Wednesday, September 17, 2014
you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
Despite the old adage contrary to this statement I am convinced that learning can happen at any age! Not only do I see this with the population of older adults that I work with but now I am part of that group having turned 60 this year. Not only is it possible it is crucial to maintaining a good quality of life AND in the case of RA, to managing the ever changing world of chronic disease.
Keeping up with the latest news, treatments, management strategies, etc. should be as important to each of us as taking our medications, exercise and diet. To illustrate this, simply look back over the last two decades of treatment options promoted by rheumatoligists and you will see the sweeping changes that have occurred in the world of our disease. It is nothing short of stunning the many advances that have been made in the relatively short time period from new medications to when to start aggressive treatment to alternative options, the list is long and impressive!
In chatting with some of our RA Support Group members who have had the disease for 25+ years and/or their older family members who suffered it with it is amazing to hear the way RA was once treated. Not only were the medications different (which frankly is not surprising) but so many other aspects have changed! At one time, people were sent to rehab places and essentially told to stay in bed when in pain because it was believed that any weight on the joints would make it more painful. Now, of course, we know that has very little to do with flaring since it has been determined that RA is autoimmune in nature.
Exercise is yet another example of "learning new tricks". It is now well known that staying physically active is a key strategy in not only surviving RA but enhancing the quality of life and remaining healthy and fit - physically AND mentally! And yet not long ago the idea of exercising with RA was totally contrary to popular thought.
I have to also mention the value of innovation and technology. I find that many of the newest technologies have been very helpful to me, not only medical ones but also in terms of electronic devices like my phone and computer. The easy use and soft touch they involve have been life savers and actually have allowed me to continue to work even when my hands were flaring pretty badly.
I actually like new ideas, plans, etc. for the most part. I have learned, in no small measure due to RA, that change can be "just what the doctor ordered" and to embrace it is a lot less stressful than fighting it. This is not a lesson that came easily to me. Only after having multiple surgeries and changing medications numerous times and being forced to switch exercise choices have I learned that to not accept and move forward with these changes can be so stress inducing it will actually cause setbacks and unnecessary and avoidable anxiety. No thanks!
By allowing ourselves to embrace change we truly invite new thoughts and actions which in turn lead to a better life with a much better handle on our RA in all its "colors"! Entering through the "new doors" will only make our management of RA that much more complete and successful.
What actually prompted this whole train of thought today was my most recent episode of anxiety that lasted for several weeks unchecked. I had decided, despite know this was not likely a wise choice, to "keep it to myself" and try to get it under control without benefit of sharing with anyone. Now I knew from past experiences in many other aspects of my life and contrary to even my own advice to others, that this was probably a bad decision. Be that as it may, I still determined to buck up and try to do some self talk and other strategies to see if I could handle it on my own. Well, two weeks into it I was chatting with a dear friend and it just all bubbled up, tears and all. She was her usual patient, compassionate self and I found the anxiety falling away as we chatted. Much to my surprise, it has not returned to any significant degree since! So now I know yet another strategy to cope with anxiety and will take advantage of this in the future. Thus my conclusion that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
Biggest lesson for me is to keep my mind open to any and all new "tricks" knowing it will lead to a healthier and happier life!