Hi everyone! Today’s post has been inspired by the Patient For A Moment theme which asks: If you didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings or being prim and proper, what is that you would ask for or want people to know? Do you have a message of encouragement for our community? A request for support or encouragement or even basic understanding? This month’s blog Carnival is being hosted by Abigail at Hidden Courage and I want to thank her for asking a very thought-provoking question. I look forward to reading the other posts in this series.
Having grown up with JRA, I’ve had to navigate life with this condition. I don’t have to explain how that works to those of you who also live with autoimmune arthritis – you all know about studying for exams while waiting at the hospital, going dancing with creaky joints, walking with swollen ankles and working with pain. Somehow, through blood, sweat and tears (and smiles and laughs too ) we manage. If you’re a reader of this site, you’ll know that it’s been almost 22 years since I was diagnosed with JRA. The irony is that the hardest part of living with autoimmune arthritis hasn’t been the pain and destruction of the condition. The hardest part for me has been having to live in a world where many people aren’t aware that autoimmune arthritis exists and can affect young persons. It’s been the not believing, the scoffs, the blank stares, the stares when I limp and the insensitivity – because I have a condition which I fight every day.
And I know I’m not alone in this. (In the past I’ve written quite a bit on this topic and given some ideas on dealing with negativity.)
There is something very wrong when kids/adults who limp, use wheelchairs, have illnesses or physical challenges etc. are bullied or teased and made to feel bad about situations over which they have no control. There is something wrong when kids/young adults/adults who are living with the extreme pain of autoimmune arthritis are laughed at because we’re “too young” for arthritis and young bodies can’t possibly know what pain feels like.
Instead of making persons feel bad, why don’t we lift them up? The bullying, the teasing and the thoughtless comments are unnecessary. Particularly on social media it’s almost become a trend of sorts to bully and to pick apart people’s appearances (OMG she’s so fat! OMG she’s skinnier than a stick!). As someone who has experienced extremes of weight gain due to prednisolone, and weight loss due to severe illness, it’s challenging when you are trying to fight an illness and attempting to get through a painful day and you have to deal with the insensitive words of others, too. If someone puts you down or crosses the line, make sure you stand up for yourself. You don’t have to get angry or be rude about it, but you can speak up. You can even educate.
As I’ve gotten older, I have become better at educating persons about my arthritis. Sometimes people get it and sometimes I meet people who simply don’t care. I don’t lose sleep over the people that don’t care, because I’ve met so many amazing people who do. I’ve realized that the persons who have stuck by my side are incredibly beautiful people and I do feel lucky to have them in my life.
My holiday message is that before we judge others, we make sure that we understand their situations. Let’s take the time to get to know them and see what they face on a daily basis before we pass judgment on them. And if we are able to help someone who clearly needs help, then let’s help. Sometimes just lending a listening ear, sharing a hug or giving a word of encouragement can impact someone’s mood and help him/her through a rough time. I know I sound like a Hallmark card, but it is true.
Being kind doesn’t have to be large-scale. It doesn’t just mean organizing fund raisers or participating in awareness marathons. If you can do those things, that’s amazing and commendable. But kindness can come from such simple actions. Sometimes it means listening to someone when they’re going through a rough patch. Sometimes it means NOT saying that rude comment or pointing out what you perceive as a flaw. Sometimes it means just smiling at someone who looks like they’re having a hard day.
In some of my most painful moments I’ve had strangers help me out - by making a joke, opening a door or helping me to lift a suitcase when my hands and elbows were feeling broken. Those moments gave me the encouragement I needed to continue on my journey. Having arthritis has heightened my awareness of the fact that all around me there are probably people who are hurting, physically or emotionally. And I try to remember that – that we need to go easy on one another and encourage and support. I’d like to thank all the amazing, kind souls who still put out positivity into the world. You help so many people - thank you.
Readers, what are your holiday messages to others? Feel free to discuss in the comments below.