If you haven’t heard the tale of the tortoise and the hare, it is a fable of a tortoise who challenges a hare to a race. The hare, lean and agile, scampers ahead of the slow-moving tortoise and certain of his impending victory, stops to take a nap. Upon waking, the hare then realizes that as he dawdled, the tortoise steadily steamed on ahead of him and crossed the finish line.
When I think of this story, I think of my life and how most of it has been spent functioning at turtle speed as a result of my rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I feel like I've been at this speed for a long time, and as I get older, it's only gotten more difficult.
With each year that passes, I’ve wrestled with comparing myself to those around me. I’ve been guilty of checking other people’s posts and pictures on social media and coveting their “hashtag blessed” lives. It’s hard to keep a level head when my life is anything but normal due to my RA. Traditional rites of passage like going to college and finishing in four years are taking me twice as long.
“I’m a survivor! And living with RA reminds me that it’s even more important to keep a positive outlook on life.”
Then, I consider everything I’ve overcome up to this point. I’ve been admitted to the hospital more times than I can count. I’ve been subjected to more tests and treatments than most people do in three lifetimes. I’ve lived and cried through multiple diagnoses, and I’ve taken care of myself enough to come out of all of that stronger. I’m a survivor! And living with RA reminds me that it’s even more important to keep a positive outlook on life.
Staying positive with a chronic condition like RA isn’t easy, and it’s not something that happens automatically or overnight. On bad days, the RA pain overwhelms me, and it helps to remind myself that sometimes I have to do more with less. On good days, all of that is somehow forgotten and I question why I haven’t accomplished my goals. I fall down the rabbit hole of self-deprecation, but I pull myself out the same way I got in—by looking at my own social media and reading through all the obstacles I’ve overcome and how I’ve been able to persevere.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to accomplish my goals, as long as I keep trying—even at turtle speed. Whenever I get frustrated at my body for not being the hare, I remind myself that I am the tortoise—and the tortoise always wins. Yay! Chasing my “old” pre-diagnosis self won’t get me to the finish line. No matter how disconnected my mind and my body feel, it is all me and I love myself even with RA.