Day 1 of 2017 RABlog week
Today is the first day of 2017 RABlog Week. Each day bloggers will be given a prompt and many writers in the RA community will be blogging about that prompt. Today’s prompt is:
Mental Health – How do you manage to maintain your mental health while dealing with autoimmune disease? Discuss how dealing with RA every day makes you emotional. Do you hide your emotions?
Mental health may be the most talked about and therefore the most important issue in the chronic health community. I wish I had an answer. I do not, but in a way that means it is the one area where we all meet on equal footing.
I am a bottler. I used to have all kinds of bottles of emotional need sitting around. I had a work bottle, a family bottle and diabetes bottle, in fact I filled so many bottles I ran out of room to store any more. Being a bottler means you end up with predictable results. Eventually things just explode.
Men did not complain
In my world growing up, men did not complain, we adopted our issues and moved on. We endured. I will never forget talking to my father as a teenager about working at the factory. Dad, pointed out that for all its shortcomings working at the factory had many benefits. Good pay, great benefits, a place to go each day and the work was not too difficult. Once you got over the mind numbing boredom, life was pretty good. I told Dad I just did not think I could endure that. He laughed, endure he said, hell you can put up with anything for 30 years (after 30 years where my father worked you gained full retirement regardless of age).
Without realizing it, my father had put into words, the mantra of being a man as he understood it. Hell, you can put with anything for 30 years. When my dad said that I did not realize it then, but I had already internalized the message. My Dad had bottled up his dislike of the factory and that emotion was held in check. The example was powerful.
I adopted that mantra for almost everything from work to chronic disease. Hell, you can put up with anything for 30 years. That means anything including pain and illness.
In a few short months after that conversation I was diagnosed with diabetes and I put it in a bottle. (The diabetes bottle was already pretty crowded with other junk as my mother was a person with diabetes). Later I put RA in a similar bottle, just 30 years. It is funny 30 years stuck like that in my mind.
Things cannot stay bottled up
Of course it all came out eventually. Almost 25 years after I adopted the 30 and out mantra for Diabetes I entered therapy. I wish I could say therapy ended at some point, it has not for me. I use therapy in my everyday life. But I also use it for the big things such as helping me adjust to/live with RA. It was especially useful when I had to stop working.
Today I am 60 and I am noticing that I may not have 30 years to spend enduring things. So with the help of Sheryl, therapy and age I have adopted a new mantra. I do not have time to endure things. If it is not fun I simply do not do it. I can endure, but today I do it with a good laugh and sometimes a sigh. It’s been long enough. I realize not everything is fun, but I look for the fun in everything.