"RA is not who I am, it's just a big part of what makes me, me"

Ashley Girres
A Blogger, An Etsy Shop Owner, A Mom, A Wife, A Daughter, and yes, a Fiery Bone, RA warrior.

Ashley's Story

Rheumatoid Arthritis is what you’d find at the top of my medical charts. Diagnosed at 22 years old after about a year of ignoring all of the signs and symptoms. I've now spent nearly a decade battling everything that comes with it; the shocking, depressing, daunting diagnosis, the daily struggles of finding the courage, strength, and mental toughness to push through everyday life, engulfed in chronic pain and a rapidly deteriorating body. All while attempting to maintain a positive outlook. It's been trying to say the least. But, I'm proud to say, day in and day out, I do it. For my amazing husband who supports me and loves me and cares for me unconditionally. For my little girl whom I expect to take life by the horns and never back down no matter what life throws at her. And, for my mom, because, now I’m blessed with the understanding of how so very much a mother feels her child’s pain. 

In this journey, I've had very little luck controlling my RA. I've yet to achieve remission, even while I was pregnant my RA was very much active. I've tried every medication, diet, exercise routine, acupuncture, massage, cupping... modern medicine, naturopaths, functional medicine... the list goes on. And, what I've gathered is, this disease is very much still a mystery. I get the constant impression we are relying on strictly trial and error. Which, in turn, has taught me that I am more determined, more resilient, and more mentally tough than I ever really knew was possible. I am determined to find the right balance for me, the right treatment, and to accept that no matter what my RA does to me I have a whole lot to live for. 

Living with this disease has, ironically, made me more thankful for the good, the easy, the simple. RA is humbling. It makes you appreciate small feats and realize, paradoxically, things could always be worse. It forces even the most independent to ask for help. I'm a very prideful person. I don't like to feel reliant on others or feel as if I'm a burden and I especially hate feeling like I'm coming off as weak. That's the most difficult adjustment for me. Admitting when I can't do something. Having to say no to something fun or helpful to others. I think diseases like RA are especially difficult in this regard, because often from the outside we look completely able-bodied and healthy. People don't notice the little things like locked wrists and painfully swollen joints. They can't see how when you do certain things your bones feel like they're made of chalk or how exhausting the simplest of tasks can be. The "Spoonie" balancing act is one of the greatest challenges in an RA Warrior's life.

 

But, I am blessed with a beautiful life outside of my disease. RA is not who I am, it's just a big part of what makes me, me. I have my dream career. I have an amazing support system in my friends and family. And, as much as a despise it, RA has made me realize how grateful I am for all of those things, how loved I am, how strong I am, and it strengthens my empathy for others... and for all of that, I choose to be thankful for the experience.

 

To those of you who battle with maintaining a healthy body and mind: I think of you often. I pray for you daily. You are not alone. Focus on what you do have… it’s the only way to beat the unrelenting reminders of what you don’t.

I sell on ETSY

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