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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The RA Costume - Halloween and beyond

          This being the month that brings us Halloween and the costumes we often don to trick or treat it occurred to me that for many if not most of us with RA managing our appearance is akin to the effort it takes to get together a costume for Halloween.  
     From the moment I began to suffer with RA, it became a huge hurdle to keep up with my appearance.  I have tackled those hurdles and now take great pride in my ability and determination to take care of my appearance but it was not easy not only for the obvious physical reasons but also the psychological ones as well.  
     Lets discuss some of those.  One - the pain - the discomfort associated with RA often translates into an inability to even brush our hair let alone attend to makeup, etc.  When I am flaring the simplest task are excruciating and so often any extra effort just goes by the wayside.
     Two - fatigue - the never ending tiredness takes its toll in terms of having the energy to concern oneself with anything beyond just general "upkeep".  
     Three - side effects of medications - too often the medications we take have side effects such as weight gain, skin dryness, eye problems, etc. that change our appearance in a not very pleasant way leaving us feeling unattractive, undesirable and asking ourselves "why bother?"
     Four - depression - The psychological burden of having a chronic disease means we are likley to experience some level of depression associated with RA at some point.  In some cases it can be quite dibilitating.  Clearly if one is sad or depressed or anxious taking the time and effort to keep up your appearance is often just too difficult. 
     Five - physical changes - RA changes your body constantly, wheather you like it or not.  Swelling, redness, skin breakouts, and of course weight gain are just a few of the physical changes that often accompany RA.  It becomes difficult to even gaze in the mirror and wonder who is looking back at you let alone stay motivated to look nice.
     Six - low self esteem - it is a real challenge to have high self esteem when you are being forced to give up so much of who you once were as a result of RA.  Things we may have loved to do in the past may no longer be possible and that can translate into feeling hopeless and unmotivated to make the necessary adjustments to maintaining high self esteem. By extension taking care of your appearance begins to take a back seat.
     So how do we overcome these nasty attitudes and realities?  Pause and take stock!  Simply knowing the what and why helps to offset some of these negative and harmful issues.  If you can identify with them you can change your response to them! 

     Take small steps.  As the saying goes, "Rome was not built in a day".  If you have gained weight, don't get on the scales for a bit.  Instead give yourself permission to mourn the old self and embrace the new you.  Buy one or two new pieces of clothing that will accomodate your new size but still flatter you.  In today's world there are lovely clothes for any size! In time, you can work on trying some strategies for maintaining a healthy weight like keeping an eye on your diet, walking a bit more each day, etc.  But with all of the changes that are thrust upon us with the onset of RA, taking it slow is a very necessary stratgey in our toolbox!
     Share your feelings with friends, family or your RA Support Group.  Finding others who have the same frustrations and battles goes a long way in restoring your depleted self esteem.  Getting reassurance from loved ones that you are still the same person they love and admire is key to keeping our spirits up and our joy alive.
     Try something new and different to pick up your spirits.  When I had to face the fact I could no longer run for fitness I had to find a different outlet and so swimming became my new passion.  It was a challenge but one I am so glad I decided to take on!  You can also try a new hair style or color.  That is often just the pick me up we need to feel rejuvinated. 
     The differences we now must contend with can be viewed as opportunities as opposed to deficits and embracing that overall difference can lead to a willingness to take better care of ourselves inside and out.  Then you can confidently say "here I come" - a new and improved version of myself complete with a beautiful "costume".


1 comment:

Wren said...

Great post, Nan. Thanks for sharing your positive attitude. :o)