Yesterday I had a pity party.
The reasons behind the pity party aren’t all that important. What I found interesting about the whole thing was my reaction to it, and my thinking about it.
See, the people who blog in a positive way about their lives with RA are my heroes. (Some of them are even superheroes – you know who you are!) I really want to be one of them. They have inspired me to be more positive, more proactive, more focused on the good and beautiful things in my life. On the whole, this has made a big difference in my life and in my approach to the disease.
But some days, that all goes out the window. Monday was such a day.
It was a bad day, and I think it would be by almost anyone’s standards. Not only did bad things happen, but I was so worn down by being sick all week that I just didn’t have the inner resources to deal with them. So I had a bit of a meltdown and ate lots of things that weren’t exactly health food.
Now comes the interesting part. I was clearly gearing up for a pity party, but couldn’t seem to get it started. Not because of any positive shift in attitude – actually, I just kept feeling worse and worse. But on top of the bad feelings I already had came a new, negative thought: Look at all these people who are able to stay positive while living with RA. What’s wrong with you? And lo and behold, GUILT showed up and tried to shut down the party. Guilt stood in the doorway calling me names like ungrateful, whiny, and weak, yelling at me to stop being such a big baby and suck it up. And I tried, I really did.
Problem is, guilt isn’t a good motivator. I woke up yesterday (Tuesday) morning feeling, of course, worse. I was still feeling terrible from the things that happened on Monday, and now, I also had the things Guilt called me ringing in my head. I was completely frustrated with my inability to get on with things.
Then a few things occurred to me:
1. Autoimmune diseases already do a really good job of beating us up from the inside. It’s the ultimate form of attacking ourselves. Did I really need my thoughts to start doing the same thing?
2. When I really think about it, it’s not true that my RA-blog heroes are positive all the time. In fact, some of them have written very honestly and openly about their struggles with depression and about times when they felt overwhelmed by their condition. If anything, this makes them even MORE heroic to me. If they were just blissfully going along, never feeling frustrated or upset or angry, something wouldn’t be right. And even if a blog did express nothing but positive thoughts, that wouldn’t necessarily be a true picture of what actually goes on with that person. Blogs are mostly snapshots of a given moment, and I know that I’ve been reluctant to post when I’m not feeling well – why shouldn’t that be true for others?
So I decided to go ahead and let myself have that old-fashioned pity party. I complained, I ranted, I vented. Since a party’s not a party without guests, I shared these feelings with other people. I allowed myself to be comforted, something that can be hard for me. I allowed myself to act like a giant rebellious baby - “I don’t WANT to take a million pills every day! I don’t WANT to have all these stupid diseases!”
And you know what? I feel better today. Better, braver, and ready to pick up where I left off. Ready to continue on the path to acceptance, ready to continue being proactive with my self-care, ready to keep planning small changes that will make life with RA better and easier. Maybe every now and then, it’s GOOD to have a pity party. Maybe it’s healthy. Maybe it’s better to accept where I am than try to force myself to be someplace that I view as “further along.” Maybe it’s time to be nicer to myself in a lot of ways. And maybe it’s not so good to hide myself away and let these feelings fester – maybe I should stop worrying about how I look to people reading my blog and recommit to my original goal, which was honesty.
Next time I have a pity party, I’ll make sure to invite you!