Posts Tagged ‘Volunteering’

Is this for real?

March 20, 2011

I have been seeing a commercial for a drug for RA and to be honest, it irritates the heck out of me.  They have a picture of a woman in black and white, in a nearly bare room and she is sitting there with a hangdog look.  The picture next to it is in full color with people and activity – the tagline is The life you live, the life you want to live.  Then, because she took the drug, she gets up and walks into the second picture with different clothes and everything is in color and wonderful.

Give me a break!  How many of us sit like a bump on a log all day long for years?  Not me!  Yes, I have days when I am not moving well and it takes some doing to move my tush and get dressed and go out to an appointment.  But I have never felt my life was a drab, colorless existence – though it has had its moments.  This ad bugs me because it is implied that you can’t do or be anything unless you take this drug.  Who told this woman her life was over and she would have to stay at home for the rest of her life because she has RA?  Balderdash!!  When I did speeches for the Connecticut Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, one message I wanted to convey was that “Yes, I have RA but my life isn’t over!”.  When I introduced myself, I would mention the activities I was doing and the last thing I said was “I’ve had RA for 20 some years”.  That usually surprised them because as many of us will tell you, we don’t always look like there is anything wrong.  That a whole other entry!

Many people with chronic illness know how important it is to be involved and have interests – we also know it isn’t going to come knocking at the door.  We have to go looking for what interests and excites us.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t days or weeks when it is so hard to gather the energy to just get dressed,  that the prospect of volunteering or helping somewhere is just too much work.  The problem with this ad is the assumption that drugs are the only way to feel better.  I notice they also talk very quickly when mentioning the side effects.  Yes, drugs help, but it it takes mind, body, Spirit and emotions all working together to really make a difference.

Often people have said to me “I don’t know how you do so much with RA”.  The answer is – simply out of necessity.  I have had times when I knew they had no idea how many times I have had a bad case of “oh-poor-me-osis” – I am the worst off person in the world and no one has it as bad as I do.   For most of the time I have had it, my husband traveled a lot, so I was home alone.  There were many times when I felt so sore, stiff and full of pain that it was hard to move around the house.  Other times I was physically doing well but I was depressed and lonely.  I would come to a point where I was so fed up with feeling low and just sitting like a bump on a log that out of desperation I went out to see what I could find to do.  I remember taking craft classes, all kinds of other classes, or I volunteered – anything not to sit at home and feel like crap.  Strangely enough, I developed new skills with my volunteering, learn all kinds of things with classes.

To make things more interesting, we moved every 2or 4 years, that meant I had to start my life over in a different place.  over the years I learned it doesn’t work to try to duplicate what was in the last place – start it all new.  I found taking classes, volunteering and joining a Newcomer’s group were really good ways for me.  Then I discovered quilting and that was something I could take with me wherever I went and there are always quilt shops, quilt classes and group plus quilters.  It was a great starting point in building a new life as I looked for volunteer opportunities, classes and Newcomer’s club.  An added benefit to the traveling y husband did was that I was invited along on some trips.  I learned to entertain myself and make provisions in case he had to go to dinner and I was at the hotel.  It meant I had a chance to check out new places – some trips I could walk well, others were just so-so.  As we moved around, we made new friends and sometimes when he had a trip, I would go on one of my own to visit old friends.  Some trips were easier to do than others, so I did what I could in the context of my joints at that moment.

The point of this is that waiting around for someone or something to make things better isn’t usually an option – I had to go out and do it myself.  If you feel you are that woman in the first black and white picture, it is up to you to create your life.  If you want some ideas or encouragement, I would love to hear from you.  Or if you have found ways that work, I would love to know about them – this way we can all help each other find what works for each of us.  I don’t have all the answers, together with comments and discussions, we can be resources for each other.


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