoughts. It helps to keep me in the now.
Meditation. Get you some. It helps me to see into myself. I can assess myself. I can create my future. I can pinpoint in my body my issues.
Prayer. It is my lifeline to my Source. It is how I talk to someone, when I can’t talk to anyone.
A personal relationship with the Creator (yes Source, yes God and not the God of this or that religion, but GOD). A deep, committed relationship, a bond, a sealed union. This relationship gives me strength. It empowers me. It serves me. It is my refuge. It is my stronghold. It is a friendship, a parental relationship, that has stood the test of time with unconditional love…mostly on God’s end. God has never wavered in love for me. Even as I tossed and rolled like a raging sea.
All of these things keep me grounded and honestly, above the ground.